Japan has a snacking culture. From well stocked and interesting vending machines to cheap, delicious bags of snacks sold at every grocery store and super market, there is a never ending supply of snacks to eat in Japan. As a result, most foreigners who come to Japan gain weight. Despite all the walking, healthy food, and reasonably sized portions, it is hard to maintain your weight in Japan (but then again, I always seem to put on 10 pounds every time I move to a country – before my body adjusts).
I had a love-hate relationship with the snacking culture in Japan.
I loved it because, hello – chocolate filled koala crunches, senbei rice crackers, and salty popcorn? I love eating. Seriously – aside from blogging, sleeping, and watching trashy reality television, eating is my favorite thing to do (so basically, it’s my fourth hobby). I love the snacking culture in Japan because I always get to eat.
Every time I visit a friend’s house, there is food. Every time I go with that friend to another friend’s house, we are also bombarded with treats. When I taught English, my students used to bring bags of candy to share with the class (before I learned I was supposed to provide the snacks). When I’m chilling at a friend’s house before, during, or after a party, there is a never-ending supply of chips, caramel candies, and chocolate. And when I host a party at my apartment, I can buy four bags of popcorn (knowing full well I will only serve two of the bags), guilt-free. I love it. It is snack heaven.
I love the polite, cultural aspect of always offering a snack and beverage to visitors. It is fun, fresh, and delicious.
But there is another side to the love-hate relationships I have with the snacking culture in Japan, namely the hate side. As mentioned before, I like to eat. Actually, as pointed out by my fiancé in this post (click here to read what he said), I have a problem with eating TOO much. Which, you know, I didn’t think was a problem. But then everyone figured out I like to eat.
Now, when I visit friends, they prepare snack feasts for me. “It’s so fun watching you eat,” they say, “You really love food, don’t you? It’s cute.” And this is ok – as long as I’m only visiting one house.
But, I’m usually not just visiting one house, though.
When I make rounds (especially when I was teaching English), I typically visit two to four houses at a time. Each house lays out drinks, snacks, and chips. Even if they don’t know my eating habits, they will lay out a nice spread. That’s the polite thing to do.
“Here, try this cookie,” they will offer. “Just one slice of green tea cakes. Just one glass of tea.” By the third house, I’m stuffed. But I can’t say that, because that would be rude.
Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love the snacking culture in Japan. I think it is thoughtful and welcoming to offer your guests a beverage and snack when they visit. It makes me feel welcomed, happy, and wanted. Now, even when I’m back in America, I try to offer guests snacks when they visit my (very messy) room. However, sometimes I get the feeling that people don’t realized that I may or may not be at a restaurant, café, or other house before I visit them. They don’t realize I might be full. And so far, I haven’t figured out a polite way to decline their invitation for a snack (I’ve tried, “Oh, I’m full” or “I just ate lunch” or “I was just eating cake at Nami’s house” – none work).
So I just eat a lot.
And then I’m not hungry for dinner, which is often served at another friend’s house. And then they get sad because I’m not “eating as much as last time.” I over-eat a lot in Japan because I don’t want people to feel guilty or bad when I don’t ‘eat enough.’
But, you know, as far as cultural problems go – being addicted to Japanese snacks isn’t such a problem. I have a love-hate relationship with snacking culture in Japan, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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