Lois Lowry's Blog
Okay, this is just an example of how my mind works---fluttering hither and yon.
I was sitting here at my desk typing away on a book manuscript. I needed to mention a residential neighborhood in Tokyo, and I wanted to be sure to get it right, so I went (courtesy of Google) to a map of Tokyo.
I once lived in Tokyo, so I was not starting from scratch, but as I looked around that map, I found not only the neighborhood I wanted (so should have stopped right there, confirmed the spelling, closed down the Tokyo map, and gone back to work) , but---there was mention of Ryogoku, the section of Tokyo where the Sumo wrestlers live and train, and that brought back some memories.
In 1995 Martin and I traveled around Japan for a couple of weeks---just tourists. During our time in Tokyo we had a chance (promising to sit very quietly, the same promise we had to make once when we attended a murder trial at Old Bailey in London) to watch young Sumo wrestlers training. Following that, we wwent to a restaurant run by a retired Sumo wrestler (well, what else would a retired super-fat guy do?) where we were served a very hearty—and delicious—stew called Chonko-nabe.
Several days later we were in another part of Japan, very rural and mountainous. And while we were walking through a particularly scenic area, suddently there were throngs of uniformed schoolchildren, middle school age, apparently on a field trip.
One of them approached me very politely and asked if I could answer some questions for her study of English. Sure I could. I answered the usual questions---where is your home, please?---etc., and watched as she laboriously wrote down the answers. Do you enjoy Japan? she asked. Yes, very much. She wrote that down. Do you like Japanese food? Well, the truth is I like some Japanese food. Not eel. Not the raw, still-quivering fish that we had recently been served as a great delicacy. But I didn't want to get into a lengthy discussion with this child. So I said Yes, I like Japanese food, and she wrote that down.
What Japanese food do you like best?
I blanked. Rice? Miso soup? Couldn't think of anything interesting to reply, until I remembered, and said cheerfully, "Chonko-nabe."
She gasped. Giggled. Called to her friends in rapid Japanese. They shrieked with laughter. Clustered around me. She likes chonko-nabe! Giggle giggle giggle.
Only later did I realize why it was so funny to them. Chonko-nabe is a food used to fatten Sumo wrestlers. I can't think of any American equivalent that would be so amusing---maybe if someone said their favorite food was enormous amounts of french fries cooked in lard, followed by a hot fudge sundae.
I went looking for photos of our time at the Sumo heya (stable) in Ryogoku, but couldn't find them---so here's one from the internet---and now I have wasted at least an hour wandering down memory lane.