Fugu? Not So Bad! Just Another Day!

So Tuesday was Valentine’s Day. I didn’t do much on Tuesday though I must say I was pretty productive. I slept in, got up and cleaned my apartment. You know, you never really realize how much hair you shed until you’re living in a space about 14×11 feet. Nevertheless, I cleaned up the main room, did some laundry and then headed off to the gym and arrived about 5PM.

Usually my gym workouts consist of 30 minutes of running and 30 minutes of weights, but I was away over the weekend in Ube seeing a friend from my home town, Jake, and the gym is closed on Wednesdays so I figured it was time to make up for lost time. So Tuesday I ran until I hit 3 miles (it’s my usual distance, but I took my time today), lifted weights and did sit-ups for 30 minutes, took a short break and then power-walked a mile or more for about a half hour until it was time to take some taebo-ish class. I must say I don’t think I have sweat that much in my life.

One thing I don’t think I’ll ever get used to is how exercise classes are in Japan. I don’t know much of the language so some of what the instructor is saying is lost on me. Before the class begins the instructor introduces himself and says some inspiring things and then everyone bows to one another and claps. But Kai insisted that I’ll probably be all right. I am not the most coordinated person so I’m sure regardless of language I would have ended up making some backwards mistakes. However, after a while I was able to pick up right from left and was able to perform the kicks and punches as he instructed. I was dripping sweat and didn’t realize it until I began hearing my shoes squeaking on the wooden floor. That 30 minute class was a workout and next Tuesday I hope I can do it all over again. All in all I had fun and Kai was a great instructor. He’s one of the few workers who has attempted to chat with me which helps me feel a little more welcome–though there was another gaijin at the gym that day! The guy didn’t even smile or wave even though we made eye contact.

Now about my trip to Ube! It was a lot of fun and I ate many interesting things, such as iidako (飯蛸). There isn’t an easy way to explain it other than it’s a small octopus that is boiled in a soy sauce-type broth. It doesn’t have to be hot when served to you–in fact Jake and I ate ours cold. In retrospect I believe this is what was given to Mandi and I when we had gone to Tokyo. We never ate them, though. We passed the bag on to one of Kazu’s brothers. At first glance, I will admit I felt a little intimidated by it. I could see it’s brains–inside its head–so I wasn’t sure if I could “stomach” it. I was pleasantly surprised! Jake just grabbed it and went to town, but I hesitated a bit. If there is one thing I can learn from it’s taking more initiative and just trying more things instead of being so standoffish about food. I could have missed out on eating this just by being too afraid to bite into it. The texture didn’t even give off the fact that I was eating octopus innards. Very flavorful, and very delicious.

Among other things I ate was fugu (河豚). Fugu is the renowned blowfish that if not prepared correctly can take your life. I was a little apprehensive to eat it, but Jake was pretty adamant about me trying it. I ended up giving it a try and I came to the realization that it was pretty tasty. Our chef is a friend of Jake’s and also has a license to prepare fugu–I realize that accidents happen, but as everyone can see I am still alive and well. Some chefs even place a little put of blowfish’s poison on the sashimi (raw fish) to add a slight tingling sensation to the tongue and lips and there is usually where the problem arises because the poison is so potent. As far as I know the chef did not do that. I did not feel any tingling. The food was amazing and I am very glad I followed Jake’s lead and tried fugu.

Before all of the delightful food eating we went to Yamaguchi to see the pagoda. I’m afraid I don’t know much about the building besides it being the only one (or one of the few) that is made completely from wood. Wood nails, wood everything. There were a few other people enjoying the view–most of them were bird watchers trying to capture images of a kingfisher (kawasemi). I got a little caught up in the excitement, as well. I’ve never seen one before. It’s things like this (not so much the bird watchers) that make you realize the beauty of small town, more rural cities in Japan. Jake, someone who pretty much lives for the big cities, told me enjoyed small town Ube and was thankful that he was able to experience it. That there was so much to see and a lot of culture to be had. Kumamoto maybe big in comparison, but it’s still considered inaka (rural); however, it cannot even compete with how rural Ube is.

And now I will leave you with this: