One of the most interesting posts I’ve read in the last little while comes from TokyoMango blogger Lisa Katayama (writing at BoingBoing), called “Why It’s Time To Lighten Up About Weird Japan.” In the article Katayama talks about her experiences writing about the bizarre and fascinating aspects of Japan, for money, and the friction that can cause. It’s a good blog post, and Katayama’s a controversial figure in otaku circles precisely because of the articles she’s written.
It made me consider things like my Japan posts, which I’ve become known for, and which inspire and delight people. For example, this post is about a fried chicken lunch box you buy at a train station, which I could describe in a pretty boring way. Or I could say: Chicken Bentou! It’s a fried chicken bentou box! And delicious! Check this out:
On the right we have fried chicken (karage–kah-rah-gay) and a little serving of potato salad. On the left, we’ve got chicken-flavoured fried rice… and…
The fried rice has crumbled-fried-egg topping! Chicken and egg in the same dish! And peas! Seriously, a decent meal on a train-station platform for a whopping $8. Japanese cuisine isn’t just fish and rice (tho there’s lots of fish and rice), and despite sensationalist writings to the contrary westerners can eat familiar food should they desire, while visiting Japan. and they make a good piece of fried-chicken, lemmie tell ya.
It’s a fascinating juxtaposition on the surface, a traditional Japanese food preparation like a bento-box, instead filled with fairly “western’ ingredients like fried chicken and potato salad… and rice. :). The humour and the interest comes from the east-meets-west friction, and then having it turned back on itself. I don’t think a post like this would dip into the category of “look at the freakshow!”, and going back over my posts even something like Namjatown is presented fairly neutrally, because quite honestly, that place is fucking crazy. Anything I’ve posted about my trip to Japan has been, to my mind, positive, while reveling in the culture and the (quite frankly) alienness that you occasionally feel while immersed in it.
I get what Katayama is saying and I’d like to think I stay on just this side of carnival barker when talking about Japan. Even the random, unexplainable and fascinating and wonderful stuff that I try to pin down and explain and enjoy. Like Chicken Bentou. Here’s hoping that as I wrap-up my 2009 trip this week and continue posting Random Japan installments for the months to come, people continue to appreciate them as a peek into another culture, and not a peek under a circus tent. And if I err, here’s hoping that I don’t incur even a tenth the shit that Katayama’s had to suffer for doing the same coverage…!