Kanji Makes Me Hungry

I knew I was going to lose weight when I moved to Japan.

Part of it is that the food here is healthier. They eat a lot of fish and pickled or fermented things. The dessert is light and airy — you’re not going to find a decent fudge or cheesecake anywhere.

The other part is something that I experienced when I went “lived in” Argentina for 3 months. The language barrier makes it uncomfortable to go out, so I do it a lot less frequently.

Luckily, there are ways to avoid this: use the self-checkout line (and the English button) at the supermarket, or go to the vending machine ramen shops (you press a button with the picture that looks the most delicious on the vending machine to get a meal ticket, and you hand the meal ticket to the waiter — no speaking required).

Sometimes, though, you don’t feel like dealing with ANY of it, so you pour yourself a glass of milk, eat the last yogurt in the fridge, and go to sleep half-hungry.

Another thing I noticed, on the nights that I dust off my dictionary and go in search of sustenance, is that everything looks like a restaurant here.

Obviously, this is not actually true. This seems to be the case, however, because I cannot read any of the kanji. The only time you see Japanese in the U.S. is when it’s a Japanese restaurant. Therefore, all the little shops that use Japanese text in the signage (which is…almost all of them around here, since it’s, you know…Japan) register in my brain as Japanese restaurants.

The Japanese language uses about 2,136 characters regularly. But in Marietta, Georgia, I didn’t see any of them outside of, say, 藤花. Put it into your Google translate, and you’ll recognize it, too.

I get that Japan is more than just its food. When I tell you that kanji makes me hungry, I’m not trying to be insensitive — it’s just a Pavlovian response at this point. Show me the 漢字 and I start salivating immediately.

That said, I went out with a few of my fellow trainees tonight, and we went to a nice Japanese dinner. We’ve all been subsisting on convenience store food during our lunch breaks, so it was nice to do the full thing — taking our shoes off and sitting on the floor and generally having an excellent time.

It reminded me of why I’m here in the first place.

If I wanted to be comfortable, I shouldn’t have left my friends and family and home back in Georgia. I’m here to get out of my comfort zone and try fun new things that can help me grow in ways I never would back in the US.

I’ll let my hunger remind me not just to get something eat but also to stop doing what’s easy and get out there and challenge myself.

3 thoughts on “Kanji Makes Me Hungry

  1. I have heard that the vending machine situation in Japan is really extensive though! After watching countless episodes of Anthony Bourdain in Tokyo and various other Japanese cities, I have looked forward to one day having an entire meal out of a vending machine… I am glad that you got to go out and get a nice dinner with your colleagues though. Love living through your eyes Ali, keep it coming and have a great time!

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  2. This blog is teaching us and at least reaching you as well. Everyday is s blessing and new experience is happening. Please don’t lose anymore, I like the way you are when you left. Health is #1 on the list to prioritize, take care girl!

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