American-born Japanese celebrity Pakkun’s comparison doesn’t go over well, but one commenter has a better food analogy.

With public violence and private gun ownership both extremely rare in Japan, the country is consistently shocked by high-profile mass shootings in the U.S. Each incident receives widespread coverage in the Japanese media, including this week’s shooting at YouTube’s headquarters in California.

In the wake of the April 3 attack, in which shooter Nasim Najafi Aghdam injured three people before killing herself, Japanese online news channel AbemaNews discussed the startling string of gun violence in America. Among those on the panel were American-born, Harvard-educated Patrick Harlan, better known by his stage name Pakkun, who’s made a name for himself in the Japanese television world as a comedian, news commentator, cultural ambassador, and all-around media personality thanks to his affable, relaxed demeanor and fluent Japanese.

▼ Patrick Harlan, a.k.a Pakkun

Gun ownership has never been a constitutional right in Japan, and so a common response to news of mass shootings in the U.S. is to ask why the American government doesn’t simply take all guns out of the hands of civilian owners (which would in some ways parallel the “sword hunts” of Japanese history, when the peasant population was forcibly disarmed following the most intense period of civil war in the late 1500s). Harlan, who grew up in Colorado before moving to Boston after graduating high school, attempted to give the rest of the panel a sense of the issue’s complexity by way of analogy, saying (in Japanese):

“Regulations have been tightened on the east and west coasts of America…but in the interior states…But to people living in the interior states, guns are closely related to their personal identities. If guns are criticized, they feel as though they themselves are being denounced. To them, it’s like telling a Japanese person not to drink miso soup.”

Harlan went on to say that in his parents’ home there were more than 20 guns which were used for hunting.

It’s pretty clear that in drawing a comparison to miso soup, Harlan is trying to give a sense of just how ingrained gun ownership is in certain rural American communities. Many Japanese people see miso soup as a symbol of Japan’s traditions and values, drinking it every day and considering it something that deeply enriches their lives. Harlan asserts that in the minds of certain Americans, guns account for a similarly integral part of their lifestyle, and so asking them to give that up is not something they’re likely to easily acquiesce to.

Online commenters in Japan, though, weren’t entirely convinced that Harlan’s analogy was entirely accurate, with reactions including:

“But dude, you can’t kill someone with a bowl of miso soup.”
“So do they squeeze off a few rounds every day?”
“I’ve got no problem going without miso soup. Now if someone told me I couldn’t use soy sauce…”
“Wouldn’t it be more like asking the samurai to give up their swords, like they had to do in the Meiji Restoration?”
“I think it’d be more like telling people not to jerk off.”
“Pakkun’s analogy is waaay off-target.”

Perhaps the biggest logical disconnect is because while gun ownership is something many Americans feel strongly about, it’s also a starkly divisive issue. Meanwhile, Japanese people’s feelings about miso soup generally tend to be either “I love it,” or “Yeah, it’s all right, I guess.”

▼ Miso soup: Loved by many, hated by just about none

A better food-based comparison was suggested by another commenter: mochi, particularly the super-stretchy style that’s eaten at New Year’s in Japan because it’s considered to represent longevity. The New Year’s mochi tradition goes back centuries, and many Japanese people couldn’t imagine celebrating the New Year without it. Every year, though, a number of people choke on it and die, providing food for thought about whether or not the established custom is something worth continuing.

Source: Abema Times via Itai News, Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he can’t really see the point in risking your life to eat mochi when you could eat soba noodles at New Year’s instead.