This list was started two days ago during a quiet evening as I was chewing on my dinner. Adaptability is definitely an animalistic trait and I consider myself proud of it. Have you ever thought about how you cope in new surroundings? These are the signs I’m slowly becoming used to being in Japan.
1. Accumulation of convenience store (コンビニ, konbini) chopsticks and spoons
2. Getting excited by the baseball games on TV
3. Letting the dishes pile up in the sink
4. Braving late night trash take-outs
5. Saying 痛い! (itai) instead of “Ouch!”
6. Borrowing umbrellas from school
7. Leaving rice in the rice cooker
8. I don’t think 50ºF is freezing anymore
9. I have humidity absorbers everywhere
10. I carry plastic bags in every pouch “just in case”
11. I have a bag for collecting said plastic bags
12. I attempt to replicate school lunches
13. Buying cookbooks
14. I have a regular grocery store (with point card)
15. Starting to scope the sales ads for deals
16. Any notes I take are in English and Japanese
17. Getting used to hanging my laundry outside to dry
And just last night, I went to eat some peanut butter and was confused as to why it wasn’t Japanese peanut butter. There’s a big difference and I’m finding I’m preferring that over American peanut butter. Blasphemy!
As my impatient stomach waits for its breakfast to finish cooking, I thought it’s about time to introduce you to my food excursions in the supermarkets of Japan. Yesterday was a boon for me because I was escorted by my coworker, Toby (Anecdote time! I have to put this in there because it’s cool to me: Toby was born in Zimbabwe and went to university in England. He sticks out way more than I do and it’s hilarious to watch the looks of awe we receive when we go out together. Plus, he gets points because he knows who David Bowie is) to a few stores in Numazu. Numazu itself is as close to being a coastal city without actually being on the coast and is a 40-minute train ride south from my apartment. Unlike Gotemba, this is a true city equipped with skyscrapers and bright lights. It even has a seedy Red Light District. It brings to mind old Japan: dirt roads damped with water lined with wooden houses, sliding shoji screen doors, rooms perfumed with the scents of nature and dainty paper lanterns hanging from the lintel.
I’m sorry. I digress. As I was saying, it’s about time I show you how I’ve been faring in the food department. Surrounded by another language, you might think it’s hard. It’s not too bad once you take the time to really look around. Japan is obsessed with pictures. My hunch is because the arts were a popular thing in their history: from archaic doodles to ukiyo-e woodblock prints, the Japanese were constantly surrounded by imagery.
My first shopping trip after coming to Japan was one of necessity. It wasn’t a leisurely stroll to assess the opposing party; no. It was a grab-what-you’re-familiar-with-and-run sort of thing. I believe I went home with carrots, potatoes, milk, apple juice, oranges, bananas, eggs, bread, butter and chicken. The second trip produced garlic marinated beef and bacon. Somewhere in there, I procured cabbage, mushrooms, seasoning packets and Frosted Flakes. The Frosted Flakes I was particularly happy about. My latest shopping trip produced quite a bit and has gotten me thinking about meal planning. Because of the humidity and the unavailability of central air conditioning, food spoils fairly quickly. Just this morning, as I drank my apple juice, I noticed a blob of viscous mold swimming around. Let’s see how long it takes for my stomach to realize what I swallowed.
The following illustrates the latest shopping trip and my sudden panic at making sure everything I buy gets cooked and everything I cook gets frozen or eaten right away.