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WHEN EAST MEETS WEST: Lets Talk Turkey

Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr.

Japan typically digs in it' heels against outside customs. To win acceptance here such customs must first measure up to Japan's high standard of cultural attainment. Which Animated-turkey-graphic1 means ... they gotta make money.

Thus, through the years Japan has been trampled over by Western cows like Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day. Such customs, or rather the Japanese versions of such, have brought smiles to  countless young children and romantic couples and at the same time have given Japanese merchandisers reason to live. And live very well I must say.

So we see Halloween masks being marketed in mid-September, Christmas trees adorning storefronts from late October and Valentine hearts decorating isles and counters long after New Year's. If you don't know better, you might think we were all trapped inside a giant Walmart.
Yet one of the few Western holidays--specifically American holidays-- that has never made Japanese inroads just happens to be my favorite, Thanksgiving Day.

 

Which is the day Americans offer thanks for all their blessings--usually by eating everything in sight. As if saying," Thank you for the blessings of obesity."

But even though Japanese are also nuts about eating--and perhaps even nuttier about giving thanks--Thanksgiving DayJapanese--style has never caught on here.
Oh, Japan does have a "Labor Thanksgiving day"on November 23, but busy Japanese see this day the same way they see most other holidays in the jam--packed workday calendar--as a chance to sleep in. Meanwhile, American Thanksgiving is a feast! Turkey,stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and more, all packed in a fuzzy family glow,and then tied together with parades, lets not forget the football games and the starting gong for the race towards Christmas. Just what do we need to help Japan catch the spirit? The key, I think, has to do with turkeys. Most Japanese are unfamilliar with turkeys (outside of politics that is), and the size of the bird itself is intimidating.They won't fit into most Japanese freezers, let alone their ovens,and no one's going to eat one raw slapped on rice.

No matter how much wasabi. (Hot mustard used on many Japanese dishes)
 
The easy solution is to do away with genuine birds instead make them from chocolate. Chocolate always makes money here, with the trick to get that cash register ringing.
Sell a few million, bite-size chocolate gobblers and sooner or later the real birds will get their claws in the door. And in the meantime, there's a bonus: We get more chocolate.
Or if you are a traditionalist we can stick with actual birds but try different stuffings.
To me turkey is a culinary delight. But most Japanese hear,"bread crumbs, onions and curry,"and think "bird food." Or worse, as celery is perhaps Japan's most despised veggie. Many Japanese would rather eat live sea anails than celery. Ok, we can talk about creativy here. After all, Japan has tinkered with other Western holidays too, like the hot date affair that is now Japanese Christmas Eve. " O Holy Night" is mostly holy for the hotel business that is the most bussiest time of the year. 

So...how about red rice stuffing? That's always a holiday hit. Or deep fried octopus stuffing? Or maybe bean paste stuffing ? Both light and dark, like the meat.
 
And always in the end, there is always chocolate. Snicker bar stuffing anyone ?
Something is bound to work.There are other Turkey Day foods that have yet to become a hit here and one in particular confounds me as to why.I can understand that cranberry sauce has never found favor, as its pucker power is about as far from the Japanese palate as you can get.

Not even chocolate can save it. And I can also see why baked beans have yet to hit.
For most Japanese prefer their beans dripping with sugar. yet, I cannot fathom the failure of deviled eggs. Dainty, colorful, tasty--this would seem to have success  written all over it. Cholesterol be damned. But it is not to be. Not yet anyway. Not until some restaurant chain grabs the  golden chance. McDevils, Perhaps ?  
 
In our house,Thanksgiving has always been a bit subdued ,dispite my holiday Passion. Our table typically features turkey,stuffing,mashed potatoes and gravy, bakd beans, and-yes-even cranburry sauce.Plus the one Thansgiving Day food that almost all Japanese enjoy--pumkin pie. Yet, it is never the same.In the end it is not the food,which is always yummy.Neither is it the absent football, nor the absent of prades.Instead it's the family.Most years, My wife and I are lucky if we have one son or a daughter home for the holiday.
6a00d8341bf7d953ef00e54f6f91bb8833-115si And there is the true reason why Thanksgiving Day has not transferred.Japan has its own special family-feast time at New Year's. One cannot reinvent the wheel. Besides, when is giving thanks in need of a special day? Here I stand. Plus 30 years in Japan, with a warm home, plentiful friends and good health. I have much to be thankful for.Yet if I had chocolate turkeys, I'd have even more.
 
 Happy Thanksgiving, from Kitakyushu City, Japan.
To all back home in and around  my home town of Gloucester City, NJ and around the U.S.A.
Warm Regards from,
Hank & Keiko Miller. 

 



Read more: http://www.gloucestercitynews.net/clearysnotebook/2010/11/when-east-meets-westcommentary-by-hank-f-miller-jrlets-talk-turkeyjapan-typicallydigs-in-it-heels-against-outside-customs.html#ixzz16IoNhHgd

 

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