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Sunday, February 15, 2004

A Beef Bowl

I ate a beef bowl in Yoshinoya today.

Maybe, I should write today's column of the Japanese (person), by the Japanese (language), for the Japanese (people).
From last weekend, Yoshinoya in Japan stopped serving the beef bowls to their customers. The reason is the BSE, mad cow disease.
Yoshinoya in Japan usually use American beef because they are cheaper than Japanese beef. As you know, last year some mad cows were detected in the US. Japan and Korea reject to import beef from the US without the BSE test, now. Yoshinoya is trying to stock beef from Australia or domestic ones. But it needs time and costs. Yoshinoya gave up supplying the beef bowls temporarily. The last night when Yoshinoya served the beef bowls, many stores were crowded with many Japanese customers who want to have a beef bowl.

How do you feel about this news? Some people may say Japanese food companies and Japanese customers overreact to the American BSE. I rarely find the restaurant which takes same kind of measures against the BSE in the US.
I think, this difference between Japan and the USA comes from the thought about who has the responsibility.
In Japan, once someone has a disease caused by some foods, the food supplier has a responsibility about it. Japanese like rare foods like sushi and sashimi. And Japanese are also sensitive about freshness of foods. Supermarkets should not display out of sell-by foods. If several customers with food poisoning are found, the restaurant has to stop its business in a few days and research the source of poison. Japanese food suppliers always care about food poisoning risks.
One day, I went to a grilled restaurant in New York. It also served good fresh meats and some rare fishes. I found the notice in the menu; "some marked menus include rare foods. You have your own risk to have them."
In the US, many people said like this; "there are some risks or danger in the world. Everybody has their own responsibility to avoid and control those risks by themselves." I think this is good attitude. (But I have no idea why people always try to shift the blame each other in the court of the US.) Sometimes, people in the US have strong independency and people in Japan depend on each other. It must be caused from their history. US people had to pioneer their life in large country. Many Japanese people had to live with harmony, "Wa" each other in small land.


P.S. Here are small tips about Yoshinoya in Japan. You can find some different points in Yoshinoya in Japan from that in the US.
Yoshinoya hadn't served other bowls except the beef bowls before last year in Japan. There were no chicken bowls, no salmon bowls, and no other bowls like menus in the US.
Yoshinoya is one of the fastest-food restaurants in Japan. There are no tables. There are only long counter bars in the store. In the lunch time, the stores are crowded with many customers. You don't have enough time to taste bowls quietly, because many people might be waiting just behind you.
Most of customers are composed of business men and single unmarried young men like college students. Half of Japanese young women never used Yoshinoya and most of young women never go to Yoshinoya with only girls group.

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