We arrive a little before the soba shop opens and wait in the rain. A waitress slides the door to one side and hangs up a noren, a traditional curtain used to indicate that a shop is open. She looks at us — two Americans — and says in Japanese that the restaurant is a member's only shop and that we would not be able to dine there.

"But I've been here several times before," I say, shocked.

She politely apologizes and explains that this is a new policy.