I really don’t want this to be another lame blog, but what the hell, anything goes here at Canadian Psycho Worldwide, so here’s my boring analogy of life in Asia. I know I barely use this blog other than to occasionally rant about balls, but I figure now’s a good time to start talking about other fuzzy, rotund spheres of deliciousness, and by that, I mean peaches.
After spending 8 days in Tokyo after my plane touched down at Narita Airport this June, I was headed North to my new apartment for the next 9 months. I had a liaison taking me around what, in my eyes, appeared to be a shantytown; helping me to register with the city, open a bank account, and buy the basic things I needed around the house because my car, Paul Kariya, wasn’t due to arrive until after dinner the following evening.
The first thing I did when I got to the grocery store was head straight for the produce section. I had 8 days of conbini (convenience store) food, and hotel breakfasts under, or should I say, over my belt, and I was absolutely dying for some fruits and vegetables. I remember one night in Tokyo, we had gone out for someone’s birthday, and I had tried to be healthy by ordering the boiled spinach. Yeah, the spinach showed up with bacon all over it. Not that I have any problem with bacon, but come on. I was starting to get worried. Back in Korea it was almost impossible to find salad anywhere, and when you did it wasn’t odd if said salad would run you $20 or more. Everything but fruit/vegetables were dirt cheap in Korea, and since Japan has a reputation of being expensive for everything, I really didn’t know what I was going to expect.
There was, however, a glimmer of hope. My liaison told me that my town was “very famous” for melon. There are melon patches everywhere, and more types of melon than I ever knew existed. I was happy about this. I love melon, and surely if it’s produced locally, it would be a fabulous price. Wrong. Try $8-$10 for a small one. If the local fare was breaking the bank, you can only imagine what everything else will run you.
The first thing that caught my eye were the biggest most delicious looking peaches I had every seen. They were like voluptuous gigantic balls that were bathed in a fine coating of sweet sensual velour. I was honestly skipping towards them, like some sort of ball baron at the Pride parade in Toronto, when the 398 yen (for 2) price tag nearly stopped my heart. Ahhhh! That’s $5.10 Canadian for the kids at home.
The room began spinning, and I knew it was more than the 98% humidity making me lightheaded. To my left were $2.54 apples! To my right, $7.65 grapes! Surely, this was madness. I mean would YOU pay $2.54 for ONE apple? The prices were worse than they were in Korea! And what’s worse is that they don’t keep for very long. I don’t know how many times I had to throw food away because I hadn’t consumed it in 2 days. It was always an effort to finish a bunch of bananas before they turned completely brown. Buying healthy food was almost like flushing your money down the sketchy Korean toilets!
Now I’m sure this post is going to attract a lot of random Google hits from from people researching prospective forays abroad in Japan. So, to those of you that haven’t left after my gratuitous use of, “balls,” and are still reading along, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can get a decent bunch of average sized bananas (that’s what she said) for about 197 yen or $2.52 Canadian. But, really, who can survive on JUST bananas and cucumbers – for food, that is! WINK WINK.
You see, when you come overseas, no matter who you were at home, you tend to get into thrift mode. Whether you had student loans, or credit card debit, or were completely debt free, you’ll notice that everyone seems to try to keep the spending down, so that we can give a hefty jolt to our homeland bank account when we eventually leave. That, or have ample cash to literally pour down our throats at the bars. I think part of the reason this happens is because we all spent an exhausting amount of time packing and repacking our suitcases before we left to get them down to those 23 kgs lest we be charged an overweight fee by the airline. We know that our luggage is like a delicate ecosystem. Any small disturbance, like the addition of a new pair of shoes, or t-shirt, would be both damaging and costly when we attempt to go back home several months down the road.
It’s kind of ridiculous to what level we take our thriftiness. I’ve heard foreigners complain when a large bowl of ramen runs them 280 yen – and I mean the stuff from the restaurants, not the stuff you make at home. It’s true, too. You might find yourself spending $10 on dinner at your neighbourhood Coco’s or Gusto, and it feels like you just ate at a fancy schmancy restaurant, and the check was $200 a head. No joke.
The fruit thing is worse because it’s ingrained in all of us not to get ripped off by produce. Since we were babies, we all went to the grocery stores with our mamas and learned that you only buy certain fruit/vegetables when they are in season, or else you’ll be paying through the nose. The only difference is at home there is always SOME type of fruit that is in season, so there are options. Here it’s ungodly expensive all the time. So, unless you want to become the fat gaijin that everyone expects us to be anyway, and stick to getting your meals from the 7-Eleven, then you have to break the habit of walking away from the expensive fruit and open your wallets.
The other day, my local Kasumi had those aforementioned delicious peaches for the low, low price of 97 yen each ($1.24). I was so excited that I bought up as many of them as I could. I got back to my aparto and dove right in. They were honest to God the best peaches I had ever had in my life, that, or maybe I had just been deprived of fruit for so long that anything would have done the body good. I didn’t know how I was living the way I was, and I realized that malnutrition may have been one of the reasons Korea practically killed me. My mom said I looked almost dead when they picked me up from the airport. Clearly, I needed to make a change to my eating habits. Two days later, I went back to the store and the ambrosia was back to $5.10 a pair. I died a little inside.