Sunday, May 30, 2010

Japanese Food: not always as tasty as it looks

I went to Fashimi Inari yesterday, which is... Well, it has over 10,000 tori gates that are orange and black, so it looks very cool as you walk through them. The fox-god of the mountain has become a god of business. Many companies have donated these tori gates, so there are more each year.

The walk up the mountain was nice, but I was looking for places to eat the whole time and none of the shops caught my eye. I ended up eating at the bottom near the entrance after coming back down. Big mistake. >.>

I came across a shop with some fried and grilled foods. Like many restaurants in Japan, they had plastic representations of food at the entrance. I asked, in Japanese, if they had an English menu. They explained that the plastic representations were essentially their menu. So I got some banana flavored shaved ice, and what LOOKED like yakitori. In the example, it was just skewered meat. When it arrived at the table, it was 5 pieces of meat which I had to eat with a nearby toothpick. There were four larger pieces, and a smaller piece, which I thought might be a heart, because I'd eaten heart-yakitori the day before. Upon eating one of the bigger pieces, I noticed that it was very crunchy. That's normally a good thing, but I soon realized that the crunchiness wasn't coming from the outside. It was on the inside. This thing was full of bones. I realized I had no idea what I was eating. The flavor was fine, but I was chewing up some kinds of animal, and I had no idea what it was. Bones were busting and popping in my mouth and I decided it was disgusting. Somehow, I managed to eat a second piece. I gagged several times, but kept assuring myself, "just chew and nod." I really, really wanted to spit it out, but I took at least 5 minutes to finish this bite. It was quite the challenge not to vomit, but I did what I had to in order to avoid it and swallow the second piece. (I am pretty proud of swallowing a second bite.) After this, I had my suspition regarding this 5th smaller piece. I prodded it several times with my toothpick to confirm my suspitions that it was a skull, not a heart. It was the head of something. I could not finish this meal. I knew how to ask in Japanese what it was I had just eaten but I didn't want to be rude. I politely paid and left, despite my curiosity. After walking for another minute or so, I saw another shop which had a similar dish, and they had the names in English. It was BBQ quail.

I love meat. I enjoy eating off the bone. But these tiny, popping, crunchy bones were the grossest thing I have eaten. I'm sure many people enjoy it, but it was not for me. Oishikunaideshita. It was not tasty.

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