China In My Japan?

28 Sep

Exoticism forms the main notion of magic in Tanizaki’s The Gourmet Club as Count G embarks on a quest to find new cuisine completely unfamiliar for him. Much of the magic that other foods used to have for the Count have long since worn off as their exotic tastes became less foreign to him. This sense of magic that Count G indulges in can be described as fickle at best and Count G seems less concerned about the food (although he does offer salivating descriptions of his foodie endeavors) and more about any newness that can be offered to him. The Count’s hunger for fresh experiences therefore instantly enamor him with  foreign visuals, smells, and tastes.

During the summer between my junior and senior year of high school I participated in a short two week homestay in Japan, first for a week in Osaka and then the last week in Yokohama. It was in this last week that my group ventured to Yokohama’s Chinatown, one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world. Japan was already a magical place for me in terms of Tanizaki’s exoticism and being thrown into an inner exoticism was a complete sensory overload. The streets were laden(read: sparsely compared to the US) with trash – unthinkable in urban Japan – and seedy basement video rental/grocery stores were all over the place. We loved it. This new sub-layer of Japan provided an entirely different magic than what Osaka offered the week prior. Yes, Yokohama Chinatown is undoubtedly Japanese, but it sure was convincing enough to wide-eyed tourists for a few hours.

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