More people coming from abroad does mean more opportunities to meet people with different values. We Japanese will also need to be “considerate” to those who come to Japan from abroad. Of course, we should never intentionally make each other feel uncomfortable. However, it is sometimes unavoidable in cross-cultural communication to make others feel uncomfortable in spite of no offense, or to be offended by the words or actions of an innocent person. In various other sections, we have introduced the differences between “Customs” and “Manners” and often asked for your understanding of those differences.
The theme is “Noodle Harassment” in this section. Recently, it was quite a hot topic in Japan. The topic is about a foreigner’s opinion about the way to eat noodle dishes, one of the most popular and well-known Japanese foods in the world, who found it unpleasant to slurp the noodles with a slurping sound. For some people, it sounds as if they are sipping their nose… We think many Japanese were quite shocked by this opinion. To be honest, some Japanese were probably uncomfortable with that. On the contrary, though, there were some Japanese who agreed with that opinion. It’s going to be quite difficult to put an end to this disagreement. However, we don’t think it’s just a matter of putting up with people abroad. We should not say with certainty that since they’ve come to Japan, they shouldn’t complain about the way to eat in Japan. On the other hand, of course, If there are people from other countries who feel unpleasant about the Japanese way to slurp noodles, we Japanese should abandon the “custom” of eating noodles by slurping them? No, no! it would be also a mistake to do that, we do think so. This topic of “Noodle Harassment” might have been a very good opportunity in a way. That’s exactly what is required for mutual “consideration” and “understanding” of different cultures for each other. We think it exactly requires “consideration” for each other and “understanding” of different cultures. From our Japanese point of view, it’s better to eat it with a slurping sound. When eating noodles, the proper way to eat them is to enjoy not only noodles, but also the steam that permeates the soup and the aroma of the noodles, and the best way to do so is to “slurp” them. And that is one of the important Japanese food cultures. But we learned from this case that some foreigners from different cultures may find this “slurp” way of eating offensive.
We’re sure such this will happen more and more around the world in the future. And every time it happens, we will learn many things anew. As a result, one culture and values will not be diminished or negated by the other culture and values, we sincerely hope that. We just hope that all of them will be good opportunities for each other.