On vegetarianism in Japan

A couple of days ago I was in Marunaka, a grocery store chain with a location in Mikamo, and after the Evanescance song that’s been all over the place finished up, they started playing “White and Nerdy” by Weird Al. It was priceless. I was grinning the rest of the time I was in the store.

Today, something a little less grin-worthy…our science teacher found a huge crab on the banks of the Yoshinogawa (River) and brought it in to show everybody today. I saw it in the kitchen/lounge area out of the corner of my eye (it was in a box) and went to check it out–it wasn’t particularly cute, but it was truly fascinating to look at. About 20 minutes later, during the 10-minute break between classes, a bunch of teachers who’d been in class came back and saw the crab…and their immediate response was to gush about how delicious it looked.

This is very obviously another instance of cultural differences in action–it goes hand-in-hand with the vegetarianism thing. The way they view animals here runs completely counter to how I view them. I often have people, including fellow teachers, telling me, “Zannen…” when they hear that I don’t eat meat–something I wouldn’t really put up with at home, but I just assume they think I can’t eat meat, though they know I made the choice in junior high to go veg. I just tell people I’m vegetarian for religious/cultural reasons, because getting into my whole personal-choice/animal-rights/all-life-is-equal stance would be confusing and probably would even alienate some people here. Needless to say, this made me feel really uncomfortable, and I was truly sad for a while, wondering if the crab would survive the night.

Of course, I’m very much a non-confrontational, peaceful vegetarian, with the exception of joking with my friends about whether they’re enjoying their dead animals…but I do sometimes wish I could make my Japanese friends, colleagues, and acquaintances at least see it all the way I see it for several moments, to understand why I feel this way and to be exposed to a different viewpoint. I wish I could explain it to someone properly and have a really good and involved discussion about all this. I’d love to be able to explain my view thoroughly, as well as to get some insight into theirs.

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