Monday, November 24, 2008

Japanese Food Culture - The Dinner Snapshot

If you're with a Japanese woman traveling outside of Japan and you go out to eat, it's almost certain that she'll snap a photo of the food before she digs in. Now this does not mean that she finds her plate of ribs more noteworthy than the Grand Canyon or the Empire State Building, but simply that the portion size is so unbelievable that a photo will be a great conversation piece back home - this is Japanese food culture at its best.

The Japanese, unlike Americans, view eating and food as an integral part of Japanese culture. In this respect, they have much in common with the French. Now this doesn't mean that the Japanese are snobbish about the quality of American food - they are content to let hamburgers be hamburgers and steak be steak - but the absolute over-the-top, heaping mounds of food one receives at an American restaurant is legendary in Japan, and only a good snapshot will suffice as proof of this reality.

It's also worth mentioning that the Japanese view modern Japanese food and even traditional japanese food as being unequaled the world over. It's not arrogance exactly, but more like acknowledging that the sky is blue.

In addition to capturing the portion size, a good snapshot will also reveal the close-up textures, colors and culinary nuances of the food. It's not uncommon for Japanese women to browse endless blogs and websites filled with nothing more than closeups of japanese foods: desserts, soups and entrees. Western cookbooks with paragraphs of texts, illustrations and then perhaps a color photo every two or three pages, are incomprehensible to Japanese women.

The next time you are in an American restaurant and an Asian lady pulls out a camera phone and snaps a shot of her lamb chops, you may want to ask: "Excuse me, are you from Japan by any chance?"

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