Saturday, March 17, 2007

Step away from the sushi and no one will get hurt

Does the Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka have nothing better to do with his time?

I mean, aren't there more pressing things to worry about? Like avian flu, or BSE (mad cow disease)?

Friday, Matsuoka gave the go-ahead to creating a label for "authentic" Japanese sushi. Apparently, there's been grave concern in Japan that people worldwide are eating sushi that's not, well, real Japanese sushi. They're worried about the bastardization of their cuisine, but not about the derision they face by the international community over this asinine labeling idea, most of which will be paid for by the Japanese government.

Not only are the purists worried about the authenticity of sushi ingredients, but also the atmosphere of the restaurants! I guess that means if you had a restaurant that didn't look enough like a "real" Japanese restaurant, you could not get a Japanese Seal of Sushi Restaurant Authenticity to post in your window.

I wish I were kidding, folks, but I'm not!

So, here's something to ponder: In almost any supermarket or convenience store in Japan, French red wine is sold chilled which would make a French winemaker weep. Spaghetti, one of the most popular dishes in Tokyo, is made with slices of bacon or regular ham and tastes curiously sweet. Pizzas are made with corn, tuna, mayonnaise, octopus, boiled eggs, natto, and nine million other ingredients that are definitely not "authentic" Italian cuisine. New York style cheesecake, cut into tiny rectangles, looks more like a tart than a cheesecake and has very little cream cheese. Mexican cuisine is made with almost no authentic Mexican ingredients.

Should food authenticity labels be required in "ethnic" restaurants in Japan? Or is Japanese food considered the only food so pure, so creative, or so intensely flavorful to require "protection" from those who would bastardize it?

It's an idea like food authenticity labeling that sets Japan apart from the rest of the world. To attempt to know the Japanese mind is not for the faint of heart.

And speaking of "not for the faint of heart," here's a picture of what's become my favorite sushi, even though it took me over two years of living in Tokyo before I would even try it because it looked downright scary. It reminded me of little golden-colored cat tongues. Here's uni, a sweet, buttery-soft sea urchin, that tastes like a piece of heaven, but only if it's impeccably fresh.

And finally, do you think there should be an all-out ban on things that are disguised to look like sushi, but that aren't actually sushi? There are millions of fake sushi items here in Japan, but this one is my favorite! Must look for one of these USB computer memory sticks!


Anonymous said...
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Absolutely Tokyo! said...

Sorry, but I felt the need to delete the 2,000+ word comment that had nothing to do with this post.

J.Doe said...

I love sushi but if every restaurant has to have a sign that says "authentic Sushi" they will no doubt charge more and then I probably won't be able to afford it, as good sushi is expensive now without these stupid signs.