I chose the term fugu for the fish I ate back on November 6th since in English, there seems to be a plethora of words to describe it: blowfish, puffer, globefish, swimming ball of poisonous death. Well, I did something that night that I had never done in 17 years of residency in Japan: head on out for a full-course fugu meal.
My host was a fellow who used to live in Toronto for a time before moving back to Tokyo. He is a professional acupuncturist and masseur, and he picked me up in front of Studio ALTA across from JR Shinjuku Station at 7 that night. Apparently, some of his clients have included one major kabuki actor, an actress, and Bjork!
On the way over to the fugu restaurant, his professional curiosity got the better of him after seeing my posture while walking and he started prodding my shoulders and back with the speed of multiple phaser bolts. Then, he immediately declared to me that I would have to report to his clinic the next evening for a full round of massage. Well, if he insisted...
Anyways, we got to the restaurant specializing in fugu. My friend absolutely adores fugu. For a guy who handles needles all the time, I can honestly say that I wasn't surprised to hear that he loved eating a fish that was covered in them. We started off with a very warm cup of hirezake which is in that photo at the very top. Basically, it is sake poured into the cup with a hunk of fugu fin inside. It was quite mellow...and mellowing; the fin added a certain amount of umami to the proceedings.
The courses came out over the course of a couple of hours and included sashimi, ohitashi, karaage, grilled and nabe. To be honest, plowing through all those made me forget that the source of all those courses was one of the most poisonous creatures on the planet. But the fact was that I didn't get any sort of electric buzzing at my fingertips let alone suddenly collapse in final paroxysms of pain. Basically, I had an expensive fish dinner.
It was good to be sure but ultimately fugu wasn't anything awesome for me although I am glad that I was finally able to partake in it once.
Following the dinner, my friend took me out to Hanazono Shrine nearby in Shinjuku since there was a toriichi festival being held there. The festival was being held for folks to pray for success in business but it was all about fun and revelry for the masses that showed up around the shrine. Plenty of yatai serving food as well but I was just too filled up with fugu at that point.
Nope, I realize that it's November but heading out to the crowds and celebration at the shrine, I couldn't help but remember the song "Natsu Matsuri"（夏祭り）by Jitterin' Jinn from way back.