Factions are essentially about “hanging around together with buddies,” manga artist Sadao Shoji observes in his essay.

Wherever people gather, factions are formed, be it in neighborhood interactions or workplace relationships in a company.

Shoji then takes his musing on factions to an unexpected realm, declaring, “Even the world of oden is composed of factions.” This leap into the seemingly unrelated topic of the traditional Japanese hot one-pot dish is quintessentially characteristic of Shoji’s narrative style.

Within the steaming confines of an oden pot, separated into small partitions, the dynamics of factions kick in. Tofu-based ingredients, like “ganmodoki” (fried tofu fritters) and “atsuage” (thick fried tofu), belong to what Shoji amusingly dubs the “tofu clique.”

In competition are the fish paste faction, represented by “chikuwa” (tube-shaped fish paste) and “satsuma-age” (fried fish cake).

Although “konnyaku” (jelly-like food made from konjac yam) and “shirataki” (konjac noodles) hail from the same origins, they seldom share a plate, hinting at an unexpected animosity between them.

Shoji delves into these observations with a tongue-in-cheek seriousness that stands in sharp contrast with the lightheartedness of the subject.

Readers of Shoji’s gastronomic essays do not expect to glean practical advice or culinary tips.

Instead, they just enjoy imagining how they would savor certain hot dishes with Shoji, eaten in a manner often described as “haf haf” in Japanese, and nod with a “fumu fumu” murmuring of approval to the intriguing nuances of his observations, and ultimately find themselves amused and utter a “fufu” smothered laugh.

This is the essence of what could be called the “Haf Fumu Fufu” principle—a sequence of tasting the joy of engaging with his hilarious writings on eating.

Shoji’s popular serial column, “Are Mo Kuitai, Kore Mo Kuitai” (Raring to eat that dish and this one, too) ran in the Shukan Asahi weekly magazine for 36 years, a testament to his enduring appeal.

As the magazine was discontinued, I felt disappointment and sadness at the end of enjoying his column. But it made a heartening comeback this year in The Asahi Shimbun weekend supplement “be.” Its third installment was published on Feb. 10.

The themes of the first two installments of the column, published biweekly, were “The Personality of ‘Anko’ Sweet Bean Paste” and “The Global Expansion of Oden.”

He playfully speculates that should oden gain international recognition, “ganmodoki” might be pronounced “gahn-moh-DOH-kee,” displaying his signature laid-back humor, to the joy of his readers.

According to a colleague in charge of the column, upon the revival of his long-beloved column, Shoji expressed an eagerness to explore more topics, saying, “There are still many things I want to write about (in this column).”

Shoji’s insatiable gastronomical appetite is simply awesome for an 86-year-old.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 11

* * *

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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VOX POPULI: Manga artist exposes the juicy dynamics behind ‘oden’ factions

21 2
12.02.2024

Factions are essentially about “hanging around together with buddies,” manga artist Sadao Shoji observes in his essay.

Wherever people gather, factions are formed, be it in neighborhood interactions or workplace relationships in a company.

Shoji then takes his musing on factions to an unexpected realm, declaring, “Even the world of oden is composed of factions.” This leap into the seemingly unrelated topic of the traditional Japanese hot one-pot dish is quintessentially characteristic of Shoji’s narrative style.

Within the steaming confines of an oden pot, separated into small partitions, the dynamics of factions kick in. Tofu-based ingredients, like “ganmodoki” (fried tofu fritters) and “atsuage” (thick fried tofu), belong to what Shoji amusingly dubs the “tofu clique.”

In competition are the fish........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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