This may just be because I was sick for about half of break (and actually I’m glad I missed school this morning, as I wound up spending most of the day coughing like a crack-whore with TB stuck in the break room of a lumber mill during everyone’s smoke-break) and managed to screw up my sleep schedule, and so am grumpy and want to complain, but so be it.
Japan is a very polarized country. I say this because it has what I believe to be the STRONGEST sense of societal “do it perfectly” of any society I’ve studied, and that appeals to me. It also houses some of the biggest “it’s not perfect but that’s cool, right” that I’ve ever seen. Sometimes to rival even that of America.
Let me talk about food. Food is paramount (they tell me) to Japanese culture. The aroma, the appearance, the flavor, the process all have to be correct. But, like most things in Japanese culture, this falls apart at home. At home, food not finished is always stored for the next meal. Always. And the next meal, and the next meal, until eventually my host mom just eats it and makes something different. (No, I’m not being picky, when the other four members of the family don’t go for something, I won’t feel bad if I also abstain.) But I mean, we in America will often have leftovers, right?
It’s not the same. In America, when food that was once hot is served at a meal as leftovers, it is at least reheated. You don’t know how disgusting refrigerated fried-tempura can be unless you’ve had it… But let’s call it like trying to eat cold McDonalds fries, except that it USED to be delicious. And may still be if only someone would throw it into a damn oven for a few minutes!
In America, we also have this nifty substance call “Glad Wrap”, or Ceran Wrap, or any number of other “something”-wraps that we’ll (hence the name) wrap around the food, to keep it from getting moldy, to keep it from stinking up the fridge, etc… In Japan they use what are called “plates” and “bowls”. Erm, that is, they use the same plates and bowls the food was served on. (The way they eat food here facilitates this being easier than in America, mind you.) They stick it in the fridge after dinner. Seriously, two french fries will get put in the refrigerator! No wrap, no tupperware. Just sitting there.
I’ll admit that it doesn’t help my having worked at a restaurant just before coming to Japan, so I know all about how NOT to store and prepare and serve food. If it’s hot, serve it hot, if it’s cold serve it cold. If it’s cooled down, heat it above a safety zone to kill bacteria. Et cetera.
Of course, all of this complain falls flat when backed by the fact that I’ve never gotten sick from food I was served, nor anyone else here at home, nor is there a raging epidemic throughout Japan of people doing such… And I’m well aware of the fact that restaurant food-safety regulations are there to be SURE that food won’t go bad, even if it is usually fine at much less extreme areas. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t scare me half to death, though! My favorite nights are shabu-shabu nights, where they take hot water at ALMOST a boil and put things in it… Cabbage, mochi, udon noodles, raw beef…