Soup with chopsticks! Where's the hidden camera?

Ahh, yes! That … was part of our Christmas in Japan.

The memory gate is opened and my emotions are suddenly flooded. They come like waves, one after the other, crashing into my mind and overwhelming my senses. We were in Japan: Okinawa, Japan, to be precise. And the trip was everything and more than we had ever expected. It was two years ago, and we were in Okinawa for eighteen days of adventure with the family!

As Hodge adventures rank, it was fairly low key, in that we did not intentionally plan anything that would put us at imminent risk of life or limb. As our travel experiences go, it was nothing short of amazing.

In our time there, we tried all manner of unfamiliar foods, eating at local establishments where English was not spoken and the menu was semi-mysterious. Then came the Udon Noodle Soup place.

Chopsticks for eating soup looked like a great way to prank Americans. Seriously, the operation looked impossible. But a quick look around the room revealed many locals happily eating their soup with chopsticks. It's no wonder they don't have a problem with their weight there.

My wife wisely ceded defeat and grabbed a spoon. I, on the other hand, stubbornly used the chopsticks. It was war from the beginning. Chopsticks make perfect soup stir sticks. I pretended to be getting the upper hand while chasing the little bits around the bowl. Microscopic quantities made it to my mouth. It smelled wonderful … maddeningly wonderful. I suddenly realized what the great krill-eating whales must feel like. Satisfaction seemed impossible.

My kids, between jokes about my skill level, offered that it would be okay to use a spoon. I must have looked pathetic. I don't normally growl at my food, but that seemed like an appropriate response. I think that part did not happen out loud, otherwise the normally very polite Japanese people may have responded with alarm.

With each frustrating technique attempt, the bowl crept closer to my face. Then at last I had a breakthrough. The victory was mine! With each sortie of those thin bamboo sticks I got flavor, texture, and volume! That soup tasted every bit as wonderful as it smelled. I mentally rode in the victory parade and with each successful scoop came another metaphorical shower of ticker tape confetti! That lasted about five bites.

Then, daughter Rochelle, who lived in Okinawa at the time, indicated a table near ours. She glibly pointed out that I was doing it just like one of the locals. My pleasure was checked only barely by the laughter of the kids. I was indeed using the same technique as the girl at that table. She was about four. I happily pointed out that she had a four year head start on me and I had already caught up!

Our Okinawa Christmas was indeed a wonderful experience. It flew by too fast as all pleasures tend to do, but each experience left us with great memories.

I pity people who have carbon copy Christmas experiences. We do have a few traditions that we repeat, but sharing the joy of different and sometimes surprising experiences really creates awesome memories for our family.

This year, who knows what surprise adventure may be lurking under the tree …