Planning to visit Japan? Learn how to use chopsticks

18Oct 2018
Songa wa Songa
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Planning to visit Japan? Learn how to use chopsticks

A SINGLE skill one must be prepared to learn while visiting Japan is how to use chopsticks for eating. For, be it traditional dishes like sushi and noodles or non-traditional ones like pizza and pasta; it will come with a pair of chopsticks instead of a knife and fork.

Starters, including soups and mixtures of sliced vegetables, and main course—normally rice and fillets of fish or meat (raw or cooked)—you eat it using a chopstick. Or else, you risk soiling your dress with the same food you are supposed to be eating.

To avoid that likely eventuality and make things easy for yourself, whenever you order a meal, don’t forget to ask for knife and fork. Better still, you can even ask beforehand if the eatery has the tools because some may not have.

And if you have not yet discovered how tasty Japanese raw food can be, explain clearly to the person taking your order that it must be cooked because if you just say vaguely that ‘bring me fish and rice’, the rice will definitely be cooked but fish will likely be raw.

But staying in a comfort zone by always shying away from challenging environment is the biggest enemy of progress. Any adventurous person would want to face the challenge and learn something new.

This writer had to take some quick lessons a fortnight ago during a one week stay in Tokyo to abide by the saying ‘When in Tokyo, do as Tokyolites.’ At first it looked an uphill task. But after listening carefully to locals, I can now gobble up a bowl of soup using chopsticks.

I later wondered how simple it is: just cradle the bottom stick between your thumb and index finger, and move the top one up and down like a lever. It is the levering action that helps to grab, grip and ultimately transport food into the already waiting mouth. Short of that, the whole thing falls on your chest as you unsuccessfully chase it with your open mouth.

And one drink anybody planning to visit Japan should expect to be served is sugarless green tea. During hot weather it is served chilled and during cold weather it comes warm.

Sipping green tea is part of Japanese food culture, with almost every meal accompanied by a fresh brewed pot of green tea. It is said to have a lot of health benefits because it contains no sugar hence no calories.

A person used to sweetened tea may find it a bit unfriendly in the mouth but Japanese love it because they say it is rich in anti-oxidants and helps digest fats. Green tea is so popular in Japan that it is bottled and can be purchased from vending machines, convenience stores and super markets.

Green tea is the most popular thirst-quencher during summer in Japan. So, if you visit that period and you badly need something to drink, get used to the idea of grabbing a cold sugarless green tea.