Tasting Death: eating fugu in Japan

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I’m a bit of a foodie (though honestly I dislike that word… can we come up with something better?) and I live for new experiences, so of course I had to try eating fugu, the poisonous pufferfish that is a delicacy in Japan. After doing a bit of research it turned out that it’s not really as dangerous as I had previously thought, since the preparation of the fish is so highly regulated in Japan and fatalities are quite rare. I was also a bit misled when I thought it was illegal back home in the United States, since apparently a couple restaurants in New York serve it. So that was a bit of a let down, but the idea of taking (however slight) a risk and trying some great sushi was still appealing when two of my new friends invited me to join them.

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Since there were three of us, we decided to share one set/full meal order so we could each just have a taste. It actually ended up being much more food than we were expecting. There were several small side dishes: some sort of fritter that may have been a fried oyster, a single snail, and something headcheese-like. Then there was also some kind of broth and salad on the side, and then of course the beautifully arranged platter of paper-thin slices of fugu sashimi. Plus soy dipping sauces and garnished with the world’s tiniest lime. I was worried about it being an expensive meal, but all this only cost us ¥3000, a downright bargain when split three ways.

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Sorry to disappoint you all, but despite our lunch conversation laced with dark humor (“do you think my travel insurance covers this?”), none of us died. The sashimi was delicious, but tasted pretty much like any other firm, mild-flavored fish. We did notice a little tingling of our lips and all felt a little euphoric, but whether that was purely psychosomatic or was an adrenaline high is anyone’s guess. We all enjoyed our meal and lived to travel another day… starting immediately with a wander around the temple marketplace, where I ended up buying some beautiful, lightweight dressmaker’s shears from a knife maker to ship home.

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