Random musings in Kyoto
Deb and I have spent the last week in Kyoto, Japan, where she and her colleague Jon Yoshioka were invited by Bukkyo University to speak at a conference on education.
I could really get used to the politeness, the order, the neatness. OTOH, I'm here at a hotel being treated as a paying guest -- if I lived here as a citizen or foreign resident, I can see how I might find the bureaucracy and endless rules frustrating, I don't know...
Jon is a kick -- he's a Hawaii boy, born and raised, but his parents speak Japanese, and he understands quite a lot. His running joke is that when we run into something we find odd or silly or frustrating, Jon says something like "What's wrong with these people? Don't they know [whatever]?"
But whenever we see or experience something positive -- which is usually -- he's all "My people are very talented/orderly/polite/etc." :-)
Last night we had dinner at a great little hole in the wall place. I ordered tuna carpaccio, which is basically sashimi. I had had a hankering for sashimi with wasabi and shoyu (soy sauce), so even though this dish came with a sweet chili sauce, I asked the waiter for shoyu and wasabi. The waiter, a young man named Daike who knew a few words of English, pointed to the shoyu container. Then we had this conversation:
Bryan: Do you have wasabi?
Daike: It...not...come...with wasabi.
Bryan: Well, do you have it? Can I have some wasabi anyway?
Daike: You...don't...need wasabi.
Which made all of use burst out laughing, and Daike look nonplussed.
I understand the thing about Americans drowning their food in soy sauce, like someone pouring ketchup over their chicken cordon bleu, or putting ice in their Malbec -- I get it, I really do. But I had tasted the sweet chili sauce, and while it was lovely, I decided I still wanted the fish with wasabi -- and after days of obsequiousness and unctousness, all the bowing and "gozai mas" etc, when Daike, who was maybe 20 yrs old, told me in no uncertain terms that I didn't need wasabi, it was so unexpected and delightful, that I couldn't help but laugh. :-)