A new survey has found that 64% of Japanese men between 25 and 29 live with their parents, up 5.7% from five years ago. This compares to 33.1% of women of the same age range. They call these people “parasite singles”. That pretty much says it all.
The big scandal right now is the firing of Koichi Yamamoto, a 15-year veteran comedian, from his agency after he forced drinks on four underage girls (18 years old), and then did something to one of them. I say “did something” because the Japanese press are vague about this. This is a prime example of the beauty of the Japanese language’s ability to be vague. The direct translation is something along the lines of “inappropriate behavior”. But they don’t fire someone just for making inappropriate advances, do they? From what I can gather, it sounds like rape because his partner (this guy is part of a duo) supposedly stood up for him until he heard what the guy did. I have no idea why they just don’t come out and say what he did. I saw an article that reported on his partner’s apology on a morning show, and that was a revelation as well. He apologized for this guys’s “anti-societal” behavior. The article also took pains to note that he bowed more than 90 degrees during his apology. I didn’t think people still cared about those things, but I guess they do.
I get the feeling that this incident pushes all kinds of buttons for the Japanese beyond the norm, but I’m not sure why. I see men in Japan making inappropriate comments and gestures all the time (Where else does a company executive tell a female reporter that she’s gained weight in a joking friendly way and get away with it?) and there isn’t as much awareness of date rape (Let’s just say they’ve never heard of the saying “No means No”).
I just saw a television commercial that I’ve never seen before — it was by the government health service promoting free anonymous AIDS testing. You can go and get a blood test and come back for your results later and you don’t have to give your name throughout the process. I’ve heard that the AIDS population in Japan is severely under-reported because the people themselves often don’t know that they’re HIV positive and those that do, hide it. Safe sex also isn’t as big of a deal here other than in terms of preventing pregnancy. I wonder what prompted this commercial.
One of the most pleasant discoveries about our neighborhood recently has been the existence of a small twice weekly farmer’s market — literally a stand run by a couple who owns a big farm in Chiba, the neigboring prefecture. They occupy an empty parking lot underneath an apartment building from about 6 a.m. til a little past 11. I pass by them every weekend on my way to the gym and back. The tomatoes still smell like the earth, just the way they smelled when we grew them ourselves, the cucumbers were picked yesterday and even the rice was refined the day before. They also have sweet watermelons, juicy honeydew melons, edamame (soy beans) and the sweetest, crispest corn ever. A pleasant surprise in particular were the huge bags of fresh green beans that they sell for a few hundred yen unlike in supermarkets that package 15 or so green beans for the same price. I usually go home with a basket full of fruit and vegetables and I never spend more than 3,000 yen ($27 or so), which is a bargain in Tokyo.
After shopping there the past several weekends, I finally got to chat with the woman, and she told me that they’ve been around forever since the days of the grandmother. They come year around to sell the freshest of what they produce on the farm. They used to set up shop up the street in an NHK employee residence building, but had to move when the apartment was torn down. The landlord of the building they now occupy offered them the space because no one in the neighborhood wanted them to stop coming.
We’ve been ordering a lot of our groceries from an organic delivery service, but lately I’ve stopped ordering vegetables, preferring instead to buy from the farmer couple. Because they even have eggs, I’m finding myself entertaining the thought of canceling the service all together.
I recently read Ruth Reichl’s latest book called “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.” It’s about the former New York Times restaurant critic’s experience, and her stories about disguising herself to fool restaurant managers and owners is very entertaining. Part of the charm of the book is that she intersperses a handful of recipes throughout. One of them is Nicky’s vanilla cake, named after her son. I love vanilla, so I decided to make this for a brunch I hosted a week ago. The result was so disappointing — it tasted too much like baking soda — that I decided to make it again this past weekend. After all, what’s the likelihood that the former NYT critic and current Gourmet magazine editor-in-chief would get a recipe wrong? It seemed more likely that I made a mistake and perhaps put too much baking soda in.
I made it yesterday, and as hard as it is to believe, it appears that there’s something wrong with the recipe. I got a little worried so I used less baking soda than the recipe called for, so it tasted a bit better but there’s still something wrong with it. This time, I know I didn’t make any mistakes because I was very careful. I can’t believe I wasted a pound of butter to make the two cakes. The second cake is on its way to the garbage.