noodle etiquette

i went out for japanese with some girlfriends the other night.  it was a lot of fun; good conversation, good company, and pretty good food.  4 out of the 5 of us ordered noodle dishes.  i had a big bowl of tempura udon.  mmmmm.  one of my friends made a comment about how it was hard to eat noodles with chopsticks.  i immediately thought about how it was normal, and expected, to slurp noodles up (loudly, might i add) when you ate them in japan.  i wanted to demonstrate but felt a little silly doing so.  these friends in particular love all things international but let's just face it: NO ONE else was slurping noodles with high volume in that restaurant.
our conversation moved on to other things but in the back of my mind, i was remembering my grade school days in tokyo...japan has some pretty amazing little food and restaurant inventions, i must say.  i'm so glad i got to experience them as a child when it all seemed, "the norm."  and, i'm not just talking sushi here.  if you think japanese food only means sushi, please, go out to a japanese restaurant as soon as you can and order something non-sushi.  not that i don't love sushi - i do, very much so.  i actually love all the trendy, fusion sushi that my mom (a sushi expert) says isn't real sushi. but anyway, there is just a lot more good stuff to enjoy, experience and try in japanese cuisine, outside of maki rolls and nigiri. anyway, back to some of those childhood restaurant memories (and eventually back to noodles)...all i have to say is:  the sweet-potato man and noodle shops(to just name a couple).  amazing.
every so often and always at night, my family would hear the sweet potato man driving his tiny truck around town, singing out a sweet-potato song via loudspeaker and offering steaming, hot sweet potatoes that were sold from the back of his truck.  it was fabulous - the sound, the sight and the sweet potato.  i looked forward to it like a child in the states might look forward to the ice-cream truck.  the sweet potato was different than the kind you'll find at the grocery store here, it's unique taste and the experience of buying it from the man and his little truck was extraordinary.
noodle shops were these tiny rectangular places where there was hardly room for someone the width of a broomstick to pass through.  they were usually nestled in-between two buildings and could be easily mistaken for a small alley but for the steam, the light and the musical slurping sounds emanating from them.  they consisted of a bar-like area with stools on the opposite side and, in the evenings; a long row of mostly business men who would stop in after work to slurp noodles side by side.  and yes, you really could hear the slurping from outside.  i remember going to one of these with my parents once and how exhilirating it was to be in the culture and slurp away, not worrying about the slightest drip or drop of broth that flung away from my noodles as they were hurried into my mouth in freedom and the sheer enjoyment of taste. 
so, at the restaurant with my girlfriends last week,  i couldn't help but wish it would've been normal to eat the japanese noodles, at a japanese restaurant, in indiana, like they do in japan.  i wonder what rules of cultural etiquette win and why?  after experiencing a lot of different cultures and differing ways, i find it can be difficult to remember what goes where when, and how it should all sound and look.  hmmmm.  this is one of the dilemnas of being mixed or having a multi-cultural upbrining, i suppose. 
so, anyone wanna go get noodles with me and brave eating them like they do in japan? :)  cultures and food are wonderful things, aren't they?  what are some cultural food experiences you've enjoyed and come to love???
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