(Originally posted December 2011)
I wrote earlier of some unexpected side effects of correcting a deficiency, and here’s a new one: you learn a lot about Japanese culture. After I started researching iodine deficiency and decided to experiment with that, I was visited with cravings for sushi and Japanese movies.

What with their seafood-laden diet, the Japanese ingest about 50 times more iodine than we do every day. They also have a surprisingly low incidence of a few ailments associated with modern lifestyles — breast cancer, for one — which got Western researchers thinking about what big doses of it might do.

As to why the sushi craving appeared…maybe my body, after years of deprivation, had forgotten it ever needed iodine, and when reminded of it with a flood of potassium iodide went gung-ho on the bio-signals. Or maybe iodine needs some other nutrient to work ideally and that something is in sushi. I do not know.

FYI, a sushi addiction isn’t easy when 1) you are trying to be fiscally responsible and 2) you’re gluten-free. All I can find to eat at my local supermarket-sushi purveyor is the salmon-and-avocado roll. Raw tuna is too sweet to my taste, and anything with “crab” is actually cod or some other white fish mixed with wheat paste.

I also discovered that something in raw fish blocks the absorption of thiamin (vitamin B1). Silk worms do, too, so watch out for that.

As for the filmic experience, I had to order 16 Japanese-language movies from Netflix before I got that out of my system. I focused on movies made from the 1930s to the 1960s, back when the differences in our cultures were more pronounced.

Here’s what I learned from this immersion:

– traditional Japanese houses are miserable in the winter
– it’s not fun to be a prostitute in Japan
– it wasn’t fun to be a woman in medieval Japan
– in fact being a woman in Japan before the 1960s kinda sucked in general
– kimonos convey much about the wearer’s socioeconomic status and income. Made me understand more why we’ve sacrificed beauty in our clothes for the jeans-and-a-tee uniform.
– the Japanese spent a lot of time on food preparation, which was folded into their everyday customs. Not like here, except maybe on July 4 when we worship the barbecue.
– actors in Akira Kurosawa movies were not taught how to steer a horse in a humane fashion
– Mr. Kurosawa was insane with the hundreds-of-extras crowd shots
– the knee and ankle joints of the native Japanese are made out of the same stuff Gumby is made of. Otherwise they’d never be able to sit on the floor like that for a whole meal, never mind their entire lives.

Here’s what I watched:

Onibaba, 1964
An Autumn Afternoon, 1962 (my favorite)
A Story of Floating Weeds, 1934
Zero Focus, 1941
Osaka Elegy, 1936
Ikiru, 1952
Sisters of the Gion, 1936
Women of the Night, 1948
Kagemusha, 1980
The Hidden Fortress, 1958
Tokyo Story, 1953
Seven Samurai, 1954
Ugetsu, 1953
Sansho the Bailiff, 1954
Afraid to Die, 1960
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, 1960
Street of Shame, 1956
Red Angel, 1966
The Bad Sleep Well, 1960

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