Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Concept: Japan and America Are Different

Hokay, so. Let's cut right down to the chase. Food. (Warning: If you're hungry, this post will not help you)

In America, you can get whatever food you want, whenever you want. Because if we're good at anything, it's getting into wars and finding faster ways to become fatter.

Though we've also found ways to do both.

(By the way: I've been talking about America politics with Japanese people more than I ever have in my life. They really keep on top of what we're doing, you know. It's kind of embarrassing as an actual American to be like, "Oh, by the way...I have no opinion on this topic because I actually know very little about it...yeah, it's because I'm young...yeaaahh..." By the way, if you haven't heard, Sarah Palin isn't running for President for the 2012 elections. I will say nothing more because this is not a politics blog, it is a Japan blog, but it is very hard to not say things so I will just stop there yes.)

So anyway, food. In America, all the time, because we're Amur'ca, that's why. But in Japan, food comes in seasons. They don't import and export from all over the place, and are mostly independent (Matt, if you're reading this, correct me if I'm wrong), so suddenly my favorite fruit (nashi, it's basically an apple-pear, juicy like a pear but sweet like an apple) appears for only two weeks and then it's gone. Fruits, vegetables, and roots all change out every season because they're only available for a limited time.

Soba noodles, dipping sauce, and shredded onions (to put in the sauce). I say, "sauce," but really it's only a little thicker than water. 

And yeah, you DIP the noodles, as shown: (Pictured: udon noodles)
And then you eat!
By the way, when I return to America and get to use a fork again, that will be some kind of reunion. Though I've gotten quite skilled at chopsticks. Get skilled or die from starvation, that is life.

But more than that, Japan changes what foods are most popular with the season. In the summer, cold udon noodles (thick, longer noodles) or cold soba noodles (thin, buckwheat noodles) are served frequently. Mostly because I enjoy the simple things in life, this became one of my favorite meals as I ate it frequently at the end of the summer here.

But cold noodles are only a summer thing. I haven't seen them for two weeks and I won't see them again until late next May, probably, if then. And there's a LOT of food like this.

As fall comes, my entire eating pallet has changed. We eat stews more often, ramen or miso soup, or udon or soba noodles in a hot broth instead of cold. And in the winter these will become increasingly popular, as will baths after a shower (you read right; in Japan, you shower first and clean yourself off, then relax in a hot bath).

I'm not sure how spring goes, but I'll keep you updated on that.

Anyway, I thought that was pretty interesting, especially since I don't think America has any foods like that. We DO have foods that change with the holidays; like how Thanksgiving is associated with Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries...pumpkin pie...(about to eat my own fist). Christmas is associated with various foods as well.

When my host mom asked me if America had foods that change with the seasons, I said, "Not...really. But our candy changes!" It's true! But again, mostly with seasons. Like how you can only get candy corn around Halloween and Thanksgiving, or chocolate bunnies/chocolate eggs around Easter. Or Shamrock Shakes around St. Patrick's Day!

I miss the shit outta America sometimes. And don't even remind me that I'll be missing Girl Scout Cookie season. Don't. Even.

Anyway, am I wrong? Is there something in limited availability in America? Post a comment if I've forgotten something big!

Now, to the extreme opposite, an entirely unappetizing topic, Japanese bathrooms! YEAHHHH!

So, to just say it quickly: Many, many, many Japanese bathrooms do not have towels to wipe your hands on after washing your hands. Or air dryers to dry your hands. In fact, many don't even have soup. Some have sanitizer.

And, to my ultimate horror, I have also discovered that some public bathrooms (like in parks, for example, where I may or may not have had said horrified experience), don't even have toilet paper.

I am not shitting you. Pun not intended.

Kind of intended.

I have nothing to say on that topic because I am sure you can all figure out how terribly discomforting these things are, each person to varying degrees of terribleness. BUT I'd have to say that, really, once you get used to not being able to dry your hands, and get used to using the bathroom before you leave the house, it's not so terrible. In fact, they're really doing everyone a favor, not wasting ("wasting" being a loose term here) paper where they can make cuts.

So, good job, Japan.

Squat toilets, though...Squat toilets you should fix.

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