Turning Japanese

School is back in session and so are all the expats! This past week has been interesting hearing the city resume its normal hustle and bustle and seeing more “Westerners” walking the streets. I feel like having been in Tokyo now 5 months! it is starting to soak into me. The other day, as I was grocery shopping, I heard screaming in one of the aisles and like a few other people we peered around the corner to see who was dying and it turned out to be a Caucasian mom with 2 kids who were competing in their own screaming contest.

Normally, I would feel very sorry for the mom and shoot evil eyes to the kids, but in this case, as I watched I realized to my horror, she had her ear buds in and was strolling around avoiding eye contact like it was no biggie that her children were screaming at the top of their lungs! Am I getting old? Am I getting overly sensitive from being in the most polite society in the world? Am I too strict? That was my first clue that either I am “turning Japanese” or I got used to the quiet aftermath of the Gaijin Winter migration.

A few months ago, I began taking vegan Japanese cooking classes and I have to tell you, it has been fabulous. Hema Parekh is my instructor and although she isn’t Japanese herself, she is vegetarian, has lived here for over 20 years and is a fabulous, loving chef.

Thanks to her, my family is not eating raw foods and canned tuna every other day. Yesterday I made onigiri (rice balls) for Chase. Yakisoba, Udon, Sukiyaki, stir fried Burdock with carrot, teriyaki tofu, simmered kabocha and other dishes have become staples in my recipe repertoire.

Soba cooked by yours truly

no shirt, you still get served at my diner

Cliff and Chase are loving all my Japanese cooking. I am really finding some inner culinary peace knowing that I am cooking such good healthy delicious food. Tonight I am trying to make soba for the first time. It is cold and hot soba sounds like a good plan. There are times when I feel twinges of identity crisis. I know there is a lot of horrible history between the Koreans and Japanese. Sometimes I wonder if I am not being a bit of a turncoat because my Japanese may get better than my Korean, because my son loves it here and will speak better Japanese than Korean, because I enjoy the civility of Tokyo, because well, you get the picture. Sometimes I wonder if Americans here ever have these thoughts? I guess we can’t live holding on to grudges. Life can’t be a kung fu movie.

Today, the apartment had a fire detector inspection. After they were finished, we spent another 2 minutes just bowing and saying thank you to one another. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience wondering who’s supposed to stop bowing first? When it was all over, I just had to laugh.

Recently, I had an interesting conversation with my massage therapist, Kay, and we talked about the irony of the outside perception of Japan being all sexy and geisha and yakuza. But living here, day in day out, it is my theory that all this politeness and sterility has stripped the population of its libido. I have written about the grass-eating man syndrome here and the fact that despite women walking around with pockets drawn on the backsides of their panties, no one flinches or whistles or anything. I think that’s part of the reason women here dress so outrageously. Either the men here have learned to exercise their peripheral vision without anyone noticing, or they have decided seeking carnal knowledge is purely for procreation and not recreation. We also agreed that it totally supports the statistics that show that as marriages go down, the number of men owning small, fluffy pets is going up. Personally, I agree. I felt a lot sexier in the States than I do here. However, Cliff and Michael (Nghi’s husband) both seem to feel sexier here than they did in the States. I guess they are the exotic dishes in town. Hmmmm.

Has Tokyo fashion inspired me to wear knee highs more than I should? Yes.

Is my hair starting to take on a “rustier” hue? Maybe.

Am I cooking more and “simmering” less? That’s what it feels like.

Until next time…



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