I’m safely back in Japan after a 24 hour door-to-door flight back to Japan. It’s nice being back home, but as usual the jet lag is sneaking up on me slowly…
One topic I write a lot about is the way Japan suffers from the unintentional “tyranny of the majority” due to having such a homogenous population. If you have specific food requirements, for example if you’re diabetic or need a kosher or halal diet, being in Japan can be a minor challenge. It was only a few years ago that Japanese snack companies started adding allergy information to product packages, which J-List reports in our product descriptions. One special challenge is being a vegetarian in Japan, since the country generally doesn’t understand the lifestyle — one restaurant even advertised “vegetarian” bacon-wrapped asparagus, as if the presence of a vegetable was enough to make it vegetarian. One option for vegetarians visiting Japan is shoshin ryori, the traditional devotional food eaten by Buddhist priests, which consists of beautiful dishes that recreate the texture of meat using foods like tofu, with no animal products present. If you’d like to try this amazing cuisine, I recommend Kanga-an, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto that operates a restaurant. There’s also a bar on the premises where you can contemplate the fleeting beauty of life while sampling famous Suntory whiskies.
One interesting aspect of living in Japan is learning to read the unique body language of people around you, which is generally not something taught in Japanese textbooks. There are quite a few gestures the Japanese make which are different from what we’d use in the West, from the famous “beckoning” gesture that Lucky Cat does, which could be interpreted as “go away” by Westerners, to the way a single raised pinky and questioning glance can mean “Do you have a hot date with a girl tonight?” The concept of “brown-nosing” someone in a position of authority is ゴマすり goma-suri, meaning grinding up sesame seeds, and indicating a weasely coworker while grinding imaginary sesame seeds in your fist is the accepted gesture for “ass-kisser.” Then there’s the childish あっかんべー akkanbeh! insult, which involves sticking out your tongue while pulling your lower eyelid down with your finger, to express disapproval.
We have some bad news: Japanese Oreos are going away permanently, due due to the end of a licensing agreement between Nabisco Japan and the original Oreo license holder. This means that the current stock of Green Tea Oreos and other interesting flavors is the only stock we’ll ever have. So you should put in an order right now!