[The American Years]

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Greetings from Japan, where it’s considered rude to kiss in public. I get scowls of disapproval if I give my wife a peck in the train station. Not just from her, either. And I really get a mean scowl when I try to kiss someone else’s wife.

In Japan kissing is considered foreplay, so it should not be shared with a larger audience. There is a Japanese word for kiss, but it’s not often used. They prefer the imported English word. Maybe the Japanese word is sacred and personal, but the foreigners are always playing kissyface, so their word is the one that is used. (This is all conjecture on my part.)

There are Ferris Wheels all over Japan. Very common. I have ridden in 4 permanent wheels in Nagoya alone. They all seem to have enclosed capsules to ride in as well. Very nice, but I didn't really understand it, until a friend connected the dots. He said, "Very popular for dating couples." Of course. They can't just go about necking in public. So they go up in the big wheel, and they have 10 minutes of mostly privacy. It's like the Tunnel of Love, gone airborn.

The topic of Japan and sexuality is maybe another topic for my master’s thesis. To generalize, the Japanese are both more out in the open with their naked bodies and body parts than most westerners, especially Americans, and yet completely private with their sexuality. There, I think that properly sums up the topic, so we’ll leave it there in case my mom is reading.

Things I'll miss from Japan

Red miso

You may have heard or enjoyed miso soup. It’s enjoyable, and one of my treasures of Japanese life. But the uses of miso go way beyond the soup.

First, what is miso?

I don’t know. You can look it up on wikipedia or somewhere. That’s not the purpose of this blog. To me, it’s a yummy paste, very salty and flavorful. There’s red and white.

My favorite use of the red miso is to put it onto sliced Japanese cucumbers (half the diameter and twice the flavor of American cucumbers). We discovered this in at a little café in the mountains and have fallen in love. The sweet cucumber mixes perfectly with tangy salty miso paste. Amazing.

From the Tastes Better Than It Looks file:

Don’t know if you can get quality miso in the States. And I’m sure I can’t bring back tubs with me on the airplane. So these might be my last few months of quality miso experiences. It makes miso sad! (Sorry for that one.)



You have all heard about and laughed at the inability of Japanese to make certain sounds common in English. Most famous of course is the "L" sound. Also, "th" and "v" are problems. But I bet you haven't heard of sounds they make in their language that we westerners can't do. Well there are some.

My pronunciation nemesis is the "Ryo" sound. You and I would say it in two syllables. "Ree- yo". However the correct pronunciation is one syllable. You say the 'Yo' sound with just a hint of "r" at the beginning. It's impossible for me. (Yet Veronica has it down perfectly of course.)

A "ryokan" is a Japanese traditional small hotel, which we love and frequent. When I talk to my Japanese friends about staying in a ryokan, they don't know what I'm talking about. "Oh, you mean 'ryokan', not 'reeyokan'.

I never respond with "Oh, yeah, you're right. By the way, please say 'Larry's really very thrifty.' for me. "


Japan Monkey Park is an amuzement park. With monkeys. Monkeys that walk on a rope bridge 20 feet directly above the public. There are signs to warn you of what might happen when a spider monkey walks above you. I didn't realize there were international symbols for that, but there they are.

However, the signs are a bit confusing. Should I be looking up to avoid the problem or looking down?

Zane qualified for big rides for the first time in his life. And he made the most of it. I think they expect a kid measuring 130cm (I think that's like 14 inches) to be of an age to drive a little car in a responsible manner. And actually Zane measured up on both accounts. He is also, officially, addicted to loopdeloop rollercoasters. He's head over.... Well, let's just say he likes them a lot.

I was a little disappointed that the teacup ride would did have handmade ceramic tea-ceremony quality green tea teacups to spin. Oh well, when in doubt, put Hello Kitty on it.


"When in doubt, put Hello Kitty on it."
- New Japanese Proverb.

1 comment:

Otto said...

Brilliant video this installment. I liked that there was more actual video vs. stills, and nicely choreographed (that interlude showing the actual monkeys was perfect). And for a moment I thought I was watching Need for Speed.