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”

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”

How Japan Killed my Vegetarianism

“Okay, how ‘bout a sheep. Would you have sex with a sheep?” I asked.

“Mmm,” Ryan replied. “Boy sheep or girl?

“Like it matters?

“If it’s a boy sheep, that’s gay. Okay, let’s say I bought a hamburger, would you eat it?

“Nope,” I said, “No way.

“For a hundred dollars?”

This was twelve years ago. Ry and I were driving Route 1 down from San Francisco, winding through Big Sur as the sun and clouds painted patterns on the Pacific. We had loads of time to dream up sophomoric questions.

“Would you eat a person for a hundred dollars?” I replied. “Like a manburger? Continue reading “How Japan Killed my Vegetarianism”

Why are Japanese so Skinny?

The crazy thing about working in a Japanese office is that, while knowing absolutely nothing substantial about your co-workers, you can still observe their most intimate habits. But maybe that’s any office, actually. I mean, when I worked in the U.S., there were a lot of folks I didn’t really know either. Although it seems like avoiding personal disclosure is one of those Japanese “things.” Eh, probably just my imagination.

Among the things I still don’t know in my Japanese office are anybody’s actual name, so I like to refer to my coworkers as Skeletor, Skeletor Jr., Ms. WhoAreYouAgain, and The Butt. The first three are Japanese, while The Butt, so-named because of her seated resemblance to an isosceles triangle, is, predictably, American. Continue reading “Why are Japanese so Skinny?”

The Easiest Japanese Food

Every once in a while, I discover something in Japan so amazing that I’m compelled to share it with the world. Fortunately, that feeling passes after a few beers, so I don’t actually have to do any work, which I’m allergic to. I’m pretty sure that if I was ever given a job involving something like a shovel I’d break out in hives. I’m not even sure which button you push to make the thing start.

Now, if you were to stop random Japanese people on the street and mention my name, they’d likely reply: Ken Seeroi? Oh, he’s got the sensibilities of an 80 year-old Japanese chef. Either that or, Isn’t he the dude sleeping in the park over there? Continue reading “The Easiest Japanese Food”