Thursday, 3 July 2008

PostHeaderIcon Bad Japan: Insular Mentality

Insular Mentality

I really wanted to write another positive entry about Japan but I read a news article this morning that annoyed me. It reminded me of all the times I've been so frustrated watching television or talking to someone. Sometimes the people are just so narrow minded when it comes to the rest of the world. So many conversations are just about Japan... Nihon this... Nihon that... Japan is so special and unique. I've just deleted a large part of my entry that gave numerous examples but instead I am going to edit the article I read. You should probably read that first.

No chips! British athletes forced to adapt to Olympic menus

LONDON -- Britain's Olympic athletes are leaving nothing to chance as they prepare for the Paris Olympics.

Chefs at Britain's National Training Center have prepared a special Olympic menu that simulates the one British athletes can expect to encounter at the Olympic village.

A notice board at the training center in London promises British athletes a taste that isn't familiar to home.

Chips and tomato sauce have deliberately been left off the menu.

Some of the items on offer include baguettes, cheese and ham. The Olympic menus will be offered every Wednesday until the end of July, officials at the training center said Saturday.

Instead of British potatoes, meals are prepared with potatoes from Germany and Russia and athletes have been told to prepare for a lack of knives and forks.

Some, however, weren't completely won over by the Olympic menu.

Roger Milton, a weightlifting coach, said he intends to pack plenty of tomato sauce for the trip to Paris.

Alright alright. Did you get my very witty comparison? If not, I was comparing how ridiculous it would sound if Britain was taking Japan's undermining stance of complaining about how different things will be in a culturally similar country just across the water. Apparently, Japan is the only country in Asia to eat rice, use soy sauce and use chopsticks. Oh oh oh wait a minute.... didn't you steal all that from China to begin with Japan? And didn't the ever popular Japanese foods of ramen and gyoza originate in China as well? Of course not... let's sweep that under the carpet and get ready to weep when Japan wins nothing because the poor athletes couldn't get some crucial miso soup.

You might be sitting there thinking that they have a point. The conditions will be different. They'll need to adapt to Chinese food and eat it with plastic knives and forks (apparently). I'd argue that along with Korea, they've actually got a small advantage over all the other countries. They complain about the smog but everyone else will need to put up with it as well.

If you think I am overreacting then I bet you wonder why this article did irritate me so much? Well, I watched a television report from Beijing last week. They had the usual attractive yet idiotic 20-something reporting from the Olympic village kitchens. It turns out that world class chefs will indeed be making food that is particular to each participating nation. Our brave reporter was presented with three Japanese dishes; miso soup, some fish thing and some other slimey thing. Anyway, after much laughing and mocking of the Chinese (I guessed) the woman began to eye up the bowl of soup. After approaching it and holding on to it like a live grenade... she took one of the most tentative sips I have ever seen. When she approached it I was almost shouting out "It's miso bloody soup love!" To her credit, she responded with a surprised "Oishii" which really translated as "Mmm not bad indeed."

There is honestly so much more I could talk about in reference to this and I might do it one day. Also, miso soup is alright I guess. It's made from soy bean paste and you throw in some tofu and seaweed stuff. Along with a bowl of rice, they have been the backbone of the Japanese diet for generations. All my students at school still have them both for breakfast despite having access to all the Western garbage.


Anonymous said...

Can totally understand your frustration in your post. Of course giving you a thumbs up over the points that Japan seems to look down on China ie. gyoza (japanese transliteration) although known commonly translated into the Englsih language as 'chinese dumplings'.

But I am not here to bash, but thought you might find the documentary podcasts on rice interesting. Hope it gives you an impetus and fodder to carry out your 'Internationalisation' role as a JET.

(Part 4 of documentary concentrates on the relationship of Japan and rice.)

Happy listening.

Ahoy hoy said...

Hey, thanks for the comment. I listened to that last night and it was pretty interesting. I wasn't so keen on Mr BBC and his ever so sensitive approach. I wouldn't be surprised if he thinks each grain of rice comes from the heavens.

Despite understanding the history behind it all I can't help but feel a little annoyed when I hear "Oh.. we Japanese can't eat foreign rice". I guess it explains why a bag of rice costs me about £20. It took me months to realise that because I just assumed it was cheap because well... I'm in Japan.

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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.