Today we arrived (albeit slightly worse for wear) after a 14-hour flight at Narita international airport near Tokyo. In our brief interactions with airport staff, it became immediately apparent just how polite and friendly the Japanese are. After exchanging some money (I recommend doing it at the airport in Japan, not from your place of departure to save a little money). We took an airport bus to our hotel, the Grand Nikko Odaiba. The bus ride was a little more than an hour with normal traffic, but we got stuck in a less-than-desirable traffic jam on the expressway to Tokyo, taking us more than two hours to get from the airport to our hotel. The scenery was nice, at least, with rice paddies and a bit of Japanese countryside.
Once we arrived at our hotel and settled in a bit, we made a trip down to the concierge’s desk to ask about a place to get dinner. The concierge, in an attempt to understand our request for sushi and tempura in a frazzled state, sent us to a very fancy restaurant on the top floor of our hotel. This was, without a doubt, the most authentic Japanese restaurant I have been to. The thing about “authentic” food, however, is that it isn’t always a good thing. If you’re a westerner, you might seek out authentic western food and find it to be absolutely delicious. But your first exposure to the food of another hemisphere should be tempered. We foolishly dove in head-first.
The very polite waiters brought us meals consisting of several courses and the first course was a 10,000-volt culture shock. Placed in front of me was some sort of dead (but uncooked and unseasoned) mollusk, some kind of loose gelatin substance, and a vinegary shredded kelp mess. Feeling extra adventurous, I pulled the snail out of its shell with a strong toothpick, put it in my mouth, and crunched down. This firm, slimy critter was most assuredly not buttery, garlicky escargot. With a quick swallow, I put an end to my acute gastronomical peril.
I won’t say the snail ruined my meal, but from the crispy tempura to the sashimi, everything tasted fishy. I prepared myself for a trip of seafood cuisine, but this was waaay over-the-top.
My poor dad nearly had an aneurysm when he saw the bill for this place, but we left the restaurant with enough sustenance to survive the night.