Japanese food

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #13

Always ready to give you advice on life and relationships because she never has one.
Rapunzel, the Tobacco chewing princess Dear Gaijin Girl,

A friend from the States is visiting me in Tokyo. What is the most Japanese place I can take them?

Sincerely searching,

Samantha

Dear Samantha,

I am so glad you asked this question. Skip the temples, the sakura and the sake. The most Japanese place on earth is Tokyo Disneyland, possibly Tokyo DisneySea. I know you're probably thinking this is American imperialism at it's worst. It's not. In true Japanese fashion, Japan has embraced the brain child of my fellow Kansas City escapee and infamous chain smoker, making it her own. (It was bound to happen. Mickey's head and ears are so circular they are positively zen like and the Japanese love smoking more than Don Draper.)

For starters, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea are crazy crowded but never chaotic. People wait quietly yet excitedly for hours at a time to ride the latest Disney miracle with zero complaints or whining. (The only whining or crying I've ever seen there is by foreigners or children too small to feel the collective burning shame radiating from society.)

The park is ridiculously clean, even by Tokyo standards. Sure, you will find a bit of popcorn here and there.The physical evidence of a small child losing their mind when meeting the absolutely gigantic Mickey Mouse. Unlike Western toddlers, they seldom scream or cry in the faces of Mickey, Minnie or even the Frozen chicks. Instead, they silently implode. That is why the park smells of anticipation. That is to say that the park smells of strawberry and caramel popcorn farts.

The staff are so polite and accommodating to guests every single need that after I left the park, I found it frustrating when my taxi driver was unable to read my mind. Even cast members hauling trash bags full of dirty diapers smile and wave at guests and tourists with a grace and gusto that puts royal families to shame. If you drop your purse or wallet under a seat in a ride or on Main Street, U.S.A it will show up in lost and found within minutes if not seconds and all of your credit cards and cash will have remained in tact. (Unless you'd just come from the souvenir shop. In which case, you wouldn't have anything left to steal anyway.)

If you've spent more than five seconds in Japan, you know how imperative it is to be or have something cute. Life just does not get any cuter than it does at Tokyo Disneyland or Disneysea, nor could it be more embraced by every gender and age. Everyone dresses cute there, it doesn't matter if you're 4 or 400 years-old. You've got your Lolita on. ( I've seen the roughest, toughest pinky missing, pubic hair perm wearing "family man" in an oversized Winnie the Pooh hat giggling into his soy sauce and butter popcorn Donald Duck bucket. (Yes, that flavor exists.)

Each character has his/her own herd of groupies with season passes, many of whom remind you of the groupies depicted in Almost Famous.  Many of these teens,twenty somethings and kyoiku mommas  would let a character have their way with them behind the rocks of Thunder Mountain if Mr.  Big Yellow Shoes only asked. Sadly, the characters are not allowed to talk. Plus, it is damn near impossible to tell at a glance which groupies would take up an indecent proposal because Japan does not make a distinction between dressing cute and dressing sexy. They are one and the same. FYI, to stop dressing cute is to renounce one's sexual activity once and for all.

Just so you know, every one of the Japanese kids in the Disney character drawing class is going to kick your ass. (especially since erasers are banned) Just accept that and enjoy your glorious mistakes. You will be complimented on your "creativity" and "skill"  by the teenager sitting next to you with a flawless replica of Rapunzel as if your making Rapunzel look like she was chewing tobacco was a deliberate social statement on gender equality. Smile and say, “thank you”. Some of those kids think you have direct access to Disney himself. (You've got a better chance at being actual kin than they do)  Maybe you are an undercover quality control expert or an animation talent scout for the next Toy Story movie. Ready or not, you will become apart of their Disney experience. Don't assume they are being sarcastic and resist the urge to pop their Fantasyland bubble. (I still have bite marks on my lips for my last visit a week ago.)

The Japanese have temples and shrines but Disneyland, Disneysea and the Apple store truly is Church. It's where people gather regularly, if not weekly, to worship with varying levels of devotion. If the Japanese like something or someone they like them forever (For example, Mr. Big is still big in Japan)  maintaining a devotion and intensity that can be both charming and alarming. I once saw a what looked like a 6 year-old girl on her father's shoulders in tears screaming between hiccups, " I love you so much!"  like Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GIyTFl4Cb4) as Cinderella passed by in the electric parade. Her surfer father, looking eager but unsure of how to support his daughter in her emotional outburst, thrust two shaka signs in the air screaming, " Hell yeah, we love you Cinderella!" It would be a pity for anyone visiting Japan to miss that.

