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If you’re like me or the men in my life, you probably broke down and wept for joy on June 4, when Japanese midfielder Keisuke Honda scored the goal that bagged Japan’s slot in the FIFA World Cup next year. At such sports events, one or another of my brothers turn up at my place, hauling their boozy, hulking frames from the corner of some sports bar (Ueno, not Shibuya) and blubbering incoherently about how wonderful it is to be Japanese. “Tokorode (ところで, by the way) is there any kome (米, rice)?”

In our family, the shime (締め, finale) to any joyous occasion, from weddings to soccer victories — is the shiromeshi (白メシ, white rice). Not ramen or the recently popular udon, but a piping hot bowl of rice. My father grew up in a komedokoro (米所, rice growing) region, and he used to talked about ta-ue no kisetsu (田植えの季節, the season of rice planting), which is right about now, and how the boys in his neighborhood took off from school to help out in the paddies. He could tell the taste of different rice varieties — (Koshihikari from Uonuma in Niigata prefecture was his choice for No. 1), and got annoyed when my mother served non-rice dinners. “Kome wo tabenaito tabeta ki ga shinai” (「米を食べないと食べた気がしない」 “I don’t feel like I’ve eaten unless I’ve eaten rice”) was an oft-heard paternal complaint.

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