One thing I love about Japan is that you often can get out of making a decision. Going along with the consensus makes you a peace-loving proper participant in life, i.e. not a wimp. I am, by nature, kind of a wishy washy type. Last weekend my son wanted to treat me to lunch for Haha no Hi, but he wanted ME to decide where. There were a couple of caveats; he didn’t want Mexican and he didn’t want to eat at the resutoran; COVID is still a concern. Even though I live in a small town, that still left me with too many possibilities and I was hopeless at making this decision. I would have been fine with anything.
When I was living in Tokyo in a small apāto (Just six units and a similar building next door) I often hung out with the other mothers and sometimes we’d go shopping together. None of us had kuruma, so we’d ride our jitensha down to the market by the train station. Or we’d take a taxi or train to a nearby small city. When we were out together, we’d function as a unit.
One evening, we were shopping for bangohan at the market. One mother asked another what she was serving for dinner. She replied that it would be sakana, so we all drifted over to the fish department together. We were all on a budget so the obvious choice would be aji or sanma. I preferred sanma and there were two of them packaged together. Perfect size for me and my husband. Two other women chose the package of sanma, but the fourth woman hesitated. Her family was bigger. She had three children and though two were still baby age, the other one was not. She looked at the package of aji that had three fish in it. That would be the perfect size for her family. But she looked at all of us who’d gone with sanma, and bless her heart, she just couldn’t be the one who didn’t conform… so she took the sanma as well–and probably cooked some extra dish to supplement dinner.
Unthinkable for the American mind! The aji would have been the logical choice, but decisions are not necessarily about logic in Japan. She wanted to be part of the group and not be different. I saw this over and over again, but to me, it was simply another sign that I was meant to be in Japan where I could happily go along with the crowd!
- apāto – アパート apartment or apartment building
- Haha no Hi – 母の日 Mother’s Day. Celebrated similarly in Japan. Note that Haha is how you refer to your own mother. Someone else’s mother is okāsan.
- resutoran – レストラン restaurant
- kuruma – 車 car, automobile
- jitensha – 自転車 bicycle
- bangohan – 晩ご飯 supper or dinner, i.e. the evening meal
- sakana – 魚 fish
- aji – アジ a type of fish, mackerel
- sanma – 秋刀魚 a type of fish, (Pacific) saury. Though available all year long, it is associated with autumn.