Made (Better) in Japan

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Tom Downey, reporting in the Wall Street Journal Magazine on Japanese artisans replicating, then often obsessively improving on, everyone else's fashion and cuisine:

Such obsessive—some might say insane—pursuit of perfection, in coffee and cuisine, clothes and comforts, isn't unusual in Japan: In a tiny tapas place in Kyoto, while drinking perfectly poured cañas—small draft beers—and eating deep-fried croquetas de jamón, I reach for a napkin, which turns out to be just a thin sheet of waxy paper that doesn't so much absorb oil as push it toward another, cleaner, part of my hand.

"I think these are Spanish napkins," Gonzalo, my Bilbao-born companion, says in disbelief. It's almost too ridiculous to think that anyone would import such a shoddy implement from halfway around the world. But the owner of this restaurant tracked down these servietas, priced them out, shipped them in, and stacked them up in custom metal dispensers, all because, in one frustrating wipe, they re-create the experience of consuming tapas in a packed barroom in Spain. Whether or not the diners appreciate this is beside the point.