Wednesday, July 18, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 154


Japan's culinary curiosity: square fruit

Kristin Buchanan

Recently, I made an incredibly long voyage to visit one of the coolest places in the world: Japan. The visit was well worth the 19-hour flight and the infernal jet lag.
For me, Japan was a chance to experience a culture completely different from anything here. And yet, it almost felt like home.

I loved the food. Sushi, one of my favorite foods, is cheaper there and can be found everywhere -- even in corner stores. Shonandai, the city I stayed in, had French
pastry shops on almost every corner. And whenever I needed a caffeine fix, there were always vending machines nearby with a vast array of canned coffees.

Food isn't the only fascinating thing about Japan. The transportation there is so much better than what we have in Houston. I enjoyed use of the efficient train and
subway system throughout my stay. It definitely beat having to drive through all the traffic. For those who have more money than time, there are even bullet trains.

Unfortunately, it may be decades before Houston even comes close to that. With all the red tape and lack of support from Rep. Tom Delay, it looks like the light rail is
much farther down the road than originally planned.

Due to bad politics and perpetual bureaucracy, Houstonians will have to sweat it out in the irritating traffic. Meanwhile, the citizens of Japan sit comfortably in
refreshingly cool trains and subways. Lucky us.

Japan is undisputedly a technological wonderland. Going there was like getting a glimpse into the future. It was exciting to be privy to new developments that will
gradually make their way overseas.

From video cell phones to gadgets that wrap umbrellas in plastic bags at store and restaurant entrances to prevent puddles, life in Japan is truly amazing (even if
almost everything there is more expensive).

Japan is even placing its own subtle nuance on fruit. Watermelons are a popular and tasty treat but have found the shape to be a nuisance when it came to storage
or attempting to slice open the red-and-green delight. Thankfully, this is about to become a thing of the past.

For the right price, Asian citizens can purchase cube-shaped watermelon. A Japanese farmer had the idea 20 years ago to mold the watermelons in glass boxes.
Today, they've become quite trendy, and for obvious reasons. Who wouldn't want to be the first on the block to buy a piece of fruit that costs 10,000 yen, or $83 in
U.S. money?

Picture this: You're hosting an extravagant barbecue dinner party with an exquisite layout of chopped Angus beef, Belle de Fontenay potatoes imported from France
and organic sprouted whole wheat bread. Your guests are stuffed after the gourmet banquet, but not too full for a final pièce de resistance. Imagine the oohhs and
aahhs as they feast their eyes on the perfection that is dessert.

As the designer watermelon juice drips down your guests' chins, you sit back in satisfaction, knowing that, once again, you have pulled off the party of the summer.

Buchanan, a senior journalism major, 
can be reached at

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