How to Eat at a Japanese Restaurant

in Just 11 Easy Steps

Learning Japanese is a great hobby. It requires levels of endurance and discipline possessed by English Channel swimmers, while garnering the respect typically reserved for those really skilled with yo-yo’s. The good news, if one can call it such, is you don’t need much Japanese to get by in Japan.

Nowhere is this truer than at a Japanese restaurant. Instead, what you need is to know how things work. Once you’ve got the system down, it’s amazing how few words are actually required.

First night in Japan

My own culinary journey began after a grueling day-long flight half-way around the world and several hours of wandering lost in the backstreets of Tokyo. I was out of PowerBars, famished, and thoroughly exhausted. Continue reading “How to Eat at a Japanese Restaurant”

Living in Japan Forever

Japan’s a never-ending list of woulda, coulda, and shoulda’s. And chart-topping that vertical-ruled kanji notepad is: Shoulda remembered how I felt about Disneyland.

But hey, hindsight’s 20-20, Mickey Mouse. Go on wit’ yer oversized hands.

Living in Japan

When I first got to this nation, everything was amaaazing. I sat in Starbucks overlooking Shibuya scramble and marveled at the 4-way confluence of humanity weaving its way across Tokyo. Somehow I found myself talking to a cute girl with orange hair from Korea and we took polaroids together. Then a couple of beers later, the bronze statue of Hachiko the dog, a random hostess bar, dancing in Gas Panic, weaving drunkenly through seas of neon and Chinese prostitutes until finally eating bowls of glowing ramen in some ramshackle late-night noodle shop. It was brilliant. Continue reading “Living in Japan Forever”

Should You Move to Japan?

A reader recently asked: should I move to Japan, or Norway? I get similar questions a lot, and I think we all know the answer.

Okay, first off, Norway’s great if you like cross-country skiing, hats with horns, and wood. On the other hand, Japan might be your spot if you enjoy wearing bathrobes with swords, eating Cup-o-Noodles, and riding tiny bicycles. But either way, none of that matters, and I’ll tell you why.

Dating Japanese Women

So last year, I was dating a couple of ladies. Let’s just call them, um, Satoko and Emi, since those are their names. And things finally got to the point where going out for two Christmas dinners to Kentucky Fried Chicken and giving two sets of White Day chocolates got to be a bit much, and I decided to make a choice. Continue reading “Should You Move to Japan?”

The New Japanese Etiquette

Japanese Etiquette

Even ten years ago, the world seemed bigger. Japan still had a bit of that “Oriental” mystique, and visitors to its shores sent reports home of an exotic land populated by simple, if slightly daft, inhabitants:

“The Japanese are so friendly and polite!” (Actually, the folks who just gave you directions were Taiwanese tourists)

“Japan’s so safe and clean.” (Lots of countries are. Okay, maybe not the U.S.)

“The Japanese value harmony.” (Yeah, fear of authority will do that to people)

And visitors asked quaint, naive questions about cultural practices, such as: Continue reading “The New Japanese Etiquette”

Japanese Customs

“Stop that,” she said. “Sit still. You want people to think you’re a better person, don’t you?”

This is me, learning not to do sewing machine leg from Yasuko, my girlfriend.

“Better than whom?” I asked.

Well, Yasuko was crazy, so whatever. But she was also right. Not moving one’s limbs is actually a thing in Japan.

Next, I learned that you shouldn’t wear cologne from my girlfriend Makiko.

I’d worn cologne every day for years. Who doesn’t like the bracing scent of Old Spice? Not Japanese people, apparently, although nobody said a word. Continue reading “Japanese Customs”