It’s been a year of adventures already. I reread the posts from my first month in Japan: I talked about the garbage truck that sounded like an ice cream truck, and the truck that drove around selling baked yams, but both of those were in my old nighborhood.
Here in the heart of Tokyo, I miss the garbage truck that plays music (the one in my new neighborhood does not). I miss the yam truck — we don’t have one of those, either. However, in my new nighborhood, we do have the Tofu Man. He walks through the nighborhood pulling a cart full of homemade tofu. His call is a whistle (or a harmonica?) calling out two notes. If you listen carefully, it sounds like he is calling, “To-fu!” on his whistle. I have yet to see him when I need to buy any— but one of these days, I will buy tofu from the “tofu man.”
I no longer buy sweet beans or coffee jello thinking it is chocolate. A year later, I can read enough to get me through the sweets. However, I still can’t identify much of the food in a very traditional Japanese meal. Last weekend was the J-3 retreat, and the food at the hotel was good (most of it), but don’t ask me what it was. Fish, vegetables, and rice. That’s about it! I still feel like I have recently fallen off a plane when I eat at hotels.
A year ago, I went to Kumamoto and had my first experience with natto. It is fermented soybeans, which people generally eat with soy sauce, egg, and onion. Natto is a favorite breakfast food in the Tokyo area, although it is eaten other times, too. I couldn’t eat it a year ago (before I even knew what it was!), and I still don’t eat it now, even after I have been taught the “proper” way to fix it!
But, of all the food I thought I would never like? Rice balls (Japanese name: Onigiri). I used to think I would never willingly make a meal out of them. Not enough flavor, I said. But it turns out they are easy to make, cheap to buy, and they grow on a person. Yes, they can be bland, but not if they’re made properly. They can also be very good.
A year of adventures already, but still — there is so much yet to learn …