Masamichi Yamashita, a researcher for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, presented to a meeting of the Committee on Space Research in Beijing a recipe for cookies made from rice powder, soy powder, soy milk, soy sauce, salt, and pan-fried silkworm pupae. His stated goal was to add more taste to the diets of astronauts. I have to suppose he also wanted to see if Westerners could somehow be made even more afraid of Japanese food. It turns out silkworm pupae are a not-unknown element of Japanese and Korean cuisine, which is why you'll find me at McDonald's so often.
If the silkworm pupae snack industry isn't your speed, you might try the Yunessum Spa Resort, in Hakone. They've hit on the idea of creating a ``curry bath'' spa, in which bathers get a dip from a yellow curry treatment and enjoy a hot bath with red pepper and tumeric -- intended to make one sweat even more -- and chunks of plastic imitation vegetables. This way you get the feeling of really being boiled in curry. I'm happy to give Japan attention for things like this, since if they started to feel ignored who knows what they'd start doing?
Well, they'd start painting faces on their bellies and holding the Belly Button Festival. Then 1300 or more people with funny faces painted on, wearing big hats, and with pants designed to resemble robes, including prop hands sticking out around the hips of the person wearing them -- a method of makeup and costuming, apparently, called ``Haraodori'' -- dance around the streets for two days while people chant, ``show your belly, show your belly button'' in Japanese. This happens every year on the fourth Friday and Saturday, in Shibukawa, the ``belly-button city of Japan''. It gets that name as it's right at the geographical center of the country. How they got from being near the geographic center to having a belly button festival I don't know.
Trivia: From 1 April 1968 to 31 March 1969, Japan Air Lines spent four million dollars on Western food, $560,000 on Japanese food, and $1,560,000 on beverages for its in-flight meal service. Source: ``Japan Airlines: Present and Future Plans,'' Toshimitsu Ikegami, Aerospace Food Technology, NASA SP-202.
Currently Reading: Disenchanted Night: The Industrialization of Light in the Nineteen Century, Wolfgang Schivelbusch.