All of these words have one thing in common; they are all related to food. Food is an important part of any culture, so it seems appropriate to discuss my experience with the food here in Japan.
My last supper in America was leftover food I had from The Cheesecake Factory. Eleven and a half hours later, my world of food had changed completely.
“Since I changed my mindset, I finally accepted the quantity and price of bread, though I don’t intend to live on bread alone.”
The first real meal I had here was from a convenience store. It contained four different types of meat, corn, potato wedges, a little spaghetti and rice.
It was the only thing I saw in the store that I recognized so I bought it despite it being a little expensive. I was expecting it to taste like plastic, or something similar to gas station food, but it tasted like I got it from a restaurant. The quality of the flavor completely shocked me. Even after I refrigerated it for days, it was still really good.
Then I went out to get ramen. I was educated that ramen isn’t even indigenous to Japan, rather it came from China. I had ramen before, and the taste was almost exactly the same, so there was really no surprise there.
Now since I was being a little cautious about the food I was eating, I decided to venture out a little. I went to a traditional restaurant with a group of exchange students and decided to order something called yakitori. It looks like this:
I was informed that it was grilled chicken on a skewer. So, I thought “This would be a good way to ease myself into traditional Japanese food — all it is is chicken!” I received my delectable looking yakitori. You must understand the shock and dismay I felt when I took a bite of what I thought was chicken, and heard a loud, dissatisfying crunch. It felt like I was eating grilled cartilage, in fact I’m convinced that’s what it was. I tried another skewer and that one was actually chicken. So, feeling that the worst was over, I ate another skewer. That one was nothing but grilled skin.
I tried my best, but my stomach refused to let me ingest any more of that cartilage and skin.
On a side note, I learned when you are ready to pay in a Japanese restaurant, you make an “X” with your fingers and they give you the bill. Also, the servers don’t come to you and ask what you want to order, you have to yell 「すみません! 」(excuse me!) loud enough for them to hear. But none of us foreigners were comfortable enough to do that, so we sat there for a while mustering up the courage to do it.
Next, I decided to try something new again, but this time it was something I’d heard of before. I went to the school’s cafeteria and tried curry for the first time. It was simple, but it enticed my taste buds so much that I went and got it again the next day.
At this point, I’ve begun to feel like it’s not a really a meal unless there is rice.
I’ve noticed that when ordering food in a restaurant, the portions are huge and the price is cheap. When grocery shopping, it is the opposite. The portions are small and more expensive than I am used to. For example, I wanted to buy a loaf of bread, but I could only find a maximum of eight slices of bread per loaf (most loaves that I saw consisted of three to five thick slices). I spent a long time looking for the real size until I thought “Maybe that’s just how it’s portioned here.” So, I bought eight slices of bread that was almost two dollars when I’m used to getting 20 slices for a dollar.
Fruit is also very expensive. A single banana was more than a dollar. Two oranges, $4. It’s around $7 for a slice of watermelon, but $15 for the whole thing, and it’s super small.
I was baffled by this. I understand that these fruits are not native to Japan, and it takes a lot to make them grow, so it’s going to be expensive, but I don’t think I can buy fruit here knowing its so much cheaper in America.
I went to Wendy’s and McDonald’s, just to satisfy curiosity. I like Wendy’s, but I was taken aback when I saw alcohol, various pastas, French toast, green cream soda, so many tea options and soda floats on the menu.
I wasn’t really sure I was at Wendy’s anymore. I never liked McDonald’s, but I wanted to try it in Japan. It didn’t really surprise me like Wendy’s did, though the double cheese burger I ordered was about the size of something you would get off the dollar menu in America, which is nonexistent in Japan. In conclusion, I still don’t like McDonald’s.
So that is my journey of food!
I’m still getting acquainted to life in Tokyo, but just like with everything else here, I had to change my mindset in order to adjust — and I’m adjusting pretty well. Since I changed my mindset, I finally accepted the quantity and price of bread, though I don’t intend to live on bread alone.
I’ll keep venturing out and trying new things and new foods.
Dalayah Baker is a third-year transfer student majoring in Japanese. She is studying abroad spring semester in Tokyo, Japan.