Sushi in Japan…aka…The Night I Almost Hurled on my Host

Before we went to Japan, Husband contacted one of his business associates (actually a client) and asked if he would be free for dinner one night in Tokyo. The gentleman said yes–that he and his girlfriend would be happy to meet us for a meal. I suggested sushi and the arrangements were made.

 They met us at our hotel. Before we headed out, we had a drink in one of the hotel bars…2 beers (ours) and 2 coffees (theirs) amounted to just over $63–just to give you an idea of the cost of food and drink in this very expensive city. During drinks, our friend mentioned that his boss had wanted to join us, but couldn’t…he did, however, want to pick up the tab and had made reservations at a sushi bar in the famous Tokyo fish market. This market is known for having the world’s freshest–and best sushi. I was soooooo excited.

The restaurant was small–sushi was the only thing offered and we had seats reserved at the counter.

Behind a glass separating us from the chef was an array of fresh fish and shell fish. Hmmmmm…this was going to be interesting.

The chef dipped his fingers into a bowl of vinegar and reached into the rice cooker. He pulled out a small ball of rice and rolled it in his hand…he dabbed a bit of wasabi on top and added a piece of salmon.

OK…I can handle this.  Next came the tuna.

Yummm. Hey…look at me…I’m eating real sushi in Japan. Yep…I’m a bona fide foodie…nothing I can’t handle. 

Next was squid. Imagine taking the eraser off a pencil. Now roll the eraser out thin with a rolling pin. Plop that on a rice ball and eat. That’s what squid tastes like. Also, keep in mind that proper etiquette dictates eating all these pieces in one bite. It’s not easy. But I got it down. Obviously, I wasn’t going to love every piece.

Little did I know, it was only going downhill from there.

 This is half beak. I knew there was no way I was even trying this one…not even if I drowned it in soy sauce. I just played with it and pretended like I was getting full. (Oh, and can I mention here that to wash all this down we had sake. Sake tastes like boiled sock water.)

I’m starting to realize I’m in serious trouble here. As husband says, I had definitely bitten off more than I could chew.

Then I spied this behind the counter:

Clams. Fortunately, the woman beside me could see that I was getting in trouble…I told her that there was no way I could eat the clams. Truth be told (and all you cosmopolitan types out there can laugh), this is what I was expecting:

Unfortunately, for my next piece, this is what I got:

That there is your basic raw sea urchin. Just a short while before, it looked like this:

I had to get it down, no matter what. It was our host’s favorite. If I didn’t eat it, I would be insulting him. I grabbed it with my chopsticks and dipped it in the soy sauce. Then, trying to remember that this is one of the world’s greatest delicacies, I put the whole thing in my mouth.

It was too big to swallow whole and too mushy to chew. I literally gagged (albeit in a quite, ladylike fashion). They were all staring at me. My eyes were watering and my throat was rebelling…every cell was telling me spit it out. But, this being Japan, there were no napkins. I had no choice. Our host’s girlfriend didn’t think I would make it…and neither did I. But finally it was gone, washed down with some boiled sock water.

That was all for me. The others had a raw crab leg and some salmon roe.

Then we all had a nice bowl of grass soup and called it a night.


Filed under Food/Cooking, Travel

23 responses to “Sushi in Japan…aka…The Night I Almost Hurled on my Host

  1. you are, indeed, a brave little toaster, and a kind woman. the minute that clam showed up? i’d have found a reason to make/receive an urgent phone call… from Poseidon, telling me to KNOCK IT OFF!

    nothing wrong with Mrs. Pauls. Nothing…

  2. what was the beak? you never get to complain about english food again 🙂

    so starting your writing your food and travel memoir

  3. Kimmer

    No way in HELL that I coulda (or woulda) eaten that fuzzy thing!! Kudos to you… No doubt I would’ve taken my chances on hurting someone’s feelings! 🙂

  4. Char Roetzel

    OH, I can just visualize the whole scenerio. Thank you for sharing. You make me laugh. I have turned Brittney on to your Blog, and I am sure she will enjoy it as much as I do. My best to “tree boy”


  5. Margie

    Didn’t George H.W. Bush actually hurl on his host in Japan at some important dinner? That settles it, I’m never going to Japan. You throw up there.

