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Can you Eat Natto? 納豆を「食べられる」これは正しい英語表現でしょうか


食べ物の話になると、多くの日本人は、判で押したように納豆を「食べられる」かどうか質問します。しかし、納豆はノーマルな体に大変よい食品で、「食べられる」かどうかの対象ではありません。相手が納豆を「食べる」かどうか質問すべきです。いずれの場合も、納豆は、何度か食べているうちにだんだん好きになる食べ物(acquired taste)なので、納豆に馴染みのない人にいきなり「納豆をたべますか?」または、「(ノーマルな食品でない)納豆を食べられますか?」と聞くのは、お勧めできません。





Only Japanese People Can Eat Natto


First, we would like to start with a grammar point. The title of this chapter, “Only Japanese People Can Eat Natto,” is a grammatical mistake. If it were true, the correct title would be “Only Japanese People Eat Natto.”

Continuing with more grammar, if you meet someone from overseas and want to ask if they eat natto, the correct question would be as follows:


Do you eat natto?


Can would not be used, because it implies that some people can and some people can’t. We don’t talk about food like that, whether it is natto, vegemite, or chitlins.



Chitlins: cooked pork intestines. The proper name is chitterlings.

Vegemite: an Australian spread made from yeast products.


Can is used with some eating questions like the following:


Can you eat 10 hotdogs in 10 minutes?

Can you eat glass?


Both of these questions ask things that are not normal. Therefore, we use the word can.


Returning to the natto question, probably very few Westerners spend more than a week in Japan without being asked if they can eat natto. In English, many people say natto. If that is not understood, natto can always be explained as fermented soy beans.  

Some people eat natto and some do not. Natto is a very healthy food and Westerners interested in good health are probably more likely to eat it. Like many other foods with strong tastes, natto is an acquired taste. Some people acquire it and some do not.

If you would like to ask a Westerner living in Japan a question that they are often asked, and probably tired of hearing, asking them if they eat natto is an excellent question.

Please note the sarcasm in the above sentences.


Sarcasm: Saying something when you don’t mean it.


Is this great interest in natto another part of believing in the uniqueness of Japan?

What is it that makes Japanese believe in uniqueness? Or looking at the other side of the coin, why do Americans believe that everyone who immigrates to America can learn English and how things are done in America?