Perhaps you were not aware, but did you know people eat a lot of rice in Japan? It’s true! The smallest bag of rice I can buy at my local supermarket is 1 kg, ranging up to 10 kg bags. Almost every meal from breakfast to dinner involves white rice of some description. The really interesting thing for me is that while rice might be considered a side dish elsewhere, in Japan rice is often considered the main part of the dish, and the meat or vegetables a side dish. In fact, the word for rice (gohan) can be used interchangeably as a word for “meal”.
A while ago I went with a good friend of mine visiting Japan (hope you had a good flight home!) to a traditional Japanese restaurant near the Edo Museum in Ryogoku. The meal was delicious – grilled fish, sashimi, sweet beans, miso soup and rice. At the time, I was experimenting with a low carb diet and so ate everything but the rice.
When the proprietor came over, a lovely, motherly women in her 50’s, she noticed my untouched rice. “But you haven’t eaten your rice!” she said, shocked. In Japan, this is not only seen as the equivalent of not eating your vegetables, but it’s also quite rude. Going to lunch with my co-workers, they will generally eat rice to the very last grain, leaving a perfectly clean bowl.
Still, rude or not, the low carb diet seemed to be having positive effects on my energy levels. A rude, energetic me seemed like the preferable option to a sluggish, polite me.
Not wanting to get into much depth, I just told her I had an allergy to rice. “Oh,” she said, “but that’s terrible! I’ll be right back.”
In under a minute she was back with two plates of chiffon cake. “Please, this is free! I don’t want to see you starve.” After everything else we’d just eaten, I didn’t see how that was possible, but still! Although the cake also violated my low carb diet, there was no way I was going to refuse such a kind, thoughtful offer. Plus, who can say no to free cake?
Although the service in Japan is generally of a spectacular level, this was definitely a case that will stand out in my memory for quite some time. If you happen to be in Tokyo and get along to the Edo Museum or the National Sumo Stadium, let me direct you to this lovely little restaurant – you won’t be disappointed.