28 September 2008

And now, Sagas of Saga presents "Natto: A Comedy of Errors"

It all started at the ruggedly beautiful and yet refinedly classy Shikian Ryokan in Oita Prefecture, Japan. I'll save you the details of the ryokan, other than a fantastic main building and individual Japanese-style guest houses, each with a large private onsen bath made of solid granite and the size of a car.

Breakfast the next morning was a buffet style with really well made Japanese food. This is where our story begins. I piled up the rice, fish, soup and a small paper cup with the following label:

Me: Ohh... "yuu... ki... something-something mame." Mame means beans! It's probably dried soya beans. Mmmm!

Misato: I thought you hated natto.

Me: *thinking something else I took had a tiny big of natto on it* Oh, yeah, it's okay. I don't hate it. I just don't like it.

I opened the label and peered in at fermented soya beans reeking of ammonia and the sweat of the oppressed.

In pure desperation, I mixed in as much rice as possible and added a little packet of Japanese mustard, which is essentially like watering down poison. If anything, it just draws out the pain.

I started out optimistic. In fact, I decided that I'd man it up and eat it. Japan is a waste-not-want-not society, which means it's rude and shameful to leave even a grain of rice on your plate. This, I actually really respect, so I wanted to try my best.

Me: Wow! It's sticky! Fun... exotic...

It started out all fun and games until I started getting it on my hands. My enthusiasm wained after this.

Me: Um...

Misato: Ganbarinasai.

After finishing about half of it, and absolutely everything else on my plate in some depressing attempt to filibuster, I started to give up on manliness and maturity altogether, reverting to a child-like state.

At this point, a storm was brewing. In my bowels.

Eventually, I gave up and shovelled the rest of the beans back into the paper cup and tried to hide my shame with napkins and the label. An hour had passed and I had completely failed at Japanese food and table manners. Clearly, not my best moment in Japan.


Sue said...

ROFL!!!!!!! Oh Mike, that second to last picture is pure gold! Thanks for the warning; I'm not even going to try to "man" it through natto. Another great story.. sugoi yo!

Michael said...

Aw thanks!

Natto is definitely not for the faint of heart. Though I guess rotten soya beans aren't as bad as some food I've tried, but head cheese is another story altogether.

Gorrozolla said...

Guess what!! I have officially lived in Japan for over 12 months at this point and at NO time has natto touched these sweet lips o mine. I dont know how I've managed it, but its true. Its the only japanese food I have yet to try.

Sue said...

Head.. cheese? What's that? I'm sure it's not what I first thought of when I read that! x_X

Well your story and pictures made me realize I definitely hadn't tried natto by accident when I was in Tokyo. :)P Believe it or not, I had somehow gotten "rotten soy beans" mixed up with "red bean paste," which I found scrumptious! I thought, "If this is natto, I am soooo Japanese!" Yeah, I'm not sure how that happened.

Michael said...

Hehehe for the record, it's not so much the taste that I couldn't handle, but just how long I was chewing it before I swallowed anything, which was about 15 seconds per bite. I had to start forcing it down, which was when my stomach started failing on me. =/

Headcheese, known to European types as fromage de tête or Sülze is usually meat from the head of an animal, such as a cow. Again, waste-not-want-not. But, uh, the kind I had was sort of like brain-tofu.

And, guys, let's not even mention the goat testicles.