Living Dangerously, On the Edge, That`s How I Roll

Living dangerously, on the edge, pushing the boundaries between life and death, an adrenaline junkie seeking the next jolt. This is how I roll. Every day. All day. Yet a challenge remained untested and chiding me from afar. It was time. Time to face the taunting challenge two and half years in the background.

I picked my wardrobe carefully. Comfortable shoes in which to face an uncertain afternoon. A dress for respectability -and in case Spouse couldn`t find one in which to bury me. A wallet full of cash. I informed the Offspring of my whereabouts for the search party`s starting point in case of my untimely demise.  This time my Wing Man waited at the Shibuya Train Station instead of the car most thought carried a diplomat.

I had chosen to roll a dangerous set of dice.  Could I manage this dangerous Japanese foe and live to blog the tail?

Cue Geisha, hair all akimbo playing wildly on the shamisen.

Screen Shot 2013-01-25 at 8.24.18 AM

Metropolitan Museum of Art

It was time to face this foe.


The Pufferfish is the ultimate example that when living on an island the inhabitants will eat whatever they catch. At least once.

Only licensed chefs and restaurants can handle pufferfish, “fugu.” Knowing immediate death ensues when the wrong body part is ingested makes the government nervous so the serving and handling is closely regulated. Apparently it is a pleasant death preceded by convulsions and tremors. Some locations are rumored to serve portions of pufferfish that will guarantee the pleasing tremors and seizures without the pesky and more permanent accompanying death. I brought along some Benadryl just in case as I find it useful in all kinds of life threatening circumstances. (Usually not my own- often when someone around me is at risk of being sent to the great beyond- bug bites, crying children on planes, keeping the dog from barking while I`m taking a nap, etc)

Andretti-san had researched our spot. Known to be a man of few words and big actions, this was, not surprisingly, his favorite meal. It was easy to find. This is why I haven`t learned to read Japanese Kanji- with signs like this it`s a time waster.


Just in case we didn`t look up, a tank of unknowing pufferfish swam against the glass out front.


Restaurants serving fugu serve only fugu, so we ordered fugu. Andretti-san ordered the “Fugu every which way.” (But loose)

1) Fugu Skin marinated in ponzu:


2) Fugu Sashimi:


3) Fried fugu with eyeballs. (Haha, that`s a ginkgo nut)


4) Grilled Fugu.

Just in case we hadn`t gotten enough fugu, we decided ordering more would ensure a complete taste test. Andretti-san explained that as an American I could eat more than the average sumo and ordered more. The waiter was unconvinced.

The man of mystery that is Andretti-san

The man of mystery seen formerly only as a hand model in this blog revealed for the very first time-  Andretti-san

5) Fugu marinated in ponzu. We ate several orders of that. Everything tastes better slathered in ponzu.


6) Boiled fugu and vegetables.


This was the first time I`d seen anything boiled in a paper bag.


This face means, “You`re not finished ordering? Oh wait- is that the chef I hear tapping out something in Morse code with a knife on the wall? Uh yea- we are out of fugu. I have the check right here.”

Sashimi style fugu has a firmer texture than most fish. Cooked it is like- God I hate to say it- chicken. ( Emeril Lagasse come up with a better simile, neh? ) I don`t recall eating the eyes, however, I`m sure they were somewhere in the meal as it was the only thing other than the table we didn`t eat.

7) If you are wondering why the pictures are getting progressively worse, it`s because we also had fugu in sake which is where the tails and fins are served. The whole thing is lit and covered with a top. The box contains the overflowed sake. After several sakes I accused Andretti-san of serving mine in a trick dribble cup which would explain why sake stains were all over the front of my dress. Unfortunately it was the sake dripping off the sake cup as it marinated in the cup.


About mid way through the meal my hands and feet started tingling and I began a frantic dig through my purse for Benadryl  hurling lipsticks, old receipts and tampons all over the restaurant eventually dumping its contents on the bench. Andretti-san assured me it was the sake and not the fugu as he quietly collected all the paraphernalia I had littered throughout the restaurant and reassured the other patrons I was leaving soon.

Alas, our meal came to an end. This was to be our last  experiment with food. It was our official good-bye.

My wing man, partner in perilous plots to outwit the bank, sensei and tomodachi, and somewhere way down the list, driver, was moving on to the new family taking our place. I am now without my friend and accomplice.

But don`t worry readers. The story of Andretti-san will be told on its own. And it won`t be a sappy story ending with tearful good byes. Oh no- it will be quite the opposite….

Kanpai! (Cheers in Japanese)

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45 Responses to Living Dangerously, On the Edge, That`s How I Roll

  1. Shannon says:

    Another great blog as usual Emily. Tell Andretti- San hey and goodbye from us. Saying goodbye sucks.


  2. Peggy Tee says:

    Excellent post! I’ve never even considered trying fugu – glad you were brave enough!


    • I have to say- I really enjoyed it. Or maybe it was the ponzu sauce….


      • Peggy Tee says:

        Working through your posts – you have a gift for writing Emily! Giggled my way through your Chopsticks 101 post – a lot of similarity with Chinese culture, which is the only reason why I *barely* passed! 🙂


      • Thanks Peggy! I think all the biggies are the same due to the religious backgrounds. And I guess Westerners don`t really have any real comparisons. Interesting huh? Going to China in Feb and really looking forward to it! Thanks for stopping in!


  3. I would suggest your Fungu tasted more like Witchety Grub, though after a couple of Sake your taste buds may have been decalibrated. Be careful with living on the edge, if you roll just too far you might find yourself in another world with no Andretti San to aid and abet you. Hope to hear more of your various adventures.


  4. Wonderful post, Emily-san! Nice to meet Andretti-san, although it is a bittersweet post for you. Saying goodbye after years of kindness, guidance, and all around gonbatte’ spirit dealing with the Gaigin, … I remember some of those goodbyes.

    You will be very busy the next couple of months, attending going away parties, packing, and all of that fun stuff. As you prepare for another chapter in your life, in a totally different climate, do all those things you want to experience while still in Japan. You never know if you will return, I found that out.

    I look forward to your chronicles of life changing faster than you can so sayonara. 🙂


    • Thanks Tar Buns! It will be busy- I can`t imagine more than the last few. I`ve got a few more things to see but I have to say- we`ve done a lot in the time we`ve been here. What are the things you didn`t do that you didn`t get a chance to?


  5. Robin Bradley says:

    I can’t stop laughing at this adventure!!!! I can just see you now…searching for the benadryl. We are going to miss you. xoxo


  6. Uh, that would be “say” sayonara. Lame, I know.
    By the way, I never did try the deadly Fugu. No opportunity presented itself and I had no burning passion to try it. Good for you – another item off the bucket list!


  7. Marc Healy says:

    So jealous- I want to try fugu. Was brave enough to prepare my own sea urchin last week. I like uni in sushi bars, so I figured what the heck. Good Lord! Never again! I’ll stick to the sushi bar version. I don’t think fugu is even available in the US, and I’m not fool enough to try it myself. A fitting end to your travels. I have much enjoyed your blog. Thanks, Emily-San!


  8. Brenda says:

    Emily, eating something that could kill you???? Really???? Uh… I just finished reading the health department food reports rating some food joints I frequent….nevermind.


  9. Doreen says:

    An Andretti-san pic, how beautifully wrapped!

    PS: it was 0 in Montreal today and 2 herevv


  10. rimassolosailingaroundtheworldm says:

    Thank you so much,excellent post


  11. Thanks! How`s the sail going?


  12. Scott Hoskin says:

    Hi Emily, love your blog pretty fun perspective of Japan quite interesting for us who never experienced it in person. Are you guys moving? Say hi to Tom

    Tc Scott Hoskin Sent from my iPhone


  13. The unveiling of Andretti-san! It feels a little like when the wizard of Oz steps out from behind the curtain.

    We are planning our trip to Montreal in April. I will scout it out for you. My first stop is a big plate of poutine. 🙂


  14. Great post! I admire your courage to try the pufferfish – just looking at it would put me off.
    I hadn’t realised you would have to give Andretti-san up so soon . . . he will be missed!


  15. sweffling says:

    Nothing like going out with a bang! I shall have to hurry and read all the posts I have missed before you change over to Canadian customs and dress. Can’t wait:) Have fun!


  16. Michi says:

    Andretti-san is handsome!

    I know I have some major catching up to do, but I didn’t think your stay would be over so soon! Though I’m looking forward to reading about your new life adventures with your family. Congratulations on trying all sorts of puffer fish! I’ve read much about it, and don’t know if I’d ever be able to go ahead and eat it without getting an oh-my-God I might die anxiety attack. But as always, your food-tasting posts are amazing and witty. 😉


  17. Dana says:

    I don’t imagine your food adventures will be as dramatic in Montreal, unless maple sugar and/or poutine count as dramatic. (That said, I’m sure arteries would agree that poutine is a dramatic culinary adventure! Calorie City!)


  18. jamminwithedwin says:

    This was so interesting to read!


  19. sereenebrown says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    I wanna try Fugu!


  20. Lynn says:

    Congrats on living every traveler to Japan’s dream XD One day, I’d like to try, but between trying to get over how cute they are and also wondering about the price…


  21. Thank you for the wonderful contemporary cultural post. I really love the artistry of the Japanese and how it is that their antiquities (chopsticks, sake cups, Kimono, traditional manners/body language, etc) permeate their basic culture here andthere. From an American point of scholarship, history, antiquities, when you add the realism of the types of food they eat and the way they prepare it, it truly is amazing, so are their prices!!!!!!
    I personally love and engage in their traditional arts and textiles, love to watch old Samurai movies on Netflix, and simply love the traditional elements tucked in here and there that you will find on your travels, such as the temples and their arts, some of the older traditional achitecture, and the kimonos here and there, etc. Wonderful and refreshing!!!!!


    • I`m with you all the way! IT has been so nice to be here and see all of that. The prices are on the high side- true. But- shrine sales can hold some true bargains!” Thanks for stopping in!


  22. The Graduand says:

    A great article! Have eaten Fugu twice now; loved it both times 🙂 We all die eventually anyway – why not make it worth the trip?


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