(That title up there is actual eating advice, offered by the Tokyo Fire Department.)

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Japanese people are fricking crazy.

It's true. And most of the world has no idea how fricking crazy Japanese people are because they are so subtle when they are being fricking crazy it can be really hard to recognize their fricking craziness.

Come to think of it, most Japanese don't even realize how fricking crazy they are. Something to do with the sake I guess.

Having lived in Japan for over ten ultra-perceptive years gives me full authority to pronounce the Japanese people fricking crazy. But one only has to spend New Year's here to understand.

Consider the typical Japanese person's New Year's Eve routine and see if you can spot the fricking craziness. (I'll call our fricking crazy example Yuki since Yuki can be both a boy's and a girl's name and I don't want to start a gender war here - even though it is a universal truth that women are the fricking crazy ones.)

In the lead-up to New Year's...

Yuki, who lives and works (mostly just works) in Tokyo, boards an express train for Nagoya. The trip will take about four hours but will seem like eleven since Yuki waited too long to buy a ticket and has to stand the entire way. Fortunately Yuki is one of one hundred and eighty people packed like vertical sardines into the space at the end of the car and can, along with everyone else, sleep standing up.

Yuki is a good and proper Japanese person and has brought a box of snack cakes called 'Tokyo Bananas' home for everyone to enjoy. That they were supremely crushed by the other sardines does not lessen the gesture or the time it takes for everyone to devour them.

Yuki, having been away from home since O-Bon in August, immediately sits on the floor in front of the television, waits for mom to bring the noodle soup, slurps it down without a word beyond the legally-mandated 'Arigatou' and 'Itadakimasu' and then falls quickly asleep to the soothing sound of the people on TV howling about how good Tokyo Bananas are.

On New Year's Eve...

Yuki's entire family will spend the entire day sitting on the floor, watching people on TV go bananas over Tokyo Bananas. Conversation will revolve around the weather, the people on TV and whether there are any more Tokyo Bananas laying around.

By two o'clock someone will have broken the ice and everyone 20 and over will start drinking.

At eleven-thirty, if anyone remembers where the kitchen is, everyone will head that way to slurp down bowls of 'toshi-koshi soba', a very special kind of soba in that it is called 'toshi-koshi soba' which means (more or less) 'soba to carry us into the new year'. Besides the name there is exactly nothing to distinguish this soba from the soba Yuki's family and the rest of the country eats any other time of the year.

At midnight, assuming everyone can follow the sound of people carrying on about Tokyo Bananas to find their way back to the living room, Yuki's family will ring in the New Year by bleating the state-sanctioned greetings of 'Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu' and 'Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai shimasu' ('Happy New Year' and 'We're out of those yellow cake things' respectively).

On New Year's Day...

Yuki's mother will serve up the mochi rice cakes once everyone has woken up and made it back to the living room floor - except for those who never made it off of the living room floor. These mochi cakes are made from a special, very sticky kind of rice that is soaked and coaxed into a thick, sticky dried-glue-like substance, rolled into balls or left to harden then cut into neat rectangles, and then topped with anko (a sweet red bean paste), kinako (powdered yellowish-greenish something), soy sauce or, in Yuki's house, the sticky smelly fermented soy bean catastrophe known as natto. And there, in front of the television, just like millions of other fricking crazy Japanese people do every New Year, they will eat their mochi.

And somewhere, someone will choke on their mochi and die. Several will, actually. The official count for this past New Year is nine.

And that, my friends, is fricking crazy.

Though not as fricking crazy as those crazy fricking Americans walking around drunk after midnight. They should just stay on the floor and fall asleep in front of the TV like those safe, sensible Japanese people.
 


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