Throat Lozenges Again
The Japanese word for a throat lozenge is “nodo ame,” which means literally, “throat candy.” Because of their word for it, Japanese think that throat lozenges are candies, and if anyone sees me sucking on a throat lozenge - a Halls mentholyptis, for example - they ask me if they can have a candy, and why do I like candy so much, and why am I walking around the school eating food in the hallways against the school rules? I must have said it a billion times since I began living here that throat lozenges are not candy, they are medicine, and I am sucking on them because I am sick with a cold and sore throat passed on to me by the students. In fact, I do not like candy at all (although I am partial to chocolate).
During my first year in Japan I was surprised more than once to be offered candy and then, after popping it into my mouth, discovered that it was a foul-tasting throat lozenge instead. This is a main point for me in my explanations to Japanese. Throat lozenges do not taste sweet. Candy tastes sweet. If throat lozenges were candy then they would taste sweet. If there are sweet tasting throat lozenges, then I don’t know about them. But the Japanese I know insist that throat lozenges do taste sweet, which begs one to wonder about the cultural standards behind not just the determination of taste, but the classification of things as candy. Maybe also the classification of other kinds of food as well because, as I have written before, some Asian foods I did not recognize as food when I first arrived: fish heads, cast off animals and fish guts, seaweed. Fish heads I think of as just garbage, but here they can be stewed and eaten.