In Japanese, okazu is a side dish. The main point of having the okazu is to use it to wash down the shushoku (the main meal). The shushoku is usually gohan (steamed rice), but in general can be any dish with a high carbohydrate content.

Okazu is usually not a high-carbohydrate dish, like noodles - udon, soba, ramen, somen - or okonomiyaki. Generally, there should be just one kind of high-carbohydrate dish on the table. And I'm talking about eating at home here. Not in a ramen stand, where it's not uncommon to have a side order of rice to go with your oomori negi chaashuu. The Japanese will look at you funny if you try to eat both rice and soba at the same meal, for example. But then again these people put squid on their pizzas and natto on their toast.

A good shufu (housewife) will put okazu from several different food groups on the table for her family. For example, a decent meal may be the gohan with miso shiru with tofu and wakame in it, some tsukemono, and a yaki zakana (broiled fish). Western dishes, like steak (yes, the Japanese eat steak with rice!), salad, omlettes, and fried eggs can also be used as okazu.

Anyway, that's the mainstream meaning of 'okazu.' There's another use for the word 'okazu' which, understandably, isn't used too often. I will explain this alternate meaning below. The squeamish (and those about to eat some Japanese food) may want to stop reading now.

The word 'okazu' is also used as a euphemism for 'masturbation aid'.

To spell out the analogy, the shushoku in this case is, well, all that manual manipulation necessary to get what you really came to the dinner table for. And the okazu is what you use to keep your, um, taste buds, wet.

Usually, 'okazu' doesn't refer to physical aids, like bathtub faucets or dear old fluffy, but mental aids, like the picture of a fellow noder's hot ass or the memory of that time you walked in on your roommate and his girlfriend on the living room couch.

It's just something to keep in mind the next time you get Japanese and have cucumber for your okazu.

Bon appetit.

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