Google+ Sandra's Stories: A guaranteed way to choke on your sushi

Monday, 11 March 2013

A guaranteed way to choke on your sushi

My ideal lunch break is to get out of the office and enjoy some fresh air and exercise. It sounds simple enough, until you consider the social rules involved…

The first problem I encountered in chasing my dream was when to eat. I wanted to stroll outside during my lunch break, then eat at my desk afterwards whilst working. Unfortunately eating at the desks is not allowed during working hours. Even though these days I’m a rule breaking deviant, I didn't want to advertise this fact to my colleagues. So I decided that I’d better eat during my lunch break, or starve.

This meant that if I wanted to fit in both walking and eating then I would have to do them at the same time. I've never actually been very good at this – it takes me hours to chew my food and I tend to choke unless I’m sitting down. However I was determined that with practice I could learn. Walking whilst eating is considered to be very bad manners in Japan, however I decided it was a lesser crime than eating at my desk, so I would do it anyway.

My lunch hour is strictly from 12pm to 1pm, and unfortunately this is also the lunch hour assigned to every other office worker in Tokyo. Some companies even ring a bell. Between those times the footpaths explode with salarymen and there is no privacy for someone trying to take a sneaky bite of sushi. The first time I tried to eat and walk during my lunch hour, I felt too embarrassed to do it in front of such a big crowd so I tried to get away into a quieter street before I started eating.

In tall office towers it can take up to 15 minutes to get outside because the lifts are so crowded at 12pm.

After walking for a while, finally I stopped at a pedestrian crossing on a quiet street. While I waited for the lights to change, I began to eat. There were no pedestrians around but I could see the people in the cars closest to me were staring and looking shocked at my terrible manners. I turned away so that I wouldn't have to look at the cars and tried not to feel embarrassed.

Then suddenly I heard a lot of beeping. I turned back to see what was happening. The traffic lights had changed but the cars at the front of the queue weren't moving. My eating whilst standing had enthralled the nearby cars so much that they hadn't noticed the change of lights and were blocking up the traffic. As the cars in the line finally moved forward into the intersection, the driver of each car turned their head to see what the hold up was – and saw me choking on my sushi. That was the last time I ate whilst walking in Japan.

What do you think about eating whilst walking? Have you ever stopped traffic? Do you do something special during lunch time? Feel free to leave your comments!


  1. I think you should sit whilst eating - don't rush yourself and give yourself indigestion. Does your work have a lunch room? Can you eat in there then go for your walk? It is a good idea to go for a walk though. I like to eat my lunch at my desk then spend 1 hour outside of the office.

  2. Thanks for your suggestion furless cat! I can eat at my desk or in a lunch room between 12 and 1 and then walk afterwards but it takes me 45 mins to eat my lunch so then I can only fit in a short walk. That's what I've been doing since the incident though! A short walk is better than no walk!

  3. Haha, so true Sandra, eating while walking is hard work! I tried to eat a chicken drum stick once, had to cover it mostly with paper and pretending just eating something small, while hoping I won't bump into anyone. It got too difficult to clean the bone, and had to give up most of the leg.

    Sushi, kebab, subway, baguette, none of these work. The only thing that works is prob pastry that hasn't got bits and pieces falling out.

    I think if I have thicker skin, I will be able to eat much more variety while walking =P

  4. I admire your bravery for trying the chicken bone Xristy! I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggles with this!