August 24


Garlic Emergency!

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…

My knight in shining armor! Check out the cool packaging too: a little drawer slides out, presenting the pieces of gum like neatly rolled socks.

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo

A young woman dressed as a Gothic Lolita is found dead in a car with two strangers. But the more Yumi Hata learns about her friend’s death, the more she’s convinced it was murder…read more