Why I love Japanese food AND Japanese people

Delightful friends in Japan: Hiro and Yuko

There was major excitement in our household this week as a new Japanese restaurant opened nearby – and unlike many not-so-expensive Japanese places in Perth, this one is owned and staffed by actual Japanese people and I can assure you that after takeaway dinner on Saturday and a dine-in lunch yesterday, the food is the best Japanese I’ve had since leaving Japan. Big call, I know, but – yum. My stomach is more than satisfied.

But what I want to blog about is twofold. First up, although I’m guessing most of my readers are relatively avid travellers and will know this already, but just to help sweep away this startling misconception: Japanese food is not just sushi. Two people mentioned this as their impression during the week and I guess a long time ago I thought the same thing. But there is so, SO much more. Stuff everyone knows like teriyaki chicken or tempura, just for a start – and of course, okonomiyaki!

Secondly and much more importantly: it is not just a stereotype, Japanese people are incredibly polite and friendly. A case in point: I was chatting with the woman who is working at this new restaurant (and I assume is the wife of the boss/chef). I mentioned I lived in Japan and really, really love Japanese food. She asked me if I live nearby, and I told her my place was about five minutes away. Her reply? “Oh, we are so lucky!” And no, she didn’t mean that I am lucky to have a great new Japanese place nearby – she meant we, the owners of the shop, are lucky to have a potential customer who lives nearby. I have never met another nationality who would typically say something like that.

Yes, I’ve blogged before about my opinions on the Japanese and you know, I might even do it again. I think it’s fair to say that in Western cultures, we tend to lump all Asians in one pot and not think about how different they are (and I was guilty of this before I lived in Japan). It’s probably also fair to say that many Asians lump all us Westerners in one pot, too, but that’s not for me to fix. I guess what I’m always on about is to look for cultural differences and cultural similarities and, well, enjoy the food!


  1. Aw, now I’m hungry…

  2. Apologies for that!!

  3. I agree, Amanda. I was a JET Assistant English Teacher in Ibaraki-ken for two years. I have traveled the world since then. I can say with total conviction that the Japanese are among the most generous and kindest people in the world. Oh, and the food is also excellent. I love natto!

  4. I was the same way in that I used to think of Asians as one big group, but since living in Korea and traveling to China and Japan (and soon other Asian countries as well), I can see how incredibly different the cultures between Asian countries are. And I agree that Japanese people are so incredibly polite and friendly; it makes Japan one of my favourite places to visit.

  5. @ Tuan Do, I’m glad to hear your thoughts on Japanese people, because obviously, I totally agree! However, on the issue of natto … I tried to like it, knowing how healthy it is, but … let’s just say I can “tolerate” it!

    @ Melanie, yes, I think we make the mistake of thinking “Asians are Asians” whereas we would never assume that all Europeans are the same. But hopefully more and more people are learning all the differences between the cultures, because it sure helps people get along better.

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