If you love cooking, are fascinated by Japanese food, and while away many a happy hour in the kitchen lovingly preparing sustenance for your grateful and appreciative family you most definitely have a) a very happy husband b) a secretly or overtly jealous and competitive Mother in Law and c) no need to read this article.
If there is a culinary activity guaranteed to strike terror into the heart of someone lacking in both cooking skills and artistic talent, it is having to prepare the much-admired Japanese bento for kids. When I was a child myself and blissfully ignorant, I used to pretend I was a chef with my very own television show in which I'd effortlessly whip up amazing dishes, whilst describing the process to my eager fans. It was when I reached adulthood that I realised that while I could occasionally make something that tasted really good, co-ordination, flair, and the ability to cook a simple meal without leaving the kitchen cluttered with used dishes and decorated with food splatters were talents sadly absent. In addition to being hopelessly clumsy in the kitchen, my efforts at drawing, sculpture and any other creative activity requiring you to actually make something with your hands, appeared to have reached their peak sometime in early primary school. Suffice to say, I wasn't the best person to tackle making a decorative bento.
I grew up eating home-made yoghurt. My mother would make a new tub every week but it was only when I moved to Japan that I started making my own. Japanese yoghurt wasn't firm enough for my liking and I wasn't too fond of the flavour. Plus it was expensive eating as much yoghurt as we liked to.
While Tokyo has dining options to suit just about anyone’s taste or budget, your toddler or preschooler may not share your enthusiasm. Even if you forego the culinary delights on offer and choose to dine in a family restaurant instead, you may discover they are not really that family-friendly. Sure they have very cheap kids dishes, usually with great presentation and a drinks bar your child will no doubt want to revisit, are spacious enough that you can bring along a stroller, and often with booth seating.
Be it north or south of the border, in North America the arrival of fall brings out the pilgrim in all of us. No I don’t mean starving and relying on the kindness of locals, I mean Thanksgiving! In my youth this holiday may have served only as art class fodder, but as I have grown the holiday, and for me personally, the meal itself have begun to take on greater meaning.
There is perhaps nowhere else in the world where you'll feel as large and ungainly as in Japan. And that's for the slim among you. For those of you carrying extra weight, the fine-boned Japanese will leave you feeling positively obese. I was a university student the first time Japan came into my life, and it did so in the form of a fellow student who had left Australia chubby and returned from her 6 month exchange in Tokyo a svelte 8 (that's 4 American). Rice, she said, a lot of rice. Many years later a male friend had slimmed down considerably after moving there, apparently due to all the walking. Add to that Japan's reputation for its relatively healthy diet, and certainly the Japanese - despite the introduction of the golden arches and 100 yen burger deals – are certainly great advertisements for it. Being slim in Japan should be effortless, right?