Japan Part 6: Eating Carpet Cleaner Sushi

First of all, I must preface this entry by commenting on the surprising prevalence of Disney characters here in Japan. Everything in this house, from the picture frames to the toilet paper holders, is Disney-themed. And it’s not just this house – I’ve noticed it all over Japan so far. Not the Disney characters that kids from the 90’s would think of like Simba or Aladdin; I’m talking the real Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie and Donald. My host family gave me gifts, and ironically enough they were a Daisy Duck keychain and a huge bag of food in a Mickey Mouse bag.

I see a trend.

The huge amounts of food didn’t stop with the gifts; our breakfast was just as big. Although I must say that I’m in love with Japanese toast, as it’s all that really thick Texas-toast-type bread (and I adore toast), the breakfast could have stopped there. But no, host mama would have none of that, so I also got 4 pieces of bacon, a salad, scrambled eggs, and some juice.

AKA way more than I could eat, as usual.

My stomach packed full of too much food, I got into the car with Taylor, Urumu, and host mama to ride to a nearby mountain where we’d be attending the memorial service for William Adams. Adams was one of the first people to help establish foreign trade in Japan, and he died in Hirado before he was able to return home. He is a very important figure in Japanese history, so we were honored to be invited to attend his memorial.

The ceremony was quite long and involved many speeches, a few songs (the flute ones played by the same man who serenaded us when we first arrived in Hirado), an elegant tea ceremony-like ritual, and the presentation of flowers on both William’s grave and that of his wife. Flowers were also laid on the community grave of foreigners who had died in Hirado.

I placed a flower myself, and our teacher, Schau-sensei, placed one as well. She looked beautiful in her kimono. (Sensei is the one farthest left, in the dark blue kimono.)

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After the ceremony, we returned to the house for a little while, where Urumu treated us to the Japanese version of CSI on TV. Her brother came to visit and brought his year-old son, so we got to meet them as well. Unfortunately, the little boy’s slightly older sister seemed quite peeved that her baby brother was getting gifts for his birthday and she wasn’t!

While that lighthearted spat ensued, Taylor and I were invited to the table for lunch. I had been smelling a wonderfully spicy something from the kitchen – it must have been the noodles. They were delicious, and I was also treated to a few たこやき[takoyaki; breaded balls of octopus]. Once again, it was too much food.

I guess I’m just going to have to get used to it.

Filled with food once again, host mama took us back to the train station to meet up with some other Japanese friends and a few of our American peers. We hopped on a train for Sasebo.

The plan for the rest of the day? Shopping, apparently. Which was fine with me, seeing as I’d had just about enough of going on tours for a while. We found a department store and explored, entertaining our Japanese friends by holding up some frilly, lacy bras for Brian to try on.

Floor by floor we explored the department store until we reached the very top, where the pings and boings of an arcade caught everyone’s attention. Apparently, the whole top floor is dedicated to arcade games! We sort of went our separate ways for a bit in order to do the games that we were most interested in.

Josh immediately headed over to a drum game that’s a bit like Guitar Hero only with Japanese drums. You’re supposed to use two drumsticks on one drum, hitting the main part of the drum when a red circle appears and hitting the rim with the other drumstick when a blue circle appears. Hypothetically, then, a song with red and blue will use both drumsticks. Josh proceeded to select a song for two players and then played it almost perfectly. By himself. One drumstick per drum.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deASKlA-IZg

Showoff. (Note impressed Japanese kids in background of video….)

In the meantime, Taylor was spending some money in those claw machines trying to win some food. And win some food she did.

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Again.

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And again.

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Brian photobomb.

My host sister Urumu suggested that we all go together to get what the Japanese call プリクラ[purikura, Japanese photo booth photo strips]. We all smashed ourselves together into the booth and gave it our best. In the end, we came out with a great set of fun pictures!

The day passed very quickly as we spent our time in the arcade. When host mama came to pick us up in Sasebo, Taylor and I were both beat. On the long drive home, Taylor even dozed off. I contemplated taking a picture for blackmail purposes, but I’m nicer than that. Sometimes. 😉

The winding mountain paths on the way home did a number on my stomach, so I was happy to be back home for dinner. I don’t know what illogical thought possessed me to expect any sort of reasonable amount of food. That’s obviously not going to happen.

Spread before us was a plate of about 80 pieces of sushi. Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t even come close to eating 20 pieces. So, I grabbed a few of the ones I knew I like (卵 [tamago; egg] and海老 [ebi, raw shrimp]) and munched on them quietly, hoping that my host mother wouldn’t notice that I’d only eaten a few pieces.

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(Do note that there is an additional plate of sushi this large out-of-frame, in addition to more stuff.)

Of course she noticed. Her solution? Have some more sushi! Oh, and have this steak too.

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About half-way through dinner, a few more relatives stopped in to say hello. This time, it was Urumu’s aunt-in-law…I think. Is that how that works? Urumu’s father’s brother’s wife?

Anyway, the aunt-in-law was pregnant, so she had the typical energetic glow about her. As we were eating, I pointed to a piece of sushi that I didn’t know, and she said, “ああ、海胆。チャレンジ!! [Oh, that’s sea urchin. Challenge! Woohoo!]”

I eyed that sea urchin sushi for a long time; well, that one and the fish egg one too. I mean really, I’m never going to order those on my own, so now might be my only chance to try them. Guess I might as well, right?

I gave a sideways glance at Taylor. “I’ll eat half if you’ll eat half.”

She grimaced but agreed.

I picked up the sea urchin sushi and, muttering a quick 頑張って[good luck!] to myself, took a full bite.

I used to always tell my mother that, if someone ever made edible Pine-sol, I’d live on that stuff because I love the smell. I now officially take that back. That sea urchin sushi tasted like carpet cleaner, and the taste lingered long after I’d taken some huge gulps of juice and passed off the other half of the sushi to Taylor.

Thankfully, the sushi with fish eggs was not nearly as bad – the eggs only tasted like salt water. But by that point, I’d stuffed myself full of far too much food to keep eating the sushi that actually tasted good, so I had to call it quits for the night.

We were just excusing ourselves from dinner when host aunt-in-law was also getting ready to leave. Being the bubbly pregnant lady that she was, she insisted that we all get a picture together.

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(Aunt-in-law is the one right above Taylor’s head. Urumu is all the way on the right.)

After many thank-yous and goodbyes, she turned to us one last time, her eyebrows furrowed in deep thought. “Forget me,” she said in English after a long pause. She jumped. “OH, NO NO! Don’t forget me! Oops!”

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