Invitation to Sanuki Udon

Sanuki Udon is a most popular and accessible food in Sanuki. It is tasty, filling, nourishing and reasonably priced.

There are a lot of udon restaurants, usually hung with a sign curtain reading "うどん" or "手打ちうどん". The latter, "te-uchi udon, "means "udon kneaded by hand," not by machine . This is believed to be the key to good taste. At some restaurants, visitors can enjoy the kneader's demonstration as well as their dishes.

There are a variety of dishes to choose from, too:

・Kayaku udon is the most popular and inexpensive one with sliced kamaboko fish cake and chopped stone-leeks.

・Tempura udon usually contains some shrimp tempura.

・Tsukimi udon (Moon-viewing udon) features a raw egg-yolk which looks like a full moon in the bowl.

・Hiyashi udon is served in the summer. The noodles are chilled in iced water and dipped into a soup served in a separate bowl.

・Kamaage udon is served during the winter in boiling hot water in a small iron pot, with soup served in a separate bowl.

There are many self-service eating places, too. They are favored by students, office workers and housewives because of their modest prices. People can create their own indivdual dishes by selecting items from a variety of tempura and other ingredients to suit their personal tastes.

At any udon restaurant, people are expected to "make a long arm" and help themselves to the spices on the table or bar. Water may also be self-service, with the glasses available at a cooler.


Throughout this guidebook are sightseeing opportunities to fill many a day, but night life and urban pastimes also require some introduction. This is likely to center on the prefectural capital of Takamatsu, where at present most of the hotels and attractions for foreigners are located.

Few signs are in English and few residents can speak foreign languages. But fortunately, downtown Takamatsu is very compact, with most attractions in or near shopping arcades within easy walking distance. Moreover, the residents are friendly and more easygoing than big city people. Service is more personalized, and it is rare to enter a packed restaurant or train. Outside of Takamatsu customers are all the more eagerly awaited.

The most rewarding experiences are liable to come about through interaction with the residents, so we might consider what they do for entertainment, and try to join them. The rule of thumb might be to go beyond looking to interacting and participating whenever possible. Even beyond the verbal there is a whole world of subtle interaction in terms of facial expressions, palpable emotions, gestures and favors. The unexpected extras in service, for example, can be a highlight as one appreciates the underlying desire to please.

When the Japanese have free time during the day they shop, go to restaurants or coffee shops, browse in bookstores because reading is permitted, occasionally strolling in nearby parks. They are inhibited to cross group lines and meet strangers, but foreigners can be an exception, among residents who may wish to enjoy more freedom from normal restraints.

Human relations are complex and delicate in Japan. It is said that the Japanese emphasize form while Westerners emphasize content, but on a deeper level in Japan, form virtually symbolizes social relations. The very importance of human relations has created much artifice and difficulty, a dichotomy between surface accomodation and depth of true intention, so one must be careful and sensitive, that is, considerate.

Coffee Shops

The ubiquitous kissaten are much more than places to drink coffee. The price of a beverage is 2 or 3 dollars, but one is paying for the space in a land of few public comforts, for the time since people often stay nearly an hour, for the meeting place to chat with friends, for the facilities and free reading materials. First ice water, and later green tea is often served for free. Most places also offer hot and damp oshibori towels to freshen up.

So-called Morning Service adds a light meal to hot or iced coffee with no extra charge. Little extras like peanuts are often served at other times. Pot coffee is called American, but most people order coffee made European style called Blend, one cup at a time. There are usually no refills for that reason. More exotic varieties of coffee can also be ordered. Beans are usually ground on the premises for maximum freshness.

Vernacular newspapers, magazines and comic books are available, but the customer is expected to return them to the shelf before leaving. Reading Japanese is hardly necessary for the very pictorial magazines, suffice it to say.

There is a special type of coffee shop where the clientele are mostly regulars, though others are also welcome. This type can be recognized by the constant laughter and informality. An example in the northernmost arcade is Pen ペン in Katahara-machi 片原町. The Mama-chan (familiar form of -san) of Pen is particularly uproarious, though she and Papa-chan also counsel people at times, shifting quickly to a serious gear, then back to mirth.

Non-smokers may prefer the more deserted coffee shop away from downtown arcades. Many places are busy mainly during the noon hour, so at other times one can listen to the taped music of various genres, browse through magazines, or study Japanese in a leisurely atmosphere.

Night Life

The sightseeing mecca of Kagawa offers a harmony of traditional culture with nature by day. But indoor facilities are the forte of big cities and the envy of Kagawa people themselves.

