The curious case of nu-hara - "noodle harassment"
The prevalence of so-called fake news - purported news stories that often spread like wildfire online that turn out to be false in some way, whether it's misunderstood, misinterpreted, or just plain made up - has become a big issue recently, especially in the U.S. Fake news and rumors, called dema*, exist in Japan too of course. Most people in Japan tend to think that the society does a good job of self-policing the spread of fake news and rumors, especially since it became a big issue in the wake of the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. While people do tend to check things before spreading rumors about something obviously serious such as a factory explosion though, less serious fake news still spreads quite easily.
One recent example is something called nu-hara (ヌーハラ), which has been all over the Japanese media recently. It's a typical Japanglish abbreviation of two English words mashed together, "noodle" and "harassment", and literally means noodle harassment. (For example, sexual harassmentis called se kuhara, power harassment is called pawahara, etc.)
So...what the heck is noodle harassment? In Japan, it's customary for noodles to be splurped into the mouth, especially if they are in a soup like ramen or dipped into a sauce like cold soba. The slurping has been around for hundreds of years, and it's supposed to enhance the flavor of the noodles by introducing air into the mouth (that's the reason why wine is slurped during tastings). It also helps to cool hot noodles. Many noodle dishes are regarded as fast food, and slurping them in makes it possible eat them fast. Noodles from other cuisines, such as pasta, are usually not slurped however since the Japanese generally adopted the way of eating a foreign cuisine along with the cuisine itself. Which reminds me of this scene from Tampopo...
However, it was reported that many gaikokujin, foreigners, find the slurping sound made by Japanese to be distasteful, even disturbing an offensive. So this discomfort felt by the poor gaikokujin got a new term, nu-hara.
Reaction to reports about this nu-hara term was swift and loud, with celebrities, social media and the like huffing that "if they don't understand our traditions, just stay away", or "maybe we should be watching ourselves around those gaikokujin visitors to not discomfort them", and so on. There's a lot of hand-wringing these days about how Japanese people should interact with gaikokujin, mainly tourists, with so many expected to visit the country in 2020 for the Summer Olympics, as well as the fact that the number of visitors from overseas has been increasing exponentially in the last few years.
However, there's absolutely no evidence that a significant number of people have actually complained about being nu-hara-ed, as this article points out. The term nu-hara was not even coined by a news outlet, not even one of the many gossip filled weekly rags that exist in Japan. It didn't even come from a big website. It was coined by a single Twitter user, whose account has since been deleted, who called himself a former member of the Japan Defense Force and used his account to spout vague far-right wing / nationalist type statements. And yet, the term spread quickly and was picked up by various news outlets.
Personally, I have known people who express surprise that Japanese people slurp their noodles, but once they know the reasons they accept it as a custom that's different from what they know. I don't know anyone who's been outright offended. In Japanese restaurants in the West at least, you don't see - or hear - a lot of slurping, even from Japanese people, since they know that it's not usual to slurp. (Nowadays of course there are some non-Japanese people who slurp with intention since they see it as "the right way".) I guess there could be some people who are taken aback - but feeling harassed is a bit of a stretch.
So I thought I'd throw it out to JustHungry readers. What do you think about slurping noodles? Have you encountered it, in Japan or elsewhere? Is nu-hara really a thing? Should it be a thing?
(The photo is of my niece happily slurping her noodles when she as 6 years old. She's now a young lady of 15. Her grandmother is looking at her proudly in the background.)
(The origin of the word dema is the French word démagogie.)
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