When We Were Young: The Japanese Ice Cream Story

I recently had a birthday (one of many–apparently it happens once a year), and I’ve been somewhat reflective on the idea of getting older. I’m 33, so I’m not ancient, but looking back, there are so many things I could do when I was young that are much more difficult now:

  • When I was really little, if I fell down, it was nothing. I was so close to the ground anyway that it didn’t matter.
  • When I was in high school, I played soccer 6 days a week. That’s almost every day! Now if I play soccer, I need to let my body rest for a few days before playing again.
  • When I was in college, getting less sleep wasn’t a problem at all. I still liked getting my 8 hours, of course, but I just didn’t need it.
  • When I was in my early 20s, I could drink copious amounts of alcohol and be perfectly fine the next day. I wasn’t ever a big drinker, but at least the option was there. Now if I have two beers, dude, I’m good.
  • When I was in my late 20s, I had a period of what I’ll call “late-onset virility.” It was like hitting puberty for a second time when I actually knew some things about women. Now I barely ever even think about sex.
For your reference, this is what THREE scoops of Haagen Dazs looks like.

For your reference, this is what THREE scoops of Haagen Dazs looks like.

That brings me to the biggie that I’m sure many of us have experienced: metabolism. I spent my college years and my early 20s trying to eat enough food and lift enough weights that I could weigh 150 pounds, but I could hardly even cross the 145 threshold. Now I take off my socks when I stand on my scale so I can dip down under 160.

Many of us have experienced those fruitful younger days when your body is impervious to the amount of fried chicken you put into it, and I have a fun example from the year I spent abroad in Kyoto.

There was a Haagen Dazs ice cream shop in the heart of Kyoto about 5 minutes from my school. Every Thursday they had a special: 7 scoops of ice cream for $5. You might say to yourself: “7 scoops?! Why would anyone need 7 scoops of ice cream, especially tiny Japanese people?”

I suspect that the idea was that you sit down with a group of friends and pick away at the bowl, everyone getting a few delicious spoonfuls of each flavor. I don’t think they anticipated us brutish Americans combining our love of discounts with our love of ice cream by eating 7 scoops per person.

So every Thursday I’d go to Haagen Dazs with my American friends Jake and Ken, and we would each eat 7 scoops of ice cream. It never impacted our waistlines.

It gets worse. And better.

For fall break, Jake, Ken, and I decided we would bike around largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa, which just happened to be near Kyoto. We literally found it on a map and said, “Hey, maybe we should bike around that.”

The trip looked like it would take about four days. We left on a Tuesday, reached the northern point of the lake on Wednesday, and on Thursday afternoon we found ourselves coasting back into Kyoto a day early. It was kind of anticlimactic. Since we had nothing to do, we decided to get some ice cream.

So we went to Haagen Dazs and ordered 7 scoops each. It was Thursday, after all, and it was only $5. But as we each finished our bowls, something happened. I can’t remember who said it, but one of us said, “You know…I’m still hungry.”

The other two people agreed. “Are you guys thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Should we…I mean, it’s only $5.”

We each proceeded to eat 7 more scoops of ice cream.

Just in case your math is rusty, let me help: I ate 14 scoops of ice cream in one sitting. And it was not a problem.

I was 20. Can you imagine doing this today? I don’t think I could eat 14 scoops of ice cream if I wanted to. And if I somehow pulled it off, I would immediately die. No question about it. It’s scientific.

That’s my story. What’s your “when we were young” story?