Such night life as there is naturally caters to groups of salarymen, as single women seldom go beyond the coffee shop-restaurant-shopping circuit, while married women simply stay at home.

While the foreign guest is liable to be treated at the usual hostess bar, perhaps few would be willing to pay \5,000 a head for the kind of entertainment that appeals to Japanese men. To be invited out at night virtually assures ending up in raucous hostess bars called sunaaku, singing "My Way" into a soggy microphone, drinking cheap whisky and water (mizuwari), and eating snacks that can reach the senses of heavy smokers. Men tend to paw the hostesses to get their money's worth, but it doesn't go beyond that. Slow dancing is recommended for gentlemanly enjoyment.

The modern geisha tends to be an older woman down on her luck through divorce or whatever, and her small talk includes nothing personal about herself, so one need not wonder what all the chatter is about. It will be obvious by the gestures that it is mixed locker room talk. These women are there for the highest salary available, so their friendliness must not be misunderstood as the subject for some romance novel about Japan.

What can the tourist do, then, with neither an invitation to go bowling nor the inclination toward sleazy entertainment? The shops have closed by around seven, and dinner is over. Outside of Takamatsu there would not be much to do but drinking in restaurants. There is a rare pub named Dear that plays rock videos at night in Zentsuji across from Shikoku Christian College. In Takamatsu there are a few video lounges or small places with live bands, and some pubs with taped rock music such as Bucket House バケツハウス off the Lion Dori arcade.

Visualizing central Takamatsu in terms of pedestrian arcades, it is like a Roman numeral one 工 running from north to south. The central landmark at the 2 ends are the Mitsukoshi 三越 Department Store and its affiliated Mitsukoshi Elegance. The arcades on the northern end are Hyogo-machi to the west and Katahara-machi to the east. On the southern end the arcade of interest would be Tokiwa-gai トキワ街 running from Mitsukoshi Elegance to the east past Jusco ジャスコ and Daiei ダイエー to Kawara-machi Station 瓦町駅 . Some of the theaters playing Hollywood-type movies are just to the west of Mitsukoshi Elegance. Parted by the main Highway 11, the west arcade is Marugame-machi 丸亀町 to the north and Minami Shin-machi 南新町 to the south. The east arcade which comes alive after dark is called Lion Dori ライオン通り . The side streets to the east are the sleazy side of town, while the west side is the business district. Take your choice, but avoid involvement with men in flashy clothes and permed hair who are either gangsters or touts.

There are some good discos such as Jumbo, with the signs in English, in the southeast quadrant. Here also is the Washington Hotel on Route 11 where young residents tend to gather. In this connection it can be said that restaurants in hotels are always good, but they have a 10% service charge. The Washington Hotel has fine restaurants on the upper floors including a beer garden on the roof. There are some other beer gardens for economical drinking and singing, including the roof of Mitsukoshi Department Store.

Other possible amusements are video game rooms, bowling alleys, baseball batting centers, and golf driving ranges. After drinking one can also revert to noodle shops for a light filler of Sanuki udon. Such places tend to be inconspicuous, but they usually have a curtain over the door saying うどん .


Participation Sports

In trying to bridge the cultural and linguistic chasm separating Japan from other countries, sports provide something in common to facilitate friendship, because most of the sports are the same ones familiar at least to Westerners, and here is where the Japanese language comes closest to English. With the aid of visual cues, communication can be achieved soonest via the most popular sports in Japan.

Among men the most popular sports are baseball and golf, while tennis is the most popular participation sport for women. By the same token, many women are baseball fans, and many men play tennis. The vast popularity of these three sports provides an opportunity to establish rapport, particularly for Americans who enjoy the same sports.

Years before one could conduct the most rudimentary business negotiations in Japanese, the sports terminology absorbed into Japanese provides a lingua franca for friendly communication, and a halfway house for those intent on mastering Japanese. Tennis is particularly uncanny in that only English is heard in the scorekeeping, by people who cannot otherwise speak English. Golf terminology has also been absorbed almost wholesale into Japanese, while in complex baseball jargon English words sametimes take on a different meaning.

Bacause of the 1-r problem, for example, for balls (a walk) was originally confused with foul balls. The Japanese use the terms public and country club for golf courses, but because their language is based on syllables with few vowel sounds, these come out as paburikku and kantorii kurabu. By the way, golf is much less expensive in Kagawa than urban prefectures, but public courses still cost about \4,000 while country clubs can run over \10,000 for non-members.