  6. I, too, thought I liked sushi until I read this and realised that all I’ve ever eaten is a westernised, toned-down version. Not that I have immediate plans for going to Japan, but thanks for the warning!

  7. Julie Fisher

    “Oh, a thousand pardons,” she said glancing at her watch, “I had almost forgotten my appointment at the onsen.” She yanked the girlfriend up from the table, and pulling her toward the door, added, ” You must come with me and be my partner. The last time I went to the onsen, the back of my neck was filthy.” The others at the table understood completely.

  8. Dasiy–I was really disappointed in myself. I thought I could do it.
    Sal–half beak is a breed of fish. Yes, I could’ve used a cheese and pickle sandwich about then.
    Kimmer–Never again.
    Char–Thanks! I’ll tell him you said hello and appreciate you sharing with Brittney.
    Margie–Yes…I handled my food better than the president…I guess that’s saying something.
    PG–I live in a land-locked state! What was I thinking??
    Julie–Why didn’t I think of that? Next time you’re going with me!

  9. Wow, you are too brave. I threw up in my mouth a little bit while reading this.

  10. SEA URCHIN …. NO!!!!

    My first time having sushi with a boy who was trying to impress (he was gay; he wasn’t trying to impress me for any other reason than to seem adult and sophisticated); he ordered sea urchin and plum wine.

    We both almost gagged … not so very adult … or maybe so!

    Still, you can’t beat a good slab of tuna or unagi!

  11. Mother

    dont ever complain again when you are served sweetbreads. – (the thymus gland of a calf)

  12. Sarah–I know…it’s disgusting.
    Ellie–I’m fine with the tuna, but evidently my palate is more provencial than I’d like to admit.
    Mother–You cannot tell a child that they are having sweetbreads for dinner and then serve thymus. Any child on earth would hear “sweetbread” and interpret that as “cinnamon roll.” My sister will back me up on this.

  13. Just let me know, I’ll be happy to substitute for you next time around. No octopus, roe or eel? You missed some of the good stuff.

  14. Nancy

    It’s when the squid comes with the suckers still on it that I gag. And that happens sometimes here in the states, too.

  15. Brave soul. You managed to strike just the right balance between being a gracious guest and mindful of your digestive health. Would not have been very gracious to pull a George H.W. Bush and throw up on the shoes of your host.

  16. Dave–there was some roe…I have just chosen to block it from my memory. If they’d call it caviar, I’d like it a lot better.
    Nancy–the only way I like suckers is on a stick, preferably wrapped in chocolate.
    Chris–trust me, it was close…I felt a little queasy for hours.

  17. You are a trooper. I love sushi, but some of what you contended with looked beyond my comfort zone, too!

  18. Karen

    You are one brave epicure!

  19. Little Sister

    Yes Mother, that’s the truth. You tried several times to make us think we were having sweet rolls for dinner. Shame on you!! I can’t even look at those things in the store becuase of the trauma it caused me as a child.

  20. Major kudos to you for getting that down. I just couldn’t have done it. I don’t know what I’d have done, but that would not have been going anywhere near my mouth.

    I don’t really “get” the notion of sushi. We don’t need to eat raw fish. We have fire, ovens, even microwaves – we can cook it!

    Sake is pretty hideous, but I really like the plum wine. Its sweeter and less sock-y.

  21. I do love sushi, but I might have hedged when faced with the clam…

  22. I would have expected the “Americanized” sushi platter, as well. I love sushi. But some of those pieces looked truly disgusting. I give you a lot of credit for getting them down. I don’t think I would fare well in a foreign country where not eating something would be offensive to the host. That being said, I would love to visit Japan anyway. Because from what I’ve heard and seen in pictures, it is a truly beautiful country.

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