Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fugu & Sakura

Yesterday we walked around and went to various shrines and temples in the greater Tokyo area.

First stop was Ueno Park, where cherry blossoms (sakura) are almost in full bloom. You can tell that in about 2 or 3 days, these blossoms are going to go bat crazy and explode with an array of pinks and whites that make the Washington DC Tidal Basin seem like the kid brother who wants to play on the basketball team.

Because of the Sakura festival underway, oodles of foodstalls and vendors come out to ply their wares and sell goods. 99% are legit, some are your standard scam artists that we had a fun time calling out at one point. This is one vendor that didn't get a sale from us:

At the Kaminarimon Shrine with giant chochin, Asakusa is one of the more traditional areas of Tokyo to visit, and it's throngs of tourists makes it easy to see that it is as popular as it is busy. And why not? These shrines were one of the first places I visited in Tokyo, and I routinely come back here to bring people new to the city. It is literally chock full of shops, chotchkie stores and kitsch, but you can still find a nugget of gold nestled away in one of the hundreds of shops selling Japan keychains, replica swords, mochi, Godzilla figurines and Ninja facemasks.

By the senso-ji shrine, Schactler tried again, for the second year in a row, to get a good fortune. This is where you place your luck in the hands of an obscure metal box that you spin until a thin piece of wood akin to a chopstick comes out. On it, you read a number and pull a piece of paper out of a similarly numbered drawer. This, then, is your fortune. As we all learned, there are several layers of fortune: Supreme Good Luck, Good Luck, Moderate Luck, Luck, and Bad Luck. Schactler tried twice, and both times ended up with Bad Luck fortunes.

Given that our next stop was to eaf Fugu (blowfish), we thought it wise to make sure the waitress was aware of this, and to ask the chef to be extra special careful with the cuts made on his blowfish.

So off we went, to Akasaka (not Asukasa.. Akasaka) to eat up on our fugu meal. Tucked away in an obscure side alley, we found our store- it's sort of hard to miss if you are searching for it, given that massive blowfish replica on top of the store and a hundred odd fugu swimming around aimlessly in a tank wondering what happened to Bob and Joe, who were just there with them until a minute ago.

So while the sashimi comes out and is the version that is considered the most likely to inflict harm on a person eating it, there was one dish - a shabu shabu version that hit our table and was so fresh that chunks of meat were actually still twitching from where the poor fish was wriggling up until about 5 minutes earlier. That fresh.. crazy.

While everyone got out of there in one piece, one guy said that he felt his lips turn numb, and two eaters lips literally and honestly turned blue. I wish I were kidding about this, but it's the truth. Crazy stuff, but still quite an experience to remember.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Schactler has gotten one of those bad luck papers spinning along at 40mph in his Japanese truck... in a 35mph zone:)