One can just say the words "Takamatsu Public" to a taxi driver and probably get there, but these are group-oriented sports in tightly organized Japan. Rather than recommend certain facilities for these sports, we would recommend joining local groups on their outings. If one has enough time here, it should be sufficient to indicate what sports one plays and thereby wangle an invitation.

Besides the above-mentioned, most other sports one could think of have their adherents: bowling, jogging, volleyball, soccer, basketball, table tennis, pool, fishing or boating, the latest exercise crazes, and so on. The traditional Japanese sports and martial arts, however, have few adult participants. Japanese individuals usually have their own hobbies and pastimes in addition to watching and participating in sports.

Commentators often note that the Japanese do not take a casual attitude toward sports and recreation. These are subject to some of the same performance pressures as the workplace. Thus the individual will tend to specoalize in certain sports he does well, practicing diligently. They tend to assume, for instance, that all American men are home run batters like those on TV, yet with the high average level of sandlot play among baseball specialists, the American had better be really good not to disillusion them.

Team sports may be taken more seriously with their competitive aspect, and the effect of a dismal bowling score is less humorous in a team competition. The Japanese tend to exert themselves in whatever they do, as the virtue of perseverence is constantly extolled. It should be further noted that shows of emotion are taken as a sign of weakness. Despite the Confucian ethics and ritualism, however, in their way the Japanese really do enjoy sports.

Baseball in Japan and Kagawa

The national pastime of Japan is baseball, including hardball, softball and a Japanese invention calld nankyu. This last is the one men usually play, using the rules of hardball but with an elusive hard-rubber ball about the same size for safety. Hardball tends to be for school teams, semi-pro and above, while women play softball and men play softball or nankyu. Softball is not necessarily relaxing, as both sexes often employ windmill-style fast pitching.

Professional baseball is ubiquitous on TV, and several national daily sports newspapers concentrate on it even during the winter when there is little but speculation to report. The public are casually familiar with the American major leagues, and are curious to see how big-leaguers tend to excel while marginal players more often are foiled by the wily pitchers. Culture shock can be either amusing or traumatic on both sides.

Baseball as it is altered in Japan provides some insight into Japanese organizational skills. All of Japan is in the same time zone, making it easier than in America, but many sports tournaments are organized nationally. Each prefecture has its elimination tournament to choose its representatives, then everyone has a team to root for at the national level. When their representative loses, their loyalty naturally switches to the nearest prefecture still in the running.

This is particularly true of the bi-annual high school baseball tournament, on TV all day long for over two weeks and followed in great detail with passionate interest from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Tournament stars often become pros, with announcers forever reminiscing about their high school heroics. The tournament enjoys a long tradition from pre-War times.

Ritualism is conspicuous in Japanese baseball. Even at the sandlot level, each game is preceded by the 2 teams lining up, facing each other solemnly. They then bow, humbly asking for favor (O-negai-shimasu). Team leaders play the scissors-paper-stone (jan-ken-pon) game to determine who bats first. After the game the teams line up again, the score is solemnly announced, the hand of the umpire extending to the winning team, then everyone bows again, thanking the other team for the game (Arigato-gozaimashita). In a very secularized society, there seems to be something faintly religious in these sporting rituals.

In Kagawa one may watch the elimination tournament in the Spring and Fall at the prefectural stadium below Goshiki-dai Plateau on the Seto Inland Sea coast, particularly if one can join the cheering section of a certain high school. During Spring training one or more pro baseball games may be played at that stadium.

For participation on a grand scale, however, the annual Takamatsu nankyu tournament involves over 2% of the entire population and lasts for most of the summer. While there are over 400 teams of adult men entered in this elimination tournament, playing at around 6 a.m., the largest such tournament in another prefecture is said to field 800 teams!

Played with the nankyu ball, this sport is known as socho yakyu or early morning baseball, because it is usually played before work on weekdays, occasionally at night or on Sunday afternoons like softball. The local tournament is thus called the Takamatsu Shimin (Citizen's) Socho Yakyu Taikai (Tournament). It has been going for over 30 years, and daily box scores appear in the prefectural newspaper, the Shikoku Shimbun.

Japan in Miniature

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Updated on 22 September 2016 | E-mail Steve | 四国新聞社出版『KAGAWA』より

Bilingualism and Japanology - Online publications by Steve McCarty
annotated in English | Japanese: バイリンガリズムと日本学