March 11, 2019

Food for Thought

High-end Japanese food is well represented in the US, but low-end food isn’t. Ramen is low-end in Japan but is sold here as high-end food. I assume it’s because it’s not worth selling anything here unless the profit margin is high enough. It’s unfortunate because the working-class culture of Japan has a certain charm that I think would resonate well with the working class here.

Go Go Curry may be one of the few exceptions. It serves pork katsu curry under $10 in under 5 minutes. I love the spirit of that. They could have targeted the mid-range market but they obviously chose to go for the low-end. “Under 5 minutes” clearly caters to the busy workers on short lunch breaks.

ost Japanese restaurants here tend to design the interior, service, and food to match the Western expectations of Japanese culture (that is to say, whatever makes white Europeans comfortable), but not so with Go Go Curry. They seem almost unapologetic about their Japanese working-class origin. I don’t think the staff is Japanese but they greeted me in Japanese. The two men behind the counter said in sync, “Rasshaimase!” The proper phrase is “Irasshaimase” but in the working class culture, people tend to be more spirited and drop the first syllable.

I particularly liked the fact that they were showing Japanese videos on their TV monitors. No attempt was made to subtitle it. We see this often at Chinese restaurants where Chinese workers frequent, but I don’t see it at Japanese restaurants.

Since America is the wealthiest and the most powerful country, other nations are eager to get Americans’ attention and therefore are willing to go out of their ways to present their cultures in the way that appeal to Americans. They don’t just present themselves as they are. Americans, on the other hand, don’t need to pander to other countries; they can present themselves as they are, and everyone around the world goes out of their ways to understand American culture as it is.

I’m sure the vast majority of the customers at Go Go Curry do not speak Japanese, which means they have no idea what they are looking at on those monitors. I love that Go Go Curry doesn’t care.