Saturday, April 12, 2003

Hyper Asiatique sounds so French

Brian Micklethwait somewhat belatedly links to the legendary Kikkoman animation over at Samizdata, and has some thoughts on the mixture of advertising and online music. (Brian links to the version with English subtitles, which is easier to understand, but lacks the pivotal scene of a cat hanging itself in shame after eating food with an incorrect condiment which is in the uncensored Japanese version). Essentially, advertising jingles are a form of online music that people pay to have you listen to, so there may be some kind of business model in there. I have given my follow up thoughts on that in a couple of comments over there.

Now, a digression. A couple of years ago, I was living in Australia. Someone pointed me to this article about Japan by cyberpunk author William Gibson in the Observer magazine. I discovered that it was in fact one article in an entire "Japan issue" of the Observer magazine, and so I read the other articles. One of them drew my attention to the Oriental City shopping centre in Colindale in north London, in particular pointing out that the best sushi in London could be obtained there.

So, when I was back in London, I decided to go there. I had never ventured that far up the Northern Line before, but I was willing to risk it in the quest for great sushi. I got off the tube, and discovered that I was in a perfectly normal, nondescript north London suburb. Walking down the road, I eventually did fine the "Oriental City" shopping centre. I went in, and it was like suddenly being in Tokyo. The shopping centre contained such things as a Japanese bookshop, laid out exactly as would be a bookshop in Japan (there is a particular style they have). A Japanese clothing store. A Japanese furniture store. A store selling all kinds of Japanese dishes and cooking utensils. All with much less concession to western tastes than anything I have seen outside Japan. (There are pleny of places in London, and in Sydney where one can buy Japanese goods, but there is always an acknowledgement that many of their customers are not Japanese. Here, though, there is much less acknowledgement, although many of their customers are in fact, not Japanese.

And, in fact, Oriental City caters to other Asian cultures as well as Japanese, although the Japanese influence is strongest. The food court sells utterly authentic Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian (several varieties), Malaysian, Indonesian, and various other kinds of food. Plus there is a large Asian supermaket, that sells a whole variety of Asian goods (although again Japanese is dominant). In any event, this was great. I had some excellent sushi and had a generally nice time.

Recently, I discovered that one of my female friends had never eaten at one of those sushi bars where the food goes past you on a little conveyor belt and take little plates off the conveyor belt (a kaiten-zushi restaurant, as the Japanese call it). I therefore took her to an outlet of a chain of such restaurants in central London, and we ate excellent (but not quite absolutely first rate) but very expensive sushi there. After that, I decided to show her how it is really done, so a couple of weeks later I took her to Colindale and we had some truly superb sushi.

While there, we went and did a little shopping in the supermarket. There was an impressive array of Japanese beers. I am a little partial to Asahi Super Dry, so I got a few cans of this. The supermarket also had an array of the extraordinary range of canned non-alcoholic beverages one can obtain from vending machines in Japan. I allowed Suzanna (for that is her name) to wrestle with the question of "What the fuck is Pocari Sweat, and why is it so omnipresent?" for a little while, and then moved on to see just how extraordinarily expensive Kobe beef is this week. Plus, of course, the supermarket had a large range of condiments for sale, many of them types of soy sauce produced by Kikkoman corporation. At that point, I started singing "Show me, Show you, Kikkoman, Kikkoman, Show me, Show you, Kiiiiiiiikooooomaaaaan". Alas, I couldn't get it out of my head, and for the rest of the afternoon I started bursting into song. It was altogether a fun afternoon. Suzanna was still talking to me at the end of the afternoon, even after all the singing, which was something of a relief

In Paris last weekend, I saw the following on the side of a van.

which tends to suggest that there is a French equivalent of Oriental City deep in the Paris suburbs somewhere. Alas, I didn't have time to seek out Hyper-Asiatique, so no more on that. (More on the Paris suburbs, however).

No comments:

Blog Archive