Note: I wrote most of this before Gustav was even close to New Orleans.
In America (New Orleans?), we say you should only eat oysters in months that have an ‘R’ in them. That doesn’t stop us from eating dozens when we watch the basketball playoffs at Cooter Browns. Or from ordering the Peacemaker at Domilise’s in the middle of the summer. The real places (Casamento’s), however, are closed when it’s hot and raw oysters are more dangerous than they usually are.
Oysters in Japan are more of a December to February type food, but to hell with it, I declare today Oyster Day! September is the first month with an ‘R’ in it after May, June, July and August (incredible how that works, eh?), and today is the first day of September, so let’s go get oysters!
There’s a famous tongue twister about oysters in Japanese: 隣の客は、よくカキ食う客。(となりのきゃくは、よくかきくうきゃく。Tonari no kyaku wa, yoku kaki kuu kyaku. Translating tongue twisters is one of the most useless linguistic exercises that you can perform, but to hell with it, it means, “The customer next to us is a customer that eats a lotta oysters.” I guess that last bit sounds pretty cool – “ Eat a lotta oysters.” Oh, and the kanji for oysters, used mostly by restaurants with discriminating taste, are 牡蠣.)
Someone taught me that one the first time I came to Japan. It must’ve been at that point where they had exhausted my, at the time limited, range of conversation topics and had nothing better to do than make me say funny stuff for their own amusement. Shame on them. Actually, I should really be thanking them.
When you’re first starting to study a language, tongue twisters are a great way to exercise the muscles in your mouth. The muscles you use to speak Japanese are different from the English muscles, and they need training just like your pecs and gluts. Even if you don’t understand the meaning, the pronunciation practice will help you down the line.
Revisiting tongue twisters is a good way to test your progress. I heard this oyster one again recently but this time understood what was being said. It was a strange sensation. The sounds were no longer just sounds; there were specific meanings tied to all of them, and it wasn’t even that hard to say.
I haven’t decided where I’m going yet, but I’m debating between a place near Tokyo Station and another near Shinagawa Station. The former sells itself as a “gumbo and oyster” restaurant, whereas the latter is more convenient but is more like a New York oyster bar. If you’re in Tokyo and want to get oysters, get in touch!