It’s Obon season for the next few days. There aren’t any actual holidays, but traditionally people return to their hometowns to commune with their ancestors, and since hardly anyone is actually from Tokyo, a lot of people bug out, maybe for ancestors, maybe just to escape the heat. At any rate, the streets are quiet and lots of places are closed. Fortunately, the noodle shop was open, because I wanted sarada udon, which is cold noodles with salad on top. Very refreshing, and it comes with a choice of Matcha au Lait, which is iced green tea with milk and sugar (blech!) or iced coffee. I don’t know how they make it, but one sip will cross your eyes and put fur on your tongue. (Lesson learned: If I want coffee, there’s a Starbucks down the street.) Also fortunately, there was only one slurper and he was a few tables away, so not too annoying.
It is traditional to inhale great gasps of air while eating your noodles, the louder the better. Some say this makes them taste better. A while ago, a group of us went out for soba after class at the dojo. Everyone was chattering away, and then someone asked me how I feel about slurping. Everyone suddenly shut up, all eyes on me. I said, “Well, at first it bothered me. It goes against all of my training. But I’ve kind of gotten used to it, and it is a part of Japanese culture, so who am I to judge? I really wish people wouldn’t do it when they eat spaghetti, though. That drives me nuts.” Everyone nodded soberly, clearly making mental notes to stop slurping their pasta.
Here’s something funny: I noticed that most of the Japanese women I know who’ve married foreign men have really weird family names, like Motegi, Nammo, Kunigami, and my all-time favorite, Bogakiuchi. On the other hand, most of the Japanese men I know who’ve married foreign women have boring names, like Kaneko, Suzuki and Sato. I don’t actually use one. Eda is a fairly common family name, so I just use one name, like Cher or Sting. Most people don’t know my family name, or assume that Eda is my family name. I was once being introduced to a group of people and the guy doing the introductions said, “This is Mrs. Ayumi Ide, Mrs. Setsuko Koizumi, and Mrs…uh…Eda.” Hubby occasionally gets called Eda-san. He just shrugs.