[The American Years]

Saturday, March 24, 2007

More about Daniel's visit.

He pointed out things that I hadn't noticed. The last I reported on was lack of public seating. I didn't mention this even to him at the time, but it is very rare to have a bench even at a bus stop. In my part of town, there are none. In the heart of the city, there are a few, but not everywhere.

Another thing we discovered when he was here is that it's difficult to be a vegetarian in Japan. Daniel is mostly a vegan (though he did make an exception for sushi for breakfast and of course octopus balls). It's difficult to be mostly a vegan here. Everything has a bit of meat here or there in it.

The other thing that was pointed out to us about Japanese is that they don't like saying "no". It's a great cultural attribute they have.

At the train station heading to Tokyo, we wanted to buy a boxed lunch for the ride. (Ekiben, or station box lunches are a treat, and widely adored.)

We stopped by a few stands to see what they had. I asked in my broken Japanese if they had any vegetarian box lunches. The response was never 'no'. It was "Hmmm. Vegetarian. Well. Let me see. Golly. Vegetarian was it? Hmmm. That might be difficult...."

All the while the employee is making an effort to look like they are making an effort to look though what they have. Of course they know full well that they don't have anything without meat.

Here's a quote from Dave Barry Does Japan (thanks to neice H. for the gift.)

Japanese person says: I see
Actual meaning in American: No

Japanese person says: Ah.
Actual meaning in American: No

Japanese person says: Ah-hah
Actual meaning in American: No

Japanese person says: Yes
Actual meaning in American: No

Japanese person says: That is difficult
Actual meaning in American: That is completely impossible

Japanese person says: This is very interesting.
Actual meaning in American: That is the stupidest thing I ever heard

Japanese person says: We will study your proposal.
Actual meaning in American: We will feed your proposal to a goat.

Back to the topic at hand. We did find a way to eat very well, and mostly vegetarian while here. They have very good itailan food that's pretty reasonable here, for example. And it was easy to go veggie with that.

The crowning glory of our vegetable eating experience was the last night in Tokyo. We were in Shinjuku, my new favorite neighborhood in Tokyo, looking for food, and not finding great digs. I happened to see a sign that said "Yasaya", or "Vegetable place" in an alphabet I could understand. It was a teppan yaki restaurant. Teppanyaki's closest cousin in America is the Benihana chain, but most teppanyaki is not showy or flashy, but delicious. This place specialized in vegetables. It was all cooked in front of us, and completely delicious.


Have you ever seen someone take such care with vegetables? It's part of the beauty of teppanyaki. You assume the chef has incredible skill because of how careful and precise he is. (Or at Benihana in the US, you assume great skill because the chef can throw a live shrimp 12 feet in the air and have it land on your plate, fully prepared, cooked and sliced.)

Mata Ashta


L said...

Did you feel the earthquake?

ET said...

I was in the car at a stoplight and I felt something, but I thought it was my kids kicking my chair.

Cindy said...

One I've noticed from chinese co-workers:

They say:Thank You, Thank You

They mean:Shut up so I can get off the phone and back to work.

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