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The photo on top is my spouse Muriel on the left and my sister Taeko on the right taken in South Africa. Picture on the right is me, Tad Mitsui and my cat, George.
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DON’T CRUCIFY SANTA CLAUS
Ginger Beef was concocted in Alberta, not original Chinese. Chop Suey is American food in Chinese style. We are lucky that we live in the 21st Century when we enjoy many things from other cultures like those foods. I am happy also we are free to adapt them to suit our taste. There are many examples:
Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge is called “Canadian Garden in Japanese style.” All trees are Canadian that look like Japanese. Many native Japanese plants do not survive Canadian winter.
Poutine was food for working class Quebeckers. Original ingredients are just fries, cheese curd, and gravy. It is only recently it began to appear with many add-ons like chicken bits. Ramen has the same story. It was cheap street food for students, only Chinese noodles in pork broth. California Roll is not Japanese. It’s American sushi. Pineapple bits on Pizza? Italians would look at it with horror.
I was once surprised by quality of rice cooked for sushi which was prepared by a couple of well known otherwise first class kitchens in town. Fussy Japanese sushi gourmands would be dismayed. Well, let them. Many people didn’t mind and loved it. It’s O.K. so long as people like it and are willing to pay for it. It’s Japanese style Canadian sushi.
We have to watch out for appropriation or misappropriation of cultural and traditional practices and sacred symbols. Last Spring, I attended a wedding in Yokohama celebrated at a commercial wedding chapel. The building was a cheap imitation of a Baroque period European church. Attendants, females included, dressed like Franciscan monks. Japanese young people think Christian wedding is cool though most of them are not Christians. I was dismayed by the blatant appropriation of Christian ritual. Often, the person officiating the ceremony is an European or anyone with white skin. Japan like many European countries legal marriage is civil done at city halls or registry, and religious part is only social; officiant is not required of licence.
The worst was the Crucified Santa Claus hung in department stores in Tokyo. It was a response to the criticism of absent religion during unabashed Christmas Sales. Appropriation of Indigenous culture is just as grotesque: it’s cultural thievery and desecration of the sacred.
We celebrate many cultures today that had until recently been strange to us. Culture and language define our identity. We deny culture we deny people’s existence. We nearly succeeded in destroying the people who accepted us to the land we now live on. Treat culture and tradition with respect. They define what we are.
Bad manners in public discourse is a sign of decaying civilization.
Some people never agree with anything you say. They have to say “no” first. Relationships break up when one side always insists “I’m right.” You should realize if you know someone who never disagrees with you, he is a boot-licking liar.
Can we agree to disagree without calling names, and continue talking? Disagreement is not a sign of a dysfunctional society. It’s natural. We are all different from each other. It’s normal. It’s OK if we do not accept what is offered or said without checking it. The civilized society knows how to deal with disagreement constructively.
You put a cat on a nicely fluffed up cushion. It has to get up, sniffs at it, walks around it as though there is something wrong with it, and finally lies down on that very same spot on the cushion. If you love the cat, you have to learn to be patient. More so with people.
Some people are like that. If you say ‘this,’ they say ‘that.’ When you see red, they say “It’s sort of red.” Many professors are like that. They have to say “no” first as a mark of a learned person. In Japan such a person is called “heso magari.” Literal translation is, “a person with a crooked navel.” I don’t know where ‘belly button’ comes from, but it means “an annoying contrarian.” Kings of yesteryears used to chop the head off of anyone who contradicted them. We know some dictators who behave like that today.
We are all different and independent minded. We think, disagree and question first. When your child begins to ask, “Why?” you should be happy. The kid is growing up. We are all different. It’s a mark of Homo Sapiens. The trick is to accept the difference as normal and to find the way to live together on a small boat without throwing anyone overboard. Good manners help you do that.