Thursday, April 20, 2006

Like Meat for Chocolate

等価交換 (touka koukan).

In Japanese, it means "equivalent trade." I learned this scientific term while watching my favorite Japanese anime, Full-Metal Alchemist, about a boy who becomes a robot, and his brother, who becomes a half-machine man, after they try to use alchemy to resurrect their dead mother. The lesson of 等価交換: they played with fire, and they got burned.

My friend Kumiko and I practiced a bit of 交換 (trade) yesterday. In Japan, you see, souvenirs are a big deal. You’ve gone on a trip and left your colleagues behind to do your work for you? You owe them something—a box of crackers shaped like Buddha if you go to Nara, or some plastic replicas of the Eiffel Tower if you go to Paris. Then, when they burden you with their work this summer when they take off for Tahiti, you can be sure that you’ll be receiving some tropical oil in return.

In fact, in some Japanese cities and airports, smart merchandisers have capitalized on this souvenir!-souvenir!-souvenir! mentality, and now sell popular tourist souvenirs from places like the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben so that one can just pick something up in Narita airport before heading back into Tokyo, rather than spend hours searching for it in Paris or London.

In any case, Kumiko and I both went on big trips recently: she to Sweden, and I to South Africa. 等価交換. But while we did the koukan, I think Kumiko would be the first to tell you that it wasn’t very touka. Kumiko brought me back some Swedish Marabou chocolate. The Swedes? Chocolate? I had no idea. But Marabou is very creamy—it reminds me a tiny bit of Swiss maker Cailler’s milk chocolate bars. Thumbs up from The Moko.

Unfortunately, Kumiko didn’t do so well in the gift exchange. I gave her some traditional eastern South African food whose name I couldn’t pronounce and whose ingredients were unknown to me. It looked a bit like congealed eel fat. But I thought it might also be handmade chocolate. So I took a gamble and bought it.

This is what Kumiko reported back over e-mail yesterday morning: “It was lovely meat like chocolate...No, actually it was chocolate like taste meat.”

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bikoko said...



Moko said...

m(._.)m ゴメン

kumiko said...