Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Farewell to Pocky

Putting aside for a moment the devastating loss of life and health that the people in my beloved Tokyo now face, and trying not to think about the staggering ecological disaster now unfolding, let me be shallow for a moment and lament the potential loss of what we all love so much about Japan - its pop culture.

Unlike many of my gaijin otaku peers, my introduction to the glories of Japan came not through anime or manga, but through snacks. When I was just a sprout living at Governor's Manor Apartments in Richmond in the early 1970s, the Asian couple next door introduced me to the wonderful world of Japanese candy, and often bestowed me with strange snack items that were so far removed from my frame of reference, it was like receiving gifts from another planet or reading the Voynich Manuscript. Once, visiting their apartment, I found a colorful packet with cartoon characters on it, and when I shook it I could discern that it was full of powder. Assuming it was candy, I begged to have it. "Oh, you won't like that", they said. I insisted I would. They were right: what I hoped would be a Pixy-Stix like candy turned out to be Furikake, which is essentially dried flaked fish (which is in itself, essentially fish food) meant to be sprinkled on rice dishes. The trauma associated with this incident is probably where my MSG sensitivity began, but it didn't stop my growing adoration of all things Japanese, which was soon cemented by my discovery of Godzilla, Ultraman, and Spectreman.

Given that the current radioactive mess in Japan is getting worse day by day, and that each "don't worry, everything's under control" speech given by politicians there and here turn out to be lies, I'm looking ahead to a worst-case scenario in which the Tokyo I knew may be gone forever. Even if Japanese imports aren't totally banned soon, they most certainly will be put on hold for quite some time to come.

And so, I bought a box of Pocky the other day, just in case I may not be getting my mitts on any more pre-Fukushima Japanese snacks in the future. I should probably go out and hoard all I can, but the whole thing's just overwhelmingly sad at this moment.

Somewhere The Monster with 21 Faces is probably laughing. Or maybe not.

- - JSH

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