March 8th, 2013


There's Samurais in Both

Ever since I realized that Britain could be a source of occidentalism to the Japanese, I've been thinking off and on, albeit in a decidedly superficial, Fluellenish way, about the similarities between the two countries - archipelagos and presqu'iles, I should perhaps say. Their maritime situation, sitting slightly detached on the edge of a continent, is one connection - and comes with the same sense (however misguided) of the sea as offering inviolability. If we have the Armada - "God blew, and they were scattered" - they have the Mongol invasions of three hundred years earlier, also disrupted by divine winds - or kamikaze. There's an ambivalent relationship with the continent, too, which is looked on suspiciously even though it is the source of much assimilated culture - not least a writing system. Organized religion came via that route, too: while Christianity moved west, through the Levant to Rome and thence to Britain, Buddhism made the trip east, from India to China then to Japan. Everywhere you look, you find the two halves of a Rorschach blot.

Ah, but where is the British Shinto? I wish we had a thriving animistic religious tradition here, to give my instinctive sympathy with animism some structural support: but while Shinto shrines sit unmolested in Buddhist temples, Christianity is not the kind of religion that brooks rivals (or even partners).

In the spirit of these meditations, tonight I'm going to try making okonomiyaki. I failed to find okonomiyaki sauce in the huge oriental supermarket 15 minutes' walk from here, but never mind: the recipe says that Worcestershire sauce is an acceptable substitute - and that, I feel, is as it should be.

ETA: This is what it looked like. It tasted pretty good, actually.