Chicken Sashimi

My year of chicken bus travel didn’t fully prepare me for chicken sashimi.

I’m still a rube at international business travel, which makes up in interest what it lacks in opportunities for sloth. The locals have to talk to me, for one thing, instead of politely looking past me like the grubby backpacker I still am at heart. Better yet, they get to choose my menu. Instead of noodle stands and Mr. Donut, there are yakitori business dinners, in which a whole, dismembered chicken is served to each guest over a ten courses, starting with chicken sashimi and working through skin, gizzards, liver, and lights to the feet. These were well-bred Japanese chickens, which probably had their own electric backside-washers, just like the Westin. Not one of the skewers tasted bad, but the squeamies made it gruelling. Was it guts or culture that revolted against chicken sashimi? No matter: when a Wonderbread dinner guest loudly Ewwwwwed each skewer, I felt obliged to make a good show. My host was a delightful Japanese man, who had learned English many years ago when a packaged-goods company brought him to suburban California for remodelling as an American marketer. He was a good guide to the equally exotic worlds of Tokyo business culture and giant multinationals, and for him I would stare down chicken faces. It reminded me of Alexandra Fuller’sta struggle to explain in Mozambique that she is vegetarian “…in a part of the world where the opportunity to eat a whole rat is a rare treat for millions of people.” As I dipped a skewer of chicken ovaries into the plump, raw yolk that might have been their last project, my colleague S. quietly passed me her undrunk beer to get it down. That’s teamwork.

The next morning, my hotel room smelled like chicken. S., K., and I swapped slightly hysterical emails about a lunchtime trip to Hermes to check out the new ChickenBirkin bag.

3 thoughts on “Chicken Sashimi”

  1. See, this is why you pull down the big bucks. Me, I would . . . I don’t know, probably faint and slide right under the table. (But I get the squeamies even from _American_ Japanese food.)


  2. Oh yeah, I got the squeamies too, the first time I ate chicken sashimi. It was a cultural affliction, definitely culture. The second time I was struck by how sweet and delicious it was. I’m happy to see you are in my neck of the world and enjoying its unique splendors! Have a great time. Will you be visiting other parts of Japan? If you can, come visit me in the “potato country” city of Ogaki in Gifu prefecture. Ogaki has a mere 153,000 people. Only 2-3 hours away by bullet train.


  3. India, yes, my colleagues bring me along more or less for that reason…and Kim, I’ll be going back (for a different project) in January, so you never know! It would be great to spend a bit of time there–I liked it so much.


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