Culture Close to Home

“You’re going to be gone for how long? FIVE months?? Wow – I wish I could do that.”

That’s usually how the conversation goes when I tell people about my round the world trip.  Everyone I speak to WANTS to travel more, but not everyone feels they can. Although there are always ways that people can include more travel in their lives, I do understand its not always practical or worth the sacrifice. You have to do what’s right for you, your budget, your family, your career.

While running away for 5 months may not be the answer for you, there are still affordable ways to work foreign culture into your life.  For example, scroll through the pictures below.  If you didn’t know any better, you’d think I had already arrived in Japan, when actually they were taken much closer to home.

Instead of flying thousands of miles to Tokyo, I drove about 10 miles to the Little Tokyo neighborhood of downtown LA.

This past Sunday, a friend had invited me to join a walking food tour of Little Tokyo given by the company Six Tastes.  I figured it would be an interesting kick off for my trip to Tokyo on April 1.  What I didn’t count on was the constant, cold rain that dumped on us during the whole tour.  Still a hardy group braved the rain and took the tour which covered a few blocks of Little Tokyo.

I just wanted to give a shout out to Brian, our fearless tour leader, who answered all of our questions about Japanese sweet and savory dishes, who got a lot of reluctant folks to try octopus for the first time and who stood out in the rain letting everyone else squeeze under the umbrellas and awnings to stay dry.

While I could have used a few more savory dishes (the menu was heavier on the sweets), and the sushi included in the tour was a bit too tame (spicy tuna and California rolls) I did have a great time, learned a bit about culinary culture in Japan (for example, if your wooden chopsticks to not separately evenly when you break them apart, it indicates your level of stress) and saw where they reportedly make the best ramen in all of L.A. (even in the pouring rain there was a line of people outside waiting for a table).

Six Tastes also hosts tours in Thai Town, China Town and other foodie neighborhoods in LA.  If getting away for  5 months is not a realistic goal right now, check out similar local cultural events, tours and exhibits in your neighborhood.  You are guaranteed to find something that will make you forget what country you are in for at least a few hours.

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