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curiouser and Curiouser 
a mystery dinner party in Japan by Luciana Lopez
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In the end, dinner itself proved fairly unexotic -- gyoza are relatively standard across Japan, despite their Chinese origins. The eggplant and beef stirfry, while delicious, was unadventurous. Even the minced sashimi, raw fish, sprinkled with pepper, was nothing I hadnít encountered before. After a group itadakimasu (the Japanese version of grace --it literally means "I am about to receive [this]"), we dug in hungrily. The rapid consensus was that the fried gyoza were tastier, and the second batch all went straight into the skillet (try a gyoza recipe from Japan-guide.com). My dessert offerings proved a hit as well, the cakes being met with enthusiastic approval by all.

Just before 11, conversation tapered off, and my guests began taking dishes into the kitchen. As the younger Tsuyoshi soaped dishes in the sink, Yuka, Kaito, Tsuyoshi and I wiped surfaces, placed items in my half-sized refrigerator, and tidied up, leaving my apartment in better condition than I generally kept it myself. While this may seem an unusual thing for guests to do, such cleaning is actually typical of Japanese dinner parties, where everyone pitches in so that the host won't be overwhelmed by a sink pile-up the next day.

Because owning a car in Japan is even more expensive than the already high cost of taking cabs everywhere, the timing of the trains home tends to dictate ending time for most social gatherings. Since my guests would all have to change trains at least once, we left my apartment just after 11 to allow everyone ample time to make their connections. Exchanging telephone numbers and saying ki o tsukete (take care) at the train station, I noted that my nervousness had evaporated quickly in the warmth of that night's company. Gochisosama deshita (it was a feast), we had said in the formal ending to our meal -- and it was a feast, in many happy senses.


Luciana Lopez will be in Japan until July 2001, when she will return to the United States and vainly hope that her future dinner party guests will clean up after themselves.

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