Here is a photograph of pudding from Juchheim at Meguro Station. This particular pudding – or purin, as they call it here – was of the thick, unctuous persuasion with lashings of heavy cream and eggs. Not too sweet and rather rich, there’s a layer of lightly bitter vanilla bean caramel syrup at the bottom. It wasn’t the best pudding ever – I prefer something a little lighter, with more wobble, kind of like this – but it was quite delicious, and a lovely dessert on a sunshiny afternoon.
What’s missing here?
A. Another pudding
B. A nice background
C. The packaging
D. All of the above
The answer is D, but let’s talk about the packaging. Or rather, the lack thereof. As many people have already pointed out, Japan’s packaging is famous for its beauty and notorious for its superfluity. Go to any shop – let’s say a pastry shop, since we’re here – and buy something. The least they’ll do is put it in a paper bag. What usually happens is the unfolding of a wonderfully fussy operation, where they wrap the dessert so they can put it in a little cardboard box so they can put that in another bag. If you’re lucky this might end up in yet another paper bag.
It’s not that the staff at Juchheim don’t wrap purchased desserts up beautifully like every other pastry shop in this country does. They do. I don’t think they’re used to having customers ask them not to.
Me: One pudding, please.
Salesgirl 1: Coming right up!
Me: Is there anywhere here I can eat this?
SG 1: Uh… (confers with SG 2)
SG 1: Well, if you bought a cup of coffee you could eat it at the chairs over there…
Me: Oh, I see… that’s a shame. I was thinking of eating it now.
SG 1: Ah…
SG 2: Yeah, there’s not really anywhere around here…
I imagine the internal monologue behind their slightly panicky, bewildered looks went something like this: oh my god she’s not actually Japanese is she. Why is she asking us if there’s anywhere to eat the pudding? Why is she putting us on the spot like that? We just want to make a sale! You don’t eat the pudding when you buy it! You just buy it and fuck off somewhere else to eat! Preferably at home or your office or we don’t care but that’s how you eat department store food! Why does she want to eat it now?
Me: Okay… right then.
SG 2: Ah… yes…
SG 1: Umm… where…
I begin edging away from the pudding.
SG 1: Wait! I think there are tables and chairs on the rooftop of this building where you can eat…
SG 2: But you’ll have to take the stairs from the 5th floor…
Me: Oh, great! That’s settled then…
‘Where can I eat this now’ isn’t a question that gets asked very often in Japan, is it?
SG 2: Very well. One pudding, 231 yen.
SG 1: *starts constructing a box and other stuff to package the pudding*
Me: Oh, I don’t need that.
She stops and stares at me as though I’d just started chewing on a tampon. But why would I need the pudding wrapped up in a box if I’m going to eat it immediately?
SG 1: Really?
Me: Yes, just the pudding.
SG 1: Are you sure?!
SG 2: Is that okay?
Me: Yes, yes. I’ll be eating it now!
SG 1: Ah… okay.
SG 2: Would you like a paper bag for it?
Please. Don’t add to the landfill. Just give me the pudding.
Me: No, it’s fine, just the pudding.
SG 1: Uh… how about napkins?
Me: I’ve got tissues, it’ll be fine.
SG 1: Well… okay…
SG 2: Are you sure?
Me: Just a spoon, please.
SG 1: Okay… coming right up.
Me: Awesome, thank you.
SG 2: Here’s 20 yen in change. Thank you very much!
SG 1: By the way, Juchheim will be here only until Sunday!
As I walk off, pudding in hand, I look behind and catch them whispering frantically at each other, staring at me. Written all over their faces is ‘what is UP with her, she is SO weird.’
I love this country, but sometimes I just want my pudding without the plastic…