Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I forgot about this part...

Warning, Warning, Warning - the following is a massive over generalization and yet is somehow consistently true:

So it's been a while since I lived here in old Japan, and I completely forgot about this common occurrence: Surprise that other people outside Japan do and have the same items and experiences as the Japanese.

Chalk it up to being an island nation, from which no possible knowledge, technology, or cultural attribute could possibly escape, but there is an odd tendency for people in Japan to be floored by the idea that other countries have similar practices/animals/food/thoughts/likes/dislikes/technology/ability/knowledge etc. etc.

Today I was reminded of this when I completely blew my father-in-law's mind by...well, let's back up.

We were at a Yakitori joint (grilled chicken on skewers) and after consuming an embarrassing amount of grilled poultry we were in repast mode with toothpicks firmly planted between our now-exhausted mandibles. I took a fresh toothpick and pointed out one of their more ingenious features - many toothpicks have a pointy end (the picking part) but while some are double-edged, others have a kind of bedpost ending where it seems to have been run through a Keebler-sized lathe. I had previously been informed by my friend Ian (note: he was a science major and thus very very smart so I basically trust anything he says) that this portion was designed to be broken off and used as a resting piece for the remainder of the toothpick - like a pillow for the pick that kept the mouth-destined end off the table and thus somewhat table-schmutz free.

Upon showing this nifty feature to pop-in-law, he commented that it was amazing that I, an American, should know more about toothpicks than a Japanese person. When probed, his wonder-source was that toothpicks were a uniquely Japanese tool and so how could I know about this clever, but little known application. When I told him that we do in face have toothpicks in America, his brains exploded all over the table completely ruining the previously jovial mood (not entirely accurate, but metaphorically speaking - spot on).

It reminded me over other "yes, we have that as well" moments that caused gray matter to splay across a table, such as the idea that other countries have (and here is just a short list) seasons, Baskin Robbins ice cream, kites, chopsticks and an ability to control them in a semi-capable manner (non-Asian countries only), toothpicks, etc.

UPDATE - This Friday was my first lesson with the students at my new school. Being such, it was a Jiko shokai lesson, or self-introduction. After seeing my ppt presentation, it was open question time - I was asked by students ages 8 - 12 if America has the following items:


too cute