Home > Bitching, Food, Japan > The Time I Ate Fish Sperm

The Time I Ate Fish Sperm

October 19, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

If you’ve been following this blog for a while (haha, yeah right), you know that I’ve lived in Japan. I did the JET Program while there, which is a government program designed presumably to help Japanese citizens learn English. In reality, it’s a pretty outdated program in which freshly graduated Americans, Irish, English, Australians, and others head to Japan to drink with zero adult supervision.

Some actually become truly great teachers, but since no training is required whatsoever to do the JET Program (and is in fact discouraged), getting a good instructor is mostly a fluke. I actually put effort into developing teaching skills, only to fall flat on my face. Many ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) in Japan end up being used as glorified tape recorders, endlessly repeating English vocabulary words over and over. Don’t let anyone tell you different – teaching, and teaching WELL, is really fucking difficult, especially in a different language. I developed new respect for all the teachers of my youth after going through JET and dealing with snotty teenagers. Teachers are saints.

Anyway, during my time in Japan, I ate some really weird shit. Though this is to be expected in any foreign culture, in Asian countries, many of the constructs Americans have developed around food are completely obliterated. Heads and eyeballs are disturbingly intact, and the consumption of fins and tails are thought to improve nail health. Whole tiny fish appear in the oddest places, including in a bowl of plain rice and floating in your soup. Fish balls bob gently in your miso soup, where you can see unprocessed eyeballs glaring at you. Accusing you. Tentacles sneak their way into sushi, soup, and rice. Shrimp is served whole, head, legs, and all, and you eat the whole thing, including the tail. A fish the size of a football, with eyes the size of marbles and large pointy teeth, is to completely consumed, except for the skeleton. Those eyeballs, teeth, and intestines? Yeah, you have to eat them, or face the glares and disapproving head shakes of all your coworkers.

Meals in my school were taken with the students, with two teachers per classroom. Nobody is allowed to leave a scrap of food on their plates, and you get about 15 minutes to eat a 1500-calorie meal. When I refused to eat a fish head once, I was removed from the classroom and told that I could no longer eat with the students since I was a “bad influence.” Everyone must eat the same thing and LIKE it, damn it. After that, I was consigned to the “teacher” room, where only myself and the lunch ladies ate their meals. The lunch ladies had made all the food themselves from scratch, so if I didn’t eat something, it was liable to cause hurt feelings and tears secretly shed back in the kitchen. Unless you want to be an asshole in Japan, you eat what you’re given.

This finally brings me to the time I ate fish sperm. This was at a fancy restaurant with my former host family in Kyoto, and I didn’t know what the dish was at the time. It looked sort of like a regular fish fillet (a rare thing in Japan), except somehow…squishier. To my later embarrassment, I thought it was pretty good! Far better than the raw oysters encased in gelatin I had been served earlier. I had specifically asked my host family to NOT tell me what I was eating beforehand, since I had a tendency to just stare at the food balefully if I knew what it was. They dutifully kept their mouths shut until I had finished the dish. I then asked them what it was, but I didn’t know the Japanese word for “sperm” (yeah, Japan’s not so perverted as you think, eh?!). So they tried to explain in broken English: “Girl…egg. Boy…?” It took my a while to understand, but when I did, the horror I experienced was beyond belief. I had eaten fish sperm, specifically deadly pufferfish sperm, and worst of all, ENJOYED it.

How am I supposed to go back to SpaghettiOs and Rice-A-Roni after this?

Categories: Bitching, Food, Japan
  1. September 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I only ate bugs and sheep intestines when I was in Korea. I don’t think I ever had any fish sperm. At least it tasted good and if pufferfish take over the world, you will have a treasured position as a concubine, so there’s that.

    • September 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm

      But…but I don’t want to be a pufferfish concubine! UGH!

      • September 12, 2012 at 10:52 am

        But that’s better than being chopped up and fed to their babies. Isn’t it?

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