Tuesday, July 26, 2005

thinking japanese

We went out to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants last night, Yoko Uno, in Tel Aviv. It's a kosher Japanese restaurant with fantastic sushi, soups, pasta and fish dishes. In my pre-kosher days in San Francisco, Japanese food was probably my favorite. There were these great soup restaurants where a bowl of miso soup with udon noodles, chicken, vegetables, eggs, etc would fill you up for an entire meal. It took me longer to enjoy Chinese food, but Japanese food always seemed more clear, more distinct than the mish-mash of Chinese stir-fry (which I love now.) It fit well in with my personality (you can pick analytic or any part of that word for the adjective.)

In a similar way, I preferred Japantown to Chinatown. Instead of small chochkey shops like in Chinatown, Japan town had stores with high technology items, and a cool modern movie theater.

All of this fascination with Japanese culture led me to an unusual choice in high school. I went to a large high school, so we had access to a wide variety of courses in every field. When it came to my foreign language requirement - I chose Japanese. In the beginning I enjoyed it, but by the third semester, I was sitting in class simply writing "I hate this" over and over again in my notebook.

This essay describes the experience perfectly: So You Want to Learn Japanese

Luckily, the size of the school that gave me the opportunity to take Japanese, also provided my salvation: I switched to Hebrew (in public school!) in the second semester of 11th grade. The difference couldn't be greater. In Japanese we had unending rules about addressing the teacher politely. In Hebrew the teacher went by his first name and we spent the whole class shmoozing.

I ended up forgetting how to read and write in Japanese within a few months of dropping the course. And now I only remember a few words. I regret it in the sense that it would be cool to know the language, but it's certainly not something I need on a daily basis.

What I do need on a daily basis is udon miso soup...