Japan has a baby problem, in that couples are not making enough of them. The country's declining population is scheduled to bottom out of some time in the next 50 years unless the good folks in the bureaucracy figure out a way to raise the GNBP (gross national bedroom productivity). But we'd like to humbly suggest that the solution is staring them right in the face: get people to eat more Japanese food again! The Japanese diet has become increasingly Westernised in the post-war period, which is a shame because native dishes aren't just good for your health, they're good for your private life too...
1. Suppon (softshell turtle)
A delicacy in East Asia, Japanese suppon has long been associated with wealth, excess and virility. One reason for this is because lords and nobles would often consume it before their sexy time. Another reason is the turtle head’s phallic shape. Despite being known mainly as a ‘man’s dish’, suppon is gaining popularity amongst female diners who appreciate its high collagen content for their skin. History aside, modern science has shown that suppon has an enormous amount of vitamins and minerals, to the point that suppon blood is actually a very healthy beverage. So now you know what to suggest on your next date with Vampire-san.
2. Green tea
Ever wondered what keeps Japanese people going through their 10-hour workdays and 100-year lifespans? There’s a reason why cups of green tea are ubiquitous in all Japanese social settings: it’s some of the healthiest stuff you can put in your body. Chock full of the super healthy antioxidant catechin, nutritionists love the stuff – and so should anyone who wants a healthy sex life. Catechin helps your blood circulate to all parts of your body, and if you don’t know why that’s important for fun in bed, we can't help you.
3. Toro (fatty tuna)
Toro! Toro! Toro! Not only is it one of the most expensive items on the sushi platter, it’s also one of the healthiest. According to sex expert Dr Yvonne K Fulbright, tuna and other fatty fish can help clarify the mind and lift the mood, two things essential for a good sex life. Plus, it also helps to improve your eyesight, which might come in handy when you’re considering who to bring back to your boudoir.
Long, meaty and slippery... Just looking at a Japanese eel might be enough to get some people in the mood. Of course, it’s not about size but what’s inside that counts. Eels are rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B12, D and E, which means they’ll help your body get a jump on just about any problem. They’re also rich in omega-3, which can help head off diabetes, an important consideration in the land of mountains of white rice and nama biiru (draught beer). Sold in sushi shops, eel shops, powdered form and as special Unagi Pie baked goods, Japanese eel is truly worthy of the ‘Engrish’ catch copy commonly printed on eel crackers: ‘a snack for nights’.
5. Azuki (red bean)
You know this stuff, you just never see it when it looks like a bean. But that gelatinous dark mass that’s found in the centre of anpan (sweet bread rolls) and many other Japanese desserts is called azuki and it’s originally in bean form. And beans are some of the healthiest things you can eat since they provide similar nutrients to meat and eggs without all the fat and cholesterol. Azuki beans in particular are a great source of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and folic acid. Something to think of when you order your third helping of yokan.
The word ‘seaweed’ doesn’t sound sexy, we admit. Probably the ‘weed’ bit. But as is often the case in romantic situations, things are not always what they seem. Many Japanese people eat seaweed every day (for breakfast!) and it’s an easy way to pack more nutrients into your diet while keeping the calorie count low. Nori, wakame and kombu all have their own benefits: from reducing flatulence to helping regulate hormones. Slip a sheet or two alongside your next sunny-side-up breakfast and reap the benefits.
If you’re like many foreigners, you probably wouldn’t put natto on your list of things to eat before a big date. Or anytime for that matter. This sticky dish of fermented beans isn’t everyone’s favourite, but a quick glance at its health benefits might change your mind. It’s an important source of vitamin PQQ, important for maintenance of skin cells. It also has a surprisingly high amount of protein – a similar amount as the same serving size of beef! Amongst other things, protein is essential for weight maintenance and for building muscle. The verdict is in folks, if you want to look good in the buff you should start stocking up on this stuff!
8. Mugi barley
Japanese barley, or mugi, may be small in stature but it packs a punch. Mugi is a great source of fibre, which helps keep your blood sugar levels under control. Why is this important? Left to run amok, spikes of high blood sugar levels wreak havoc on the nerves in your more sensitive areas – and we don’t need to tell you what a lack of sensitivity means, do we? Mugi is also a great source of zinc, an essential ingredient in keeping sperm count up. Sounds like it’s time to switch from hakumai (white rice) to mugi gohan (white rice mixed with barley).
– By John Pakarnian
– Illustrations by Kento Iida