Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Post Written in an Hour

I do not know how all of you have been spending the chagim but I have been spending my time reading Shogun for what has got to be the 10th time or so. Reading Shogun is something I do every few years. At certain intervals inexplicable forces—the moon or hormones or space aliens controlling my mind from the mother ship—compel me to take the book off the bookshelf and to spend several weeks flipping back and forth and reading random sections, which is what passes for reading in my world. Finally, the mood or hormones subside (or the space aliens get bored and move back to controlling the US presidential candidates) and I can put it away again.

Reading this book raises the eternal question: if I had to eat sushi all the time, like they do in the book, would I get sick of it? That is a frightening question (sick of sushi???), and one I would love to ask of a Japanese. Unfortunately, I do not know any actual Japanese and in particular, I do not know any actual Japanese who were alive during the 16th century, which is when the story takes place. So I am pretty much shit-out-of-luck. As of two months ago, I do know one Bosnian, though from the current century. I met her when she came to my house with her fiancée for a Shabbat dinner. Unfortunately, she was not able to clear up my question about the sushi. This is not to say that she taught me nothing. From her, I learned two important bits of Bosnian culture: 1) Bosnians are carnivores and 2) Bosnians consider the act of trying to use crumbled up veggie burgers in place of meat in a recipe as twisted and bizarre. In the future, I will not try to feed dairy Mexican food to a Bosnian, a suggestion I would recommend that you take to heart as well.

Yes, yes, yes…I realize that the Bosnian is completely unrelated to this post. But I just felt like sharing so that you would not decide that I was close-minded and provincial. No, I do not know any Japanese, but I do know a Bosnian.

So back to the subject, apart from eating sushi all the time, from this book I have learned that the Japanese use the phrase "so sorry" every third word or so and have an incredible death wish. Every time you turn a page, someone is asking for permission to commit suicide. This reminds me distinctly of the Spanish literature I read in college, in which extremely pious Catholic authors put out such zingers such as "I am dying because I am not dying". Based on said literary excursions, I have concluded that the key difference between the Spaniards and the Japanese apart from that 1) I know an actual Spaniard and that 2) the Spaniards may have better food (I mean, I like sushi, but every meal?), is that the Japanese are a lot more proactive in achieving their goals. The Spaniards are mooning about, writing flowery poems and waiting for G-d to take them away (rather like Calgon, but fatal). The Japanese, on the other hand, are proactive. They are sharpening their swords, and asking their liege lords for permission to commit seppuku at every opportunity. With that level of go-getting-ness, it comes as no surprise to me that modern Japan has become an economic powerhouse and modern Spain has been invaded by British retirees, rather like Raanana and Jerusalem. Unlike Israel however—and this is something I have picked up on from the actual Spaniard—Spain has much better fashion sense than we do here. Not that this is saying much.

I suppose that I could read some actual reference books or websites on Spain or Japan and I will, just as soon as the mother ship commands it. Right now I think they are really busy with the election.


TalTalK said...

I totally have the Calgon ad in my head now!

Great post!

aliyah06 said...

You need to visit Japan! Spend your next vacation there--get OUT of Tokyo, go to the old inns on the Tokkaido Road; visit the spas in the mountains; spend a few days in Nara and Kyoto.

I just finished Shogun for the umpteenth time. I lived in Japan briefly. I miss it still. And I NEVER got tired of the sushi, but you can also get the best beef steak on earth (Kobe beef), or yakisoba or shabu-shabu or yakitori if you need a break from raw fish. It just costs more, natch.

Batya said...

Since I don't reread books, I wish we could get rid of most of the books in the house, including those of the daughters, who have stored dozens or hundreds.

I remember reading Shogun decades ago, I think.

Anonymous said...

יפה מאוד!
נהנתי אתמול
יום הולדת שמח

Big Al said...

Hey I just logged on to your blog -I really like your eloquence and style.
I am slowly being seduced into an trip to Japan, and your insights regarding Shogun are definitely adding to my anthropolgical sense of sense adventure. Hmmm. On ya girl !

Ralphie said...

I'm no expert, but I know some Japanese folks and I've been to Japan, and let me tell you: those guys do not get sick of their sushi. And it's not sushi like you and I know it: it's, "Hey, I just took this out of the ocean, let's take a bite while it's still flailing around" kind of sushi.

Tzipporah said...

I thought sushi wasn't actually such a big thing until recently, because of the changes in the ecology and population during/after WWII... but honestly, Bad Cohen tells me all sorts of nonsense and I've no idea where he got that.