Modesty, Propriety, can Lead to Notoriety.

December 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

I went to the Kyoto Immigration Office and got some stuff sorted. I wanted to look like picture one – cool, calm, responsible:


The truth is that I probably looked more like picture two. I’d been walking all day, and I got caught in the rain not far from the office. Everything stuck to me. My feet are curiously big and my face goes pink easily.

I got to a part on the form that looks like this:


I thought about running away. On the inside I’d been feeling like picture three all day long. I pictured the interviews I’d have with Mark Sainsbury and Kim Hill – after my deportation –  about my lesbian lover and the unfairness of it all. I love and respect Japan’s choices as a nation-state, Mark. But –  That the Science of Cartography is Limited – Kim.

I left it blank. They didn’t ask me any questions. I paid the revenue stamp man 4000 yen, and I took them my stamp,  and  then I left with a new 90-day pass in my little red book. I hid in a book store until the rain stopped and then I rode the train to Arashiyama. We walked around in the bamboo grove until they turned the lights off. Nobody got deported.

After that her Vegetarianism went from Technical to Non-existent?

December 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’ve been meat free since 2002. Except for some occasional exceptions:

1. A few years back my mum put bacon-bits on the salad and I was unaware and took a bite. My mum is a mostly-vegetarian. She just loves a bit of the old bacon.

2.  I once ordered what turned out to be a Ceaser salad and it had anchovies in it and I was so hungry and cheap that I ate around it.

3. That time I just had to eat one snail at the market in Marraketch.

4. A few rare occasions when I have determined that a food is ethical enough to eat: crays caught at New Year’s by a friend’s dad, a bite of venison shot by a friend’s brother, and a nibble of an old chicken raised, slaughtered and cooked for us by P’s auntie.

5. Japan.

Last week we accidentally wound up going to dinner at the local posh sushi restaurant. We were four wide eyed, chilly, Gaijin gals and there were two veges among us. We couldn’t read the menu at ALL. Everything was written in the Kanji for obscure names of sushi styles and types of fish. We didn’t even get as far as ordering a bottle of sake before things fell apart (“midori, midori” we yelled, pointing at a range of green bottles in a fridge: I then spent five minutes trying to ask if the sake would be served hot). We went through three staff members before we wound up ordering fishy Nabe (鍋) to share; given that it was mighty freezing outside, a big hot-pot sounded wonderful. Eventually one of the chefs came out and talked to us though the power of his iPhone. He carefully dished up bowls full of 鍋 to each of us, precisely portioning out a little of each of the ingredients. Then he got his iPhone and held it up to the table; it announced things like “please wait for three minutes”. It took three iPhones, six people, and about a half hour for me to work out that the delicious white, fluffy, brain-looking thing I’d just eaten was fish sperm.

And that’s how it happens. You wind up eating fish testicles and feeling polite. It’s not impossible to be a vegetarian here. In fact, it’s probably about as easy or easier than it is anywhere else in the world (except maybe New Zealand. In New Zealand it’s ridiculously easy to be a vegetarian. You don’t even have to try. I think I know New Zealanders that are vegetarians by accident. It’s like they tripped over it on the street).  The problem for me is that refusing to eat of the flesh is a difficulty that comes on top of all the other stuff here that I find difficult. Sometimes, it’s hard to go to a restaurant and pore over the menu trying to decipher what they have. Then it’s hard to be confident when you order. Then, it’s even harder to announce “I am Vegetarian!” (私葉ベジタリアン です)or ask “Is this meat?” (このお肉ですか?) when you’re already feeling like a big messy smashing-thing-up Gaijin. On the few occassions where I have been able to pluck up the courage to ask if something is meat, I’ve sometimes been unable to understand the answer, or I’ve gathered that it’s not meat, only to find, on biting into said vegatarian dish, that it’s got bits of mince or fish floating/hidden in it. It’s wasteful and rude to throw away or turn down food (in my culture, or any culture, not just here in Japan) so often in these situations, I just go on ahead and eat it.

I have to give credit to a certain visiting  friend of mine for reminding me that sometimes you have to put in a little effort. K and K and I went on quite a few missions in an effort to find vegetarian foods. There were some fails, but we did eventually strike it lucky with a place called “Sunshine Cafe”  – located on Sanjo-dori, inside the arcade and quite close to Taramachi mall (it’s on the fifth floor so look up for the signage). They use all organic ingredients  and do vegetarian set lunches. They even asked us if we were Vegan and offered to do the potato salad without mayonnaise. I swooned. Here’s a flyer with a map:

Sunchine Cafe Flyer

Sunshine Cafe Flyer

I had the tofu-steak open sandwich and a cup of calming tea. I was due to visit the Kyoto Immigration Office, so calming tea seemed like just the ticket.

IMG_0172I am resolved to get better at seeking out the Vegetarian strong-holds of this city (and if I find any I’ll be sure to let others know about them) but for now I am willing to accept that I’ll just have to stick with the ‘eat as little meat as possible’ philosophy. There’s always gonna be fish in the broth. If anyone is reading this and thinking, gosh, that’s a bit slack of her – well, I am in agreement.  I can’t say I feel good about it at all. But my pragmatic and polite little soul has made peace with it. I still oppose factory farming, the Meat-Industrial-Complex, and Wagyu beef. But I also see that food is something we communicate with, and if eating meat is going to be a language I fully refuse to speak, then my Japanese is going to have to get a whole lot better.

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