Good luck,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl :Brilliant Advice From a Bitter Woman #8

Always ready to give advice on life and relationships because she never has one. 200px-Japanese_The_Spoken_Language_-_Book_1_-_Jorden_Noda

Dear Gaijin Girl,

I’m 16 years old, live in Iowa and want to learn Japanese. What’s the best way to do that?

Sincerely Stoked,

Lori

Dear Lori,

Dear sweet Lori, I know exactly how you feel. You see a Kurosawa, an Itami film or some anime and are blown away by how exotic and mysterious the people and culture seem to be. Whenever people make a list of all the places they’ve visited on their website or in conversation, Japan is always mentioned last because it is culturally and technologically the closest you can get to the moon. Hell, you could have gone to the moon and set up a self sustaining colony there and people would still say, “Really? You’ve been to Japan? That’s fascinating!”

Let me save you hours upon hours spent scribbling thousands upon thousands of angled pretzels into little green boxes or conjugating infixes.  Don’t bother learning Japanese, nobody is saying anything interesting.

I studied Japanese for three years in high school, four years in university (it was my major.) before coming to Japan to find out no one is debating the meaning of life or how many reincarnations it takes to reach enlightenment.  They’re talking about how much cuter their rhinestone Hello Kitty smartphone case is compared to the “old” one they bought two months ago. (and that’s just the men)

One of my Japanese language classmates translated a book and some letters written in pre-Word War II Japanese into English. Because of this, he won an award and got to meet the emperor and empress. (He said they were nice and cordial enough but that their heads were so disproportionately large compared to their tiny little bodies that they looked like bobble-heads on a dashboard.) The night before he flew back to America we took him out for a drink that turned into several. Then this man who I looked up to and whose Japanese ability I absolutely envied said, “Why the hell did I study Japanese! Where can I go? Where will this take me other than Japan?! I should have studied Spanish or French, I’d be able to travel around Africa independently if I spoke French! Where the hell can I go with Japanese?! “ At this point, a Japanese friend and classmate raised a glass proposing a toast in his nonnative English, “May you never remember your time here forever!”  “Here, here!” said my my award winning classmate as glasses clinked. Last I heard, he became a best-selling science fiction writer.  I have no idea if he translates his books into Japanese himself, but somehow I doubt it.

By the way, just so you know, many Japanese people don’t want you to learn Japanese.  It’s much more charming and romantic if you don’t. One summer, I went to the ocean. A twenty-something woman and her two friends approached me in the water.

“Where are you from?” she asked in Japanese.

“From the States. “ I answered.

“Cool, here, you can use my inner tube. Do you like Japan?”

“Sure, it’s great.”

“Your Japanese is pretty good. How long have you been here?

“Thanks, I’ve been here twelve years.”

“Ugh! Give me back my inner tube. You’re not any fun. You know too much about us!” she said as she took back her flotation device and swam in the direction of Westerners with tattoos on their forearms. Fat chance they’d been in Japan longer than a week unless they loved wearing long-sleeved shirts  year round.

If I still haven’t deterred you from studying Japanese even after I tell you that unless you live in California, Hawaii, are Asian or work as a translator for a Midwestern soybean farm, people are going to assume you are pretentious and loaded since you have the time to study such a seemingly superfluous language.  I recommend you have a “Japanese and…” plan. You can only learn a language effectively  if you have something to talk about so pick some skills you can master, get paid for and then talk about. Do you like Japanese manga or anime? Learn how to draw and research the words and phrases that come up during rape. Do you like politics? Practice throwing people under the bus and then become proficient at avoiding direct questions about it. Maybe one day, you’ll be the American ambassador to Japan and when a dispute over whether Japan, Korea or China owns a particular island, as well as, the natural resources under it, you can bust out a pair the binoculars on the first bullet train to Kyoto and say,”My, what beautiful temples you have here!”

My advice? Learn how to code.

