This bucket list item was completed on 4th February 2019 in Tokyo Japan.
For the last two years my best mate, Jesse, has made a pilgrimage to Japan to go skiing for his birthday. He wanted me to come both times but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it. Well, this time it was for his 30th birthday so he told me I was obligated to come. As soon as I booked my flights I knew that I would be able to cross a couple items off my list.
Jesse, Emma, Toby and Maria had already flown to Japan a week before me so when I arrived we coordinated a meet up in Tokyo. I met Toby and Maria there, as well as Maria’s sister, Claire, who came over from South Korea. I was so busy leading up to the trip that I did not have any time to research things to do in Tokyo.
Luckily Claire is the most organised person I have ever met and she had a three day itinerary of awesome stuff for us to do in Tokyo. The highlights for me were the famous Shibuya crossing, eating conveyor belt sushi and go karting through the streets of Tokyo.
The converter belt sushi restaurant was amazing. You are allowed to grab any plate you want and then each plate has a certain value. When you are done, the server comes over and tallies up the cost of your meal based on your stack of plates.
Although Claire had a solid itinerary for us, my only request was that we made it to the fugu restaurant. Despite none of them wanting to try it, they agreed that we could go to the restaurant to let me try it… and rush me to the hospital if things didn’t go well. We arrived at the Torafugutei in Shinjuku and found the blowfish swimming around in a tank next to the front desk.
I was so excited to try it and the three of them were nervous for me. Since they were not interested in trying the fugu, they each ordered a drink, while I placed an order of deadly fish. Little did we know that one of the restaurants policies was that there was a table cover charge for each person of ¥500, which included a small fugu appetiser. After the drinks arrived, we were each given a small bowl of diced fugu skin with green onions, in soya sauce.
It began to look like we were all going to eat fugu after all. I dug in right away! The skin was chewy and mostly took on the flavour of the onions and soya sauce. It had a texture similar to squid. After I tried it and didn’t begin to suffer full body paralysis, Toby was the next to try his fugu. Then Claire tried it, and finally, Maria, although she was a bit reluctant to eat any more.
Before my fugu sashimi arrived, Maria discovered that there is a specific way to eat it. The fugu comes with green onions, sprouts, a red paste, a small lime slice and a specific sauce for the fugu. The process involves squirting the lime juice over the sashimi to start. Then the sprouts and green onions are laid on the piece of sashimi, along with some some paste on top. Then the piece of sashimi is rolled up like a mini taco. Once rolled up, the fugu is dipped in the sauce before being consumed.
I wanted the full experience so I follow the procedure. Everyone cringed as I brought the first piece to my mouth. Similar to the skin, the meat did not have much flavour at all. The flavour came from the other ingredients. However, it did not have the same texture as the skin, it was silky and smooth. I enjoyed the sashimi much better than the skin.
The restaurant serves all different parts of the fish, including the heart, intestines and all of the other organs except for the liver. Something I did not know before the experience was that the fish does not possess the neurotoxins naturally, they accumulate in their bodies from bacteria that they come into contact with throughout their lives.
Apparently the liver is the tastiest part of the fish but it is also where the highest concentration of the toxins accumulates. Due to this, sale of fugu liver has been banned from restaurants for several decades. I think we were pretty safe eating the sashimi.
The order followed the same as before with Toby trying the sashimi after me and then Claire. Maria was still reluctant to eat more of the fugu but with our combined peer pressure she caved and decided to try the sashimi. The suspense was even greater for her and when she finally did it we were all so happy.
Even though the fugu does not have much flavour, I think it is safe to say that it’s the experience of eating the fish that you’re really paying for. Such a great experience to share with friends. The other three all agreed that they were so happy that they actually tried fugu and lived to tell the tale.
Have you eaten blowfish before? Let me know in the comments below.
Make sure to check back for my next post, which will discuss the lesson learned by completing this item. Want to be notified when new blog posts are uploaded? Subscribe below.
Dave has been on a mission, since 2010, to cross off the 100 items on his bucket list. The stories of his adventures are complimented by life lessons learned along the way and his travel tips are unique to his experiences.