Japan 3: Stuffing your face for entertainment.

Written by

Andrew Millar


January 1, 2008

OK, I’ll admit I just don’t understand Japanese television programmes.

The most common thread seems to be food consumed in the most gluttonous way. And I mean revoltingly and obscenely consumed in bulk.

The Japanese apparently find it amusing.

It is 5.15 in the afternoon and pitch dark outside. The TV is on and two guys are sitting opposite each other at a table covered with small plates of bun shaped items. I know these things- I had one on the plane on the way over. The best way I can describe them is Turkish Delight filled with sweet baked bean mash. They are actually not bad but one is enough. These guys are facing off to eat thirty or so.

And there was a similar program at lunch.

And another this morning.

And several along that theme yesterday.

I don’t get it. For a nation so careful with the preparation of food, so obsessed with ceremonies around food, so concerned with the quality of food, it’s hard to believe that they see gluttony as entertainment.

I’ll write about Bento later, because these ‘lunch boxes’ typify their gentle attitude and reverence to food.

Yet prime time television seems to mostly be about excessive consumption.

And it is not just my perception. Last trip to Japan was no different – people on TV sitting at a table, jamming food into their mouths while crowds of onlookers cheer and act out the eater’s agony.

Even their wildlife programmes follow the same theme. For no adequately explained reason, the programme that showed a presenter being taught how to make sushi cut to an image of a pink whooping crane (a bird, not a lifting device…) standing on a rock. The image of peaceful wildlife lasted for 30 seconds in motionless silence. Then, suddenly, the bird vomited.

And then we cut back to the programme that ended in the presenter having to eat more sushi than is polite or natural.

I was in a Japanese book shop today and was interested to note that the top selling children’s book was The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Maybe they are share a secret dream to become butterflies.

That’s all for now. I’m off for a dinner of sensible proportions…

(Happy New Year guys!)