Being back in Amerrica for the first time in eight years has certainly been an eye-opening experience in many ways. It’s been great to be back in a country (or at least a hometown) where the stars aren’t completely non-existant at night and traffic congestion and packed trains and light pollution and regular polution and fifty white haired dudes hacking up a lung in full business suits aren’t just parts of daily life.
I’ve been living in Japan for essentially all of my adult life with the exception of a week’s vacation in Hawai’i and being back in California over the last month plus has made me realize just how much my life as an expat in Japan (despite being a citizen) has turned me into a complete and total weirdo (this is in addition to the many other ways I was a total weirdo before moving across the Pacific Ocean after college). One subtle and yet important category where I realize being in Japan for the better part of a decade has affected me is the ever so crucial “small talk.”
In my various vocations ranging from when I was a plain English teacher new to Japan and later on as a translator, fixer, and “English teacher to the stars*”, I’ve often stressed the importance of knowing how to make small talk as a key step in achieving fluency in a secondary language. Sure, their pronunciation might not be perfect but they could at least feign attention as some client or the other would tell them about a vacation they had to the Balkans or whatever topic rich powerful people tend to talk about when they get together.
“Know how to hold a basic conversation about nothing in particular and you’ll sound like a fluent English speaker,” I’d always tell my students with abundant confidence. This prescribed fluency of course would mostly consist of just being able to ask basic follow up questions.
*Mostly B-Listers and behind the scenes guys
“I went to the zoo yesterday.” “Oh yeah? Why?”
Sure, they would run the risk of sounding like a cop in the midst of a really really stupid interrogation but at least they’d be talking. And that would make them sound fluent. Or so I’d tell them.
But being back in America for a month has sorta taught me that being a truly fluent speaker is more than that…
That’s right, today I realized that I am no longer fluent in English, the language I grew up speaking.
Got a doozy for you guys tonight. If you’re like me and have lived the typical life of a 18-24 year old American, you have revelled in many a night of eating way unhealthily and generally being up to absolutely no good. In other words, there were many Cheetos and Mountain Dew type nights. Well, in that case, I’ve got great/terrible news for you: In Japan, some genius marketing department has decided to combine the two into one gloriously disturbing package.
Behold, the chalice of misery
Me being the nice guy that I am, I decided to take one for the team and sample this strange exotic delicacy. The result will not surprise anyone with any rational thinking skills:
It was absolutely disgusting, plain and simple. While texturally Cheetos-y, the flavor of the corn puffs simply screamed “chemical disaster!” I’d imagine that the genesis of this latest Japanese masterpiece was that one day a janitor at the Frito-Lays plant accidentally dumped his mop water into a vat of otherwise normal Cheetos and thus forced an entire nation to endure a simply dreadful snacking experience.
On the Mount Rushmore of arbitrary Japanese ingenuity, Mountain Dew Cheetos go up next to kendamas, washlets, and robot dogs. The Mount Rushmore of arbitrary Japanese ingenuity would then promptly implode, leaving nothing but odd vaguely Mountain Dew-ey Cheetos dust in its wake.
If you encounter a cup of these things in a dark alley, I’d suggest that you run. Run as fast as your stubby legs can take you. And don’t look back.
So as I reported earlier, I bought a bag of a peculiar hangover cure-turned-snack-food-concoction from my local conbini (short for convenience store, don’t you know?). Today, well technically yesterday since it’s currently two in the morning, I finally got around to tasting it. Anyways, the video of me actively tasting it is as follows:
So after the relative high of the warm and rich Hokkaido Potato Buns, I was met with a resounding meh from the hangover crisps. They weren’t bad per se but they weren’t all that awesome really, pretty much just weird Cheetos with an aftertaste and not much of the promised tandoori chicken flavor.
Now is this snack effective in warding off alcohol-induced pain? I don’t know… Can plain Cheetos cure a hangover? If they can, then the answer is probably yes. If not, well…
Anyways, I’ve got one other food item lined up for Stephen Eats Weird(ish) Food then I’ve either got to start looking for more stuff or simply wait for the next cycle of fresh funky flavors out of the Japanese food conglomerates. (Japanese convenience stores usually rotate their special flavors of items every month or so but it usually seems like a day.) If any of you, my faithful readers, have any suggestions for stuff I should eat or questions about Japan in general (“Will Fukushima radiation give you wings?”), hit me up in the comments section here or on youtube or you can reach me on Twitter @STEPHEN TETSU. Things will only get better if you guys pitch in because I sure as hell don’t have the talent of skills to make this crap any good.
PS Ukon no Chikara is meant to be ingested before the night of drinking so that the turmeric (the main ingredient in the magic elixir) can kick in before the booze wreaks havoc on your insides. I’m assuming that the situation is the same with the corn snacks as well.
So, as anyone who has ever seen a picture of me can attest, I am a fan of food. Thus, one of the primary benefits of moving to Japan is the opportunity to eat the bevy of bizarre junk food the country seems to churn out on a regular basis. Just in my first three months in the country, I’ve encountered such delicacies as Mountain Dew-flavored corn snacks, salty fruit drinks, and more weird chip flavors than you can shake a stick at.
Today’s discovery is Cheetos’ special flavor making the rounds in Japan, Kyushu soy sauce-flavor (九州じょうゆ味). Me being me, I of course decided to try the flavor on video.
Now, in the video, I said that these tasted like Cheetos with all the cheese sucked off of them but that’s not entirely true. It took a while for the flavor to get to me but when it did, I actually quite enjoyed the subtle sweet and salty savory tones to the processed corn snacks. Not trying to get to flowery here but I think I might have enjoyed this flavor more than the original cheese ones. (They still have a ways to go before even approaching the genius of Flaming Hot Cheetos, however.)
Anyways, if you guys have any suggestions for odd Japanese foods I can try or a desire to feed me something so disgusting it makes me puke, share it with me in the comments section below (or on youtube) or on my twitter feed @STEPHEN_TETSU. I love to eat and I’m down to try just about anything (well that kinda read like a dating advertisement).