The Cost of Popularity 

Monday, June 25, 2007

When my friend Risa came over from Japan to visit last month, I kept pointing out how Japanicized the rest of the world has become:
  • Every big bookstore now has a manga section.
  • White high school girls attempt big socks (though they use slouchy legwarmers instead).
  • Everyone and their racist meat-and-potatoes great grandmother eats sushi these days.
  • The people really in the know - i.e. all of Vancouver contained within the traditional snob boundaries (King Edward and Nanaimo) - has moved on to izakaya food.
  • Most coffee shops now sell green tea lattes, while some very advanced ones even have matcha tea.
  • You can buy takoyaki in cultural voids like Port Coquitlam.
  • Supermarkets now carry edamame.
  • We even have hundred-yen stores.
  • Our tv shows rip off Japanese ones - whether they're restaurant makeover programs or silly Jackass crap.
  • Snooty bars in New York have shiso- and yuzu lemon-flavoured cocktails.
  • There's a cherry blossom festival in Vancouver.
Risa pointed out that the export of Japanese culture has the Japanese rather pissed with us foreigners.

"What?!" I said aghast. "The Japanese love to show off all the cool things in Japanese culture. I mean, there are women who wait all their lives to rip off a foreigner's clothes and dress them in the best kimono. And there are people who can't resist feeding live fish to some naive outsider so that they can taste the freshest meat money can buy."

"But that's the problem," said Risa.

As the rest of the world realizes that sashimi is damn good, there's less tuna to go around. Now that any Russian mafioso can take his girlfriend of the week to sample fresh tuna in Moscow or any Joe Bob in Lubbock, Texas can stab his toro with his chopsticks, the big fish's numbers have dwindled.

Thus the export of one of the hallmarks of Japanese culture, its cuisine, means that the Japanese themselves may soon be pushed out of the market. This is what has many Japanese complaining.

According to the New York Times, some chefs have experimented with venison and horse sushi. Others have studied North American abominations like our mouth-bursting everything-in-the-freezer-plus-tobiko rolls.

Hopefully this insanity for all things Japanese will bring over a few things I miss about Japan: paper stores that have nothing to do with scrapbooking, hanafuda, Ayako Miyawaki exhibits, Gegege no Kitaro, Doraemon comics, real Japanese onsens, Japanese panties (more comfortable and pretty than ours), and good customer service.

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I actually read that tuna article a couple of days ago and said to myself "shit, no wonder it's been hard to find at the kaitenzushi."

And yeah, I doubt the best thing about Japan (quality customer service) will ever make it back home. It's not "weird and exotic" enough for people to be interested (though it should be!!).
So it isn't just the Japanese overreacting - you've noticed it too.

That's too bad. Some of my happiest memories of Japan are the tunas. Mmm, maguro.

I suspect that Boston cannot have as bad customer service as Vancouver. We rival Romania and China in bad customer service.
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