I love all the random articles on Japan from the Times. They just pick out specific obsessions and casually point out the radical differences between their culture and ours. First, you think, “wow people in Japan are weird,” until you get to the point of, “oh my god, Americans are so weird.” For example, apple picking is an enormously popular family activity in the New York area. Every fall, I see all these pictures online of happy parent units with their descendants smiling in a field with a bag of apples, or apple doughnuts, or whatever apple product. And I was always hoping I could add this to our family repertoire, but it’s only happened once (and this only happened because my friend Nancy drove and organized me, First Son as a baby, and my parents, and I have officially let it go).
In Japan, they have something like apple picking, but not quite. What happens is you travel to a fruit area like say in Yamanashi, pay for a ticket, and eat for an allotted time. You don’t leave with a big bag of product. At first, the writer thinks the practice as bizarre, but upon further reflection, sees it as a profound living out of a life philosophy:
Unlike apple-picking in the fall in the United States, the fruit doesn’t really function as a “It was practical, it was beautiful and it acknowledged that souvenirs were, like memories, at best only approximations of the moments they represented. That it was, in fact, completely impossible to remove a taste from its origin without changing it in the process.”
Anyway, loved this piece, but mostly what hooked me was the focus on Japan’s obsession with Kit-Kats and the hundreds of flavors that the market makes available, from ones you’d find in a typical Western market (varying degrees of chocolate) to ones more in Asian markets (fruit like cantaloupe and mochi. the article detailed how this food scientist worked meticulously in trying to capture the spirit of the mochi in a Kit Kat, experimenting not only with different flavorings but also texture in order truly capture the spirit of this dessert. I found the whole pursuit completely wild, and tried to pitch food scientist to the kids. “Isn’t that cool? Someone’s job is just taste candy all day and make it more delicious?” No takers as of yet, but that’s fine. They may not possess scientist brains and the only reason why I’m pitching this path is for access to free candy.