G-man and I went on a little overnight trip to a town called Gotemba a few days ago and within that trip we had a little experience that had me realize I’m absolutely positively not in America anymore. Gotemba is a little, incredibly adorable, town that has a magnificent view of Mt. Fuji.
Within that little town is a very beautiful and wonderfully ran hotel called Mars Garden Wood. Here’s just a little snapshot of their lobby.
When we checked in, we were starving since we traveled over two hours by many trains and cab to get there and as the front desk clerk gave us a tour of our room, we asked her where we could eat. She secured reservations for us at their Teppenyaki restaurant that is basically what Benihana is in America…only so so much better…and so so different.
When we arrived, we saw we were the only people in the restaurant and had one of the grills completely to ourselves. We love it when this happens. G-man ordered the seafood and meat dinner and I just got the meat dinner (this is all relevant, promise). When the chef came to the grill, he had a few platters with him, with one being the vegetables and seafood for G-man. He set everything aside as he prepped the grill, and I saw on the seafood platter was a huge fully intact prawn on its back, dead. When the chef picked up the platter to move it close to him, I saw the moment he set it back down, the prawn moved. Did you get that? THE PRAWN MOVED! It wasn’t dead at all! It was very much alive, and it had a skewer through its middle that I hadn’t noticed until after it started moving its legs. I audibly gasped and looked at G who had a look of shock on his face and I burst out into uncomfortable laughter.
How was this chef going to kill this prawn?! Chop its head off? I didn’t know! I couldn’t figure it out, until he grabbed it and stuck it face down on the hot grill. I grabbed G-man’s leg in horror as I imagined the prawn screaming inside in terror and pain. Yes, I was feeling completely horrible as I watched this prawn die a horribly painful death. But it got worse as the chef flipped it over and I saw its eye resting on the grill and I cringed at the thought of its little eye burning. Then he would press his spatula into its body and tail to fry it faster and all I could do was hope the thing was dead at this point. But I still saw, whether from aftershock or it still hanging on, it twitch on occasion.
It only continued to decline for the prawn as the chef grabbed his incredibly sharp knife and sliced into its shell to dismember it. At that point, there was no way the prawn was still alive, and I began breathing a little easier as I saw it in several pieces getting fried and sautéed. The moment the chef cleared away the head and left the meat and fried legs and tail (for G to eat), I was able to sit back in my chair a little easier.
Once we were done eating the last of our meal, and sat sipping on our tea, G-man said we could go back to the room so we could cry over the prawn, because it was that traumatic to witness. We didn’t cry, however, though I definitely found myself unable to stop talking about the shock of it all. We determined it was a witness that we, in fact, were no longer in America and here in Japan they view food as food and nothing more. I will be sure to remember that for the next time! And for anyone who ever goes to Japan (or any Asian country for that matter) and has their food cooked in front of them, let this serve as your warning, because trust me, you’re going to wish you had been warned.
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