What The Japanese Eat



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Walking along a Hong-Kong street, Yoshio, a Japanese tourist, said to to his new girlfriend, "What do you like to eat tonight?" Kayoko, pondering a while, replied,"Well, I'd like to try some delicious French dishes.""But we've been to Italian, Russian and Chinese restaurants all these weeks. I'm tired of sitting straight, waited on formerly and with superficial politeness. Shall we go to one of those roadside stands? A chilling wind will make the foods all the more tastier.""Stands? I've never been such dirty places. What would you do if we should contract some horrible diseases? They are said to use soup that was left over by the former customers!"

"Oh, no, that's too ridiculous!" The corner I've been acquainted with is full of fragrances of various spices. Let's try some." Very reluctantly, she agreed. They got on a subway and found themselves in a western tip of the harbor. There were more than 100 street stalls. Some were selling cassette tapes and underwear. But most of them were dealing in eatables.

Yoshio, who had been there several times, took her to the place where sausage-like stuff was roasted. "Try this", he said, chewing it with a small stick pierced in it. Kayoko, half-dubiously, had scarcely taken one of them when she grimaced and shouted. "What's this! It's so oily! I can't chew it any more!" Surprised, Yoshio took her to another stand.

There they were boiling strange-looking mussels and other oceanic creatures with various colors. "Are they really eatable?""Look at those people who are munching them quietly.""Ridiculous! Why do I have to eat such monsters? It makes me shudder just looking at them.""Oh, dear, keep cool. Those food stuffs are fresh and its cooking is something unheard of among luxurious hotels.""I prefer dinner to these worms.! I'm going back to my hotel!" She turned on her heels and left there without so much as saying good-bye.


Owing to our affluent society, more and more Japanese young people have less chances to eat "primitive" foods which were available abundantly during and soon after the war. They are used to processed foods, such as hamburgers, caned foods and frozen foods. Most of them are softened and artificially colored and flavored, so that modern young people tend to think that those are the foods as they are, and their jaws are getting weaker and smaller in size. Especially young women, who tend to put higher values on how the dishes look than what they are, are attracted by beautifully displayed dishes spread on the table. That's why they haunt French restaurants.

In Asian countries, people have been suffering from food shortage, sometimes famine. The best way to overcome this was to eat every stuff imaginable. Unhappily, some kinds of food cost many lives, because of unknown poisons. As it turned out, surprisingly various kinds of stuff have proved eatable. Pig's legs, almost all kinds of mussels, snake's meat are not only eatable but also very delicious and nutritious. Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisines are typical examples of strange dishes.

Some are very sophisticated and resemble French cuisine. But many "primitive" foods were preserved in the hands of ordinary people. They are seasoned with no more than simple flavor, such as salt, sugar and soy sauce. Nor are they beautifully arranged; you can see the whole forelegs of a pig or a crown of a cook as if it were freshly plucked. And most of them are not soft materials. If you chew them carelessly, you may have a tooth or two broken. Modern young people, who are used to have very soft stuff such as minced meat and mushed vegetable and cereals, will be at a loss when such hard stuff are served.. In a word, they have not grown out of weaning food.

That is why Kayoko showed rejection when she saw the foods sold at Hongkong food stands. It is a famous episode that whenever Japanese tourists arrive at a hotel in a foreign country, they rush to Japanese restaurants. They pay for expensive prices to enjoy Japanese dishes in a foreign land! Modern Japanese are losing adaptability to the food they have not grown up with; they cannot part with "Ofukuro no aji (Dishes mother used to serve )"

The way Shinya Nishimaru tells us, people are intrinsically conservative on what they have been eating since their childhood. Of course most animals are either herbivore or carnivore, and their culinary option is very limited. Thanks to shifting from jungle to savanna, man became omnivorous.

That is the reason why man has survived these one million years. Man ate anything other than poison. This also accounts for man's longevity. With all modern stresses, pollution and hardships in life, man lives far longer than any other animal, except, of course, some reptiles.

Look at Koalas! They eat only eucalyptus leaves and this severely curtail not only their life expectancy, but also their adaptability to the changing environment. It is reported that newly arrived Koalas in some zoo died suddenly without any definite cause. A veterinarian named this "stressful syndrome". Born and bred in a quiet countryside, spared from predators, and leading a lazy life, they must have become quite defenseless to the external pressures.

On the other hand, man has no rough hair, with smooth skin vulnerable to external forces, runs so slowly, swims no faster than a sole, susceptible to various ailments and for all this, thanks to strong propagative power, man has achieved prosperity of today; even if we neglect the very fruits of modern technology.

To have a special favor on only one kind of food or only one category of food is not good for the health; a vegetarian is a typical example. And nowadays many books are published for the purpose of promoting health, and some of them deals with special diet; tea and mushroom (kyocha-kinoko), sea weeds, corbicula juice ( it is said to contain much nucleic acid!!) etc... Unless some medical research is properly undertaken, as on medical herbs, their effect is very questionable.


Food is the source of life. The source of life is food. Since man stands on the top of the whole food chain, it is most important to eat anything edible without any special preference or avoidance.

First Written in March 1986
Rewritten in October 2000

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