Japanese Food

Japan’s food diet is in no way like the United States’. This is the third major cultural difference I have had to adjust to, after showers and shoes. After just some observations, I have discovered that Japan does not eat fiber. I went an entire week without eating an apple. (For those who don’t know me, I eat about 3 apples per day at home; we stopped at the grocery store on the way home from Oita camp and I bought some apples and bananas, as well as some McDonald’s.) In Japan they put each individual piece of fruit in a soft protective padding, in order to avoid bruising.

Portion sizes in Japan are a lot smaller, hence the photo. That drink is a small. In Japan an American small would be equivalent to a Japanese medium; the American “large” does not exist. That is a medium fry and regular hamburger.

Japan uses chopsticks; soup is drank straight from the bowl. Before coming to Japan I did not know how to use chopsticks very well; within the first day that changed; it was either use chopsticks or go hungry! Each meal consists of fish, rice, water or tea, vegetables, salad, and some sort of soup.Additionally, there are no napkins served with meals; I guess chopsticks are supposed to keep you clean. (Those who have ever eaten with me know that I am the one to always spill, so this has been an adjustment.) However, there is a wet towel that is neatly folded and placed at every table for communal use. When the last person finishes their meal, they are responsible for wiping the table clean.

Voilà, sample breakfast: soup, rice, tofu, sausage, fish, and green beans, equipped with chopsticks and tea. The tea tastes like water–it does not have a flavor and is an acquired taste.

This was THE BEST lunch we had: soup w/ chicken & potatoes, rice, and something fried, with an apple-flavored gelatin dessert and paper spoon.

Every day during our three-day camp for lunch, breakfast, and dinner, each table is given a crock pot full of rice and a crock pot full of soup, as well as a jug of tea. There are bowls stacked next to the crock pots. Whoever is sitting closest to the crock pot scoops rice / soup into the bowls and passes them down one-by-one, until everyone has been served. (Same goes for tea.) Additionally, each side and main course are placed on different plates and set in a cluster at the end of the table; some students work together to pass those down as well. Then, once everyone is seated and has been served, everyone puts their hands into a praying position and says, “Gi ta da gi mahsk!” Which basically means, “Thank you for this meal!” Then, everyone is free to eat. At the end of the meal, you say, “Go chi so samah deschta.” again, “Thanks, the meal was great!” The words are associated with the Buddhist faith, the most practiced in the country.

Here is the picture of the Ramen noodles I bought in Japan at the mall the day we saw Harry Potter. You can personalize your Ramen with broth, sauce, cooking, and spices.

When the meal is complete, the students automatically and simultaneously stack their plates, bowls, cups, and chopsticks correspondingly. It is AMAZING to see. They work together as a team; everyone has an undefined task and everyone works together to see that everything gets done. They scrape the food onto the top plate, and then dump that food into the garbage, handing a pile of “clean food free” dishes to the dish washing staff. At Global Arena we take care of our own food because we have trays; there are separate dispensers for chopsticks, liquids, and trash. In America, most of the kids are slobs and just leave their stuff everywhere at the lunch tables. It’s much more organized and disciplined in Japan.

One interesting fact is that they do not serve napkins in Japan, because the chopsticks eliminate all aspects of mess (yeah right). Needless to say that has been my biggest adjustment.

I am adjusted to the food, but I do miss some American dishes. I am really spoiled at Global Arena because they serve corn flakes in the morning, a rare and real treat; so sometimes, I eat corn flakes and drink the coffee and do not pick at much else. I miss fruit a lot and I wish that I would have brought fiber pills with me / other food; luckily there is a convenience store in the Arena. I think we are all losing weight, myself included. The portion sizes are smaller and I am eating fewer calories and I am not snacking. Furthermore, I am sweating off everything the moment I step outside. I hope to lose a bit of weight (because I need to) and then I hope to be able to keep it off upon returning to the United States.

Today we had the entire afternoon off. Global Arena has a nice cafe to sit in; today I wrote some of my blog, and ate some ice cream.

Tomorrow the other half of our team arrives from the states; we have 5 facility/prep days; we will prepare for our 5 camps and then I think we have a few off days to go shopping/into the city.


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