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Japan devours foreign ideas, but overdoing it may cause indigestion

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A comical tale from a 17th century Chinese publication goes as follows.

An impoverished student is dying to eat a "mantou" (steamed bun) but can't afford one. So he stands in front of the biggest mantou shop in town, starts screaming, and collapses on the ground.

The shocked shop owner asks him solicitously what bought that on, and the student replies, "I'm scared of mantou."

This is the tale from which the classic Japanese rakugo number "Manju Kowai" (Scared of steam buns) is believed to have been adapted, albeit with a different punch line from the original.

In it, several young men get together, and each starts confessing his phobia. The list includes snakes, spiders, and so on and........

© The Asahi Shimbun

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