It looked like a mild-mannered plate of spaghetti, but it was PURE EVIL. I was halfway through this cherry tomato carbonara, when I realized those delightful crunchy bits I was wolfing down with abandon were FRIED GARLIC! Noooooo!!!
Two trains away from home, there was no way I wanted to be the Smelly Foreigner everybody went home and complained to their families about. People spend so much time in crowded conditions here in Tokyo that they’re super-aware of offending others with perfumed products, and everybody who exercises towels off and changes shirts before boarding a train. Japanese food never causes offensive odors, but garlic…aieeee!!! Even I notice if I get a whiff of it from the salarymen crushed against me on the morning train, wondering if he ate kim chee for breakfast.
What to do? What to do? I quickly posted on Facebook, seeking triage. Gum, my Japanese friends advised. I ducked into the train station convenience store and bought a pack that promised Deep Mint flavor. I guess the smelliness problem must be more widespread than I’d realized, because when I popped a piece in my mouth, the gum was so industrial-strength, it was almost painful. It took care of the problem temporarily, though: nobody quickly moved seats when I sat down on the train. Immediate disaster: averted.
When I got home, I was further advised to eat an apple and drink an entire cup of green tea without breathing, in order to avoid smelling like a vat of aioli. I certainly hope it works, and so does everybody else I encounter in the next 24 hours…
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!