Japanese people love food. They spend a lot of money on it and they celebrate it whether eating at home or at a fast food joint – even that stuff is really tasty. There are food stalls everywhere, from specialised market streets for delicacies from abroad and Japan, to people who drive around in their vans and sell organic produce from their farms out of the boot. Even the supermarkets at highway rest areas mostly sell local food, often pickles and other things that are non-perishable.
Because Japanese people love to give foodstuffs as presents. I like this idea because whatever you receive, you don’t waste space for eternal display; and if you fear that you won’t like the gift, you can either open it immediately and offer it back to your guests or you just pass it on (which seems to be another Japanese pastime, by the way).
Last Wednesday, when I was on the way to the cinema to watch Macondo, I had to pass through the Teramachi shopping arcade in inner city. It is always busy there, and I try to avoid it in the weekends, but every now and then it’s nice to walk through. Last Wednesday there was a group of students at Teramachi, all of them dressed in bright red Japanese Happi vests. All of them were shouting something I could not understand, some of them carried banners, and some of them proffered plastic bags (of course) to people passing by.
Just when I was wondering what this was about, a stout youth stood in my way and said something in Japanese while he handed me one of the plastic bags. It turned out that those were kids from some junior high in some prefecture in Kyushu (that’s all the way south), and they were giving away bags containing a guidebook about their hometown and – a small package of rice, also grown there.
Looking at the guidebook, the place seems to be more rural than I tend to like it after spending years successfully escaped one of those places… On the other hand, they do seem to have some extremely stunning lakes there; their almost precisely round shape makes me wonder whether those are all old volcanoes… Well, maybe it’s worth going there after all. Some time in autumn, probably. What a little bag of rice can do!