I swear, with all my heart, that I did not name my memoir after London’s wildly successful Japanese noodle restaurant chain by the same name.
But I can’t help but admit that this past August while in London for a family reunion we did sneak in a decent bowl of stir fried rice down by the London Eye at a Wagamama Restaurant along the Thames River.
As we were reading the menu, one of my kids asked why this restaurant was called Wagamama. It’s like opening a British tea shop in Tokyo and calling it “Selfish.”
Having grown up with Japanese as their first language, my kids know wagamama to mean one who disturbs the peace. The nail that stands out, the disrupter, the one who dares to have an opinion that differs from the rest. Or, to quote my dear friend Nourit in this excerpt from “The Wagamama Bride”…
My friend Sho says I’m wagamama,” Nourit explains.
“Wagamama? A kind of mama? A mother?” I ask.
“No! Not at all! Wagamama means self-centered, egotistical, that I don’t show enough appreciation!
“Yes, I am wagamama. I say what I feel,” Nourit says, her flared cigarette making figure eights in the air. “Nobody will stop me because I speak the truth. People are afraid of hearing the truth in this society. But that’s their problem, not mine!”
Wagamama was one of the first words I committed to remember in the Japanese language. I wrapped it around my tongue and blew it out whenever things were just not going my way. Just saying the word made me laugh out loud. Which was pretty much every day in the early years of culture shock and transition from New York wagamama-ishness, which might roughly be defined as a tendency to be strong, pushy and overbearing to a fault. These were traits that I suppose I tried to hone in New York for survival. But introverts don’t make very good wagamama-ists in New York. And when I got to Tokyo, wagamama behavior looks so gaudy and theatrical that I gradually learned to save it for only my nearest and dearest.
A few months after discovering “wagamama” I met this man at Akahigedo who was giving me shiatsu. Bells went off in my head. I rolled the name around on my tongue.Wakabayashi. The name sounded so familiar.
The Wagamama Bride is a memoir in progress. Thanks for reading thus far. Feel free to leave a comment and subscribe for updates. Thanks for becoming part of my extended Wagamama family!