Japanese food is usually represented outside the country by either sushi or ramen, but that’s only because they hide their secret weapon.
When you’re exploring Japan you can easily be overwhelmed by how amazing everything is. I was genuinely awed by the country. Even Japanese gambling habits became intensely fascinating to me. Food, however, is my favourite method of exploring any country. I’d eaten delicately pristine sushi, sloppy hearty ramen, overpriced yakitori, myriad bento boxes, convenience store rice cakes with unknown fillings, disappointed myself with steamed buns filled with red beans, and even tried teriyaki McDonald’s burgers before I was inducted to the Japanese barbecue.
The agent of this experience was, once again, the amazing Maki from Okazaki City. Her family were so generous to me and Kristina when we came to visit them after backpacking around the country, and that generosity extended to a veritable feast of Japanese meat.
They drove us through the rainy streets of Okazaki City until we arrived at what looked like an office building with steamed-up windows. We rushed through the doorway and my excitement rocketed. This restaurant was fairly busy and split into two halves. One had tables and chairs, whilst the other had traditional tatami mats and low tables for sitting cross-legged. Meat was sizzling on every table. We opted for the tatami mats even though we knew it was less comfortable for us Westerners, our limbs and joints unused to flexing in weird directions.
We removed our shoes and shuffled past some curious glances. I guess Okazaki City isn’t frequented by white travelers. We folded ourselves under the table, which now seemed even lower than when I’d first spotted it. My origami pose meant that I got pins and needles in my legs every few seconds but I was more than willing to brave a little circulation problem in the name of artery-busting meaty delights!
So, the waitress took our order and connected our griddle to the gas outlet on the wall via a long orange rubber tube. I put my trust in Maki to order something good. She delivered. Well, the waitress delivered.
A huge amorphous platter of different glistening red and pink meats arrived. Offal. Hurrah! Maki proceeded to explain what the bits were, as far as she could. Heart, intestine, steak, some kind of bacony stuff, and loads more. It kinda looked like the end of Akira where Tetsuo becomes enormous.
As soon as the griddle in the middle had warmed up Maki carefully dipped chunks of steak in a marinade and then placed them down to sizzle. Every bit of this meal was delicious. Heart being a particular favourite of mine.
Once the main platter had been decimated Maki placed orders for a couple more selections of gubbins. Considering she ordered it I have little idea why she was so disgusted when the waitress delivered a nice bowl of womb to the table. Only little chunks but they looked a bit like squid. It tasted fine, nothing too scary, but Maki, her mum, and Kristina barely touched it.
By now I was bloated and couldn’t feel my legs for all the squatting. The large jug of beer washed the meat down and helped to revive me a bit.
When we staggered to the door Maki’s mum paid the entire bill and wouldn’t take any contribution for what must have been a fairly pricey meal. Even if it was almost entirely composed of the bits that people don’t usually eat.
It might not have had the delicate finesse of flavour found in a sushi selection but for atmosphere and pure carnal meat-lust it can’t be beaten. Highly recommended!