Sincerely,

Gaijin Girl

Ask Gaijin Girl: Brilliant Advice From A Bitter Woman #2

Always Ready to Help You With Your Life and Relationships Because She Never Has One 300px-Hostess-Twinkies Dear Gaijin Girl, My American husband complains about the taste of Japanese food and wants me to cook more American food for him. What should I do? Sincerely Surprised, Naoko

Dear Naoko, First of all, if you want him to stop complaining about the taste of your food, you need to STOP POISONING HIM. I feel for you, I really do. When you first met and married that poor liberal arts major with a slightly unhealthy interest in anime, you had no idea how limited his career options would be in your homeland or just how unambitious he was to climb any ladder unless it involved a Mario brother. He’s never going to make enough money for you to be able to stay home with the kids and after you’re done having kids he’s still going to want to have sex with you. I know, it’s a hassle and a massive disappointment after you’re projected all your luxurious hopes and Hollywood fueled dreams onto this poor illiterate dope that can’t even sign a mobile phone contract without your help. You thought your husband would forever resemble Leonard DeCaprio in Titanic, you got a dead ringer for Leonardo DeCaprio in J. Edgar. It is a massive letdown. I will give you that, but it’s not an excuse to consistently poison him so that he’ll die ten years before you do. Among many reasons, it’s just not nice or necessary. If you really want to kill him, just let him eat all the American food he wants, it’ll probably do him in faster and it will be a lot less work on your part. All you have to do is heat the food in a plastic container. (Bonus cancer points!) It’ll probably be less nutritious than the poison you are lacing his food with now. So really, letting him eat American food is a win-win situation for your marriage. I would, however, stay away from Twinkies. He might eat too many and kill you. (Don’t worry, Twinkies are near impossible to get in Japan but peanut butter chocolate is available through Seiyu department stores. Binge eating peanut butter chocolate doesn’t trigger homicidal fits of rage but provides a fertile ground for depression or a degree of self loathing that may weaken the immune system and destroy his self-respect, if you’re lucky.) Of course, you could just talk to him and tell him that you’re unhappy, but we both know that’s never going to happen because that would require intimacy and a profound level of trust. So yeah, I’d start with peanut butter cups and chicken fried steak. Bon Appétit, Gaijin Girl

The Not So Happy Meal

0YenSmileHimejiJapan I’ve just finished reading an article about one of Japan’s latest food scandals. Yesterday, a Japanese woman said she found “dental material” in her hamburger bought at McDonald’s in Hokkaido this past September. She also said she initially thought the crunchiness was due to sand or stones in her burger. http://www.japantoday.com/category/business/view/woman-finds-dental-material-in-mcdonalds-japan-burger

There are so many things I already love about this woman. For starters, when she encountered a crunchiness not associated with hamburger, she thought it was sand and kept chewing long enough for her to reassessed her tastebud results and then decide that her burger might be filled with stones, resulting in her chewing some more. Tenacity is a precious personality trait that I think should be recognized and valued for all its jolie laide glory here.

On top of that, we are just hearing of it now when the culinary experience happened all the way back in September. I am going to guess that it’s taken her three months to come to terms with getting over the embarrassment of admitting to “eating sand or stones” and being ok with it. (Not that I can fault her. I recently ate a soap laced stew that I knew tasted wrong in every way but was too hungry to care. I think we’ve all been there. No? Nevermind, I’m fine now, thanks for asking.)

McDonald’s did not confirm if the “dental material” in fact was inside the hamburger but insisted that no employees had any teeth problems at the time. The above mentioned woman also denied having any dental problems. Well, now we know somebody’s lying. Everybody has problems with their teeth most of the time if not all the time. We know we are supposed to go to the dentist every six months but go every 6 years instead because going to the dentist is expensive and just plain sucks. Dentists don’t even like being dentists. They have a higher suicide rate than in any other profession. My point is, nobody goes to the dentist and McDonald’s doesn’t know if any of their employees had dental problems unless they sent them all to the dentist immediately which they wouldn’t because that’s expensive and sensible. They’d rather hire another lawyer. http://www.businessinsider.com/jobs-commit-suicide-2010-10?op=1

McDonalds has had quite the year when it comes to food scandals. A human tooth was found in a french fry. A strip of vinyl was found in a chicken nugget. A kid cut his mouth on a piece of plastic found in a chocolate sundae. Takehiko Aoki, senior vice president at McD’s Japan announced at a press conference that their new goal was to “make such cases zero”. That’s a great New Year’s resolution. It’s a clear, measurable and attainable goal that I’ve managed to maintain without even trying.

Aoki also said, “I am confident that my family can eat McDonald's products. "I will eat McNuggets." "I will feed McNuggets to my children. I have no doubts." Well, that’s one way of saying he doesn't particularly like his family, especially his children.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/07/us-mcdonalds-hldgs-nuggets-announcement-idUSKBN0KG0G120150107

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/mcdonalds-japan-apologises-after-human-tooth-vinyl-strip-and-plastic-among-objects-found-in-customers-food-9963098.html