What do you mean you don’t know how to cook???
“…. I dunno… it seems hard…”
At least three of the Japanese men I’ve talked to so far grew up not knowing how to cook.
And they still don’t know how to cook. It doesn’t seem to be just those three men, either. It’s starting to seem endemic.
When the Japanese men I talked to need to eat, they eat out (because they don’t have wives, they explained.) Some of them live in company dormitories which serve breakfast and dinner, but even with that option, they go out. Convenience stores. Kaitenzushi. Donburi shops. Ramen shops. I’m starting to understand why every other shop I see is a restaurant. That many restaurants wouldn’t last very long in the United States, but here, restaurants are a daily expense.
Donburi shops are everywhere. Menus posted on the street advertise bowls (meat, vegetables, sauce, an egg) for ~500 yen. I visited one with a friend, and the process is automated. You walk up to a machine similar to the machines that sell train tickets, only this one vends meal tickets. You chose your bowl and the features you want. You purchase the food. You hand the ticket to the kitchen, and almost immediately you have your bowl. You break your disposable chopsticks, you break the yolk on your egg, you mix it into the rice, meat, and vegetables, and pick up your bowl. Lift it toward your face and shovel the food down with your chopsticks, drink your miso soup, and you’re off.
When I explain to people that most boys in the United States grow up knowing how to cook at least basic things, like eggs and pancakes and cereal, they’re surprised and a little shocked. They tilt their heads back and say “heeeee? sugoi na.” (Huh? That’s amazing!)
I explain further that sometimes my mom cooks dinner, but sometimes she tells us we’re on our own, and when that happens, my brother cooks himself food. I explain that moms in the United States generally stop making lunch for their kids around age 10. They’re surprised.
And when I ask men if they want to learn how to cook, they shake their heads. Convenience store food is good, they explain.
(Which it is, here. In the United States, you couldn’t go it on convenience stores alone.)
And when you can’t cook, you get to try a lot of good restaurants, they tell me. (Or eat 500 yen bowls of donburi every day. Filling, I suppose.)
I shake my head and tell them I can’t believe it. They can’t believe me either.