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How to be a Japanese Couch Potato

We all know what feeds the American sports fan: beer, chips, trail mix, hot dogs, pretzels, and so forth. But what about sports fans in Japan? To help viewers of the Nagano Olympics, we asked Jin Yokoi, an executive at the Tokyo Broadcasting System and the former director of its sports news division.

"We don't have such a custom to gather in front of the TV in Japan," Yokoi says. "But I heard in America, everybody gathers. That's one big difference."

So, there may never be a Japanese Superbowl party. But this does not mean the Japanese are bereft of sports-related munchies. At home, where everybody loves to catch a night baseball game, the snack of choice is edamame: boiled green soybeans. "It has a seasoning that has a very good taste," says Yokoi.

It is at the stadium where the more serious Japanese sports cuisine awaits. At the less traditional Japanese games - primarily baseball and soccer - one can purchase a bento box. Much like a lunchbox, it typically offers a selection of Japanese treats, primarily baked and sautéed fish such as salmon, rice, and egg. Of course, at baseball and soccer games, popular treats also include beer, hot dogs - well, you get the picture.

To truly indulge in traditional Japanese fare, head for a Sumo wrestling match. There, one can find dishes like yakori, a kind of barbecued chicken, and nabe, a mixture of vegetables, chicken, mushrooms, and mochi (rice cakes) boiled in a pot.

If you really want to get in the Olympic spirit, nabe is the way to go. Says Yokoi, "We enjoy nabe. Especially in the winter."


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Written by Rob Medich

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