I am a self proclaimed “foodie.” I adore good food. It makes me happy and was one of my motivations for visiting Japan. I have always been very fond of Asian cuisine and have made it my personal mission to taste all of the various styles of Japanese fare. At times this was the most challenging aspect of my trip to Japan since a lot of restaurants’ menus are only written in Japanese. Therefore for me to order, I had to look at a picture of an entree (if a picture is provided) and “guess” what it was. This was especially perplexing as for personal reasons, I do not really eat pork and being in a country that loves pork, I couldn’t always tell what was pork and what was chicken. They also love to cook various organs of an animal’s body in Japan and not wanting to order the wrong thing kept me from going into certain restaurants and ordering specific dishes. I figured all this would possibly be avoided if I went out to eat with Japanese people as they could read the menu and know exactly what it was we were ordering.
One of my friends in Los Angeles, introduced me to a few of his Japanese friends in Tokyo (via Facebook) so I went out to dinner with two of the Japanese girls for yakiniku (raw beef that you cook on a skillet embedded into the table). We had a great time eating, laughing and talking. The food was great. After the third round of beef, one of the girls asked me how did I like the last beef I had eaten. I replied, “Oh, I thought it was pretty good.” Then both of the girls started to giggle and said, “That’s great because it was tongue.” “Tongue as in tongue, tongue? Like the tongue in your mouth?” I surprisingly questioned. They answered, “Yes, wasn’t it good? We didn’t want to tell you because we wanted you to try it first.” I couldn’t really say anything because it was pretty tasty; although it still felt a bit weird knowing that I had just eaten tongue!
At a house party the next day, I spoke to some other Japanese people and told them about my experience the night before eating tongue and they just blankly stared at me saying, “Yeah, tongue is really good. It’s one of the best parts of yakiniku.” So I guess I was really indoctrinated into the Japanese culture since I ate my share of beef tongue.