Saturday, October 27, 2007

It's Raining Noodles

In the United States, we traditionally throw rice at weddings.

In Japan, they throw noodles. And sweets. And ramen. And potato chips. But not at the bride and groom - at the guests.

Today, I was a spectator at a "Bridal Parade" in my host family's neighborhood. A neighbor's son was getting married, so the entire neighborhood gathered at the street outside of his house and waited for a fancy black taxi to pull up - inside was his bride, dressed in an elegant red kimono, her hair swept into an impossibly perfect updo with ribbons and beads (I played paparazzi and took tons of pictures, but my host mom cautioned that it was bad manners to put them online). The bride walked down the street, toward the house, bowing to all the neighbors in the process - in essence, we were welcoming her to the neighborhood.

But the best part was yet to come. Once the bride went inside, some men (I might equate them with groomsmen) climbed to the top of a decorated platform rigged up outside the house. From this platform, which was almost as tall as the house itself, they began to throw the aforementioned goodies - noodles, potato chips and sweets - at the neighbors crowded below.

But I must mention that these weren't small portions - they were entire bags of food, which proved to be quite heavy and hard-hitting when flung from 20 feet up. After getting hit on the shoulder by a bag of udon, I decided against taking pictures in favor of protecting myself from the "attack." I took all of this in stride - who else can say they got hit with noodles at a wedding party?

The Bridal Parade wasn't what brought us to the neighborhood, however - the family had decided to throw a party for my host "sister," a fellow JET whose birthday falls on Halloween. To mark the occasion, we made okonomiyaki - okonomi meaning "what you like," and yaki meaning "grilled." Perhaps simpler is my young host sisters' comparison - "it's Japanese pizza."

I worked with my host sisters to mix up an egg-based batter, complete with cabbage and corn. We poured this batter onto griddles and tried not to salivate as it cooked - it smelled amazing. The okonomi part came into play when we picked our topics - mushrooms, seafood, other vegetables - the end result tasted nothing like pizza to me, but was oishii nonetheless. The picture up top is of the family enjoying the results. It was a fun day.

Next time I'm over, maybe we can cook up the udon noodles that assaulted me. In the meantime, I'll ice my shoulder.

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