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.

5 comments:

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.