The last few days of our trip are going to be a bit brutal, but that’s okay because I’ve now experienced by culinary trifecta of Japan: zushi, rāmen and UNAGI. Yes, we’ve finally had eel. And not just eel meat, but eel guts too.
Of course, it took my best Zen Buddhism to come to try just a bit if the guts. I had a memorable experience in India when I ate nearly every part of a chicken, and given how out if whack my body is, I was a bit reserved about the guts. [In India, it would have been rude and insulting to my hosts to pick through the meal they graciously offered me; in the very rural parts of India where I was staying, eating meat is a rarity and not taken for granted. So I obliged and ate the chicken heart, liver and guts… and then subsequently threw up next to a cow a few hours later… Too much information? Oops!]
The guts were not terrible. I would probably eat them again. If you think about it, eating beef or any other meat is really just as strange; meat is muscle after all and we’ve been conditioned to think that meat is normal to eat compared to guts. And also, the word guts just has a bad connotation.
I did highly enjoy the eel meat. It was grilled after being marinated in a special sauce and was very light. You could be tricked into thinking it was a light, white fish like tilapia or cod. I’ll definitely be eating unagi again, whenever possible.
As we’re wrapping up our trip, we’ve been trying to explore as much of the country as possible — and as much of the food. But between our broken legs (damn you Fujisan and your steep decline), and the fact that Nikko is kind of dead at night, we’ve instead returned to some of our favorites that we have found over the course of the last few weeks. In Nikko, that meant both some meal sets to get a bit of everything, as well as wagashi and some chicken.
We left Nikko after a nice, but a little uneventful night, and had a half day in Tokyo before we departed Japan at 12:05am. Once we stored our luggage in a locker and set out once more into the crowded streets (literally: we were in Shibuya again for most of the day, where nearly a million people or more cross the intersection per day!). And what did we set out to find, but another conveyor belt sushi place. This one came with a twist, and we had a ball. Instead of the plates of sushi just revolving around the restaurant, each seat had a screen that you would order from, and then minutes later the sushi would come zooming out to you on one of the three levels of conveyor belt before stopping right at your place. It was so bizarre! We were closer to the kitchen, so we had the pleasure of seeing what the rest of the restaurant was eating as it zoomed by us, as well as seeing the empty plates make their way back. It was probably the lowest quality sushi (and food) we had during our whole trip — but it was still just like your average American attempt and the setting was a riot. We definitely had a memorable send-off from Tokyo.
So that is it for Japan. The weeks we were here went by way too quickly, and we had so much fun trying to navigate the busy streets, the language barrier and the oddities that we came across every single day. We’ll miss hearing ‘irasshaimase’ every time we enter a store, the cleanliness and politeness of the people, and of course the food. We were lucky that we didn’t have many encounters where it was just impossible to eat what we were being served, and the quality and pride that was put into everything (not just the food) was astounding. Hopefully we will be back in Japan at some point in the future, but for now: sayonara Japan ! Arigato gozaimasu ! どうもありがとうございます!