Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wherein I eat just-barely alive (dead?) squid (cuttlefish?)

On Valentine's Day (yes, so romantical...), two of my coworker's and I drove an hour and a half west of Fukuoka City to Yobuko, a small coastal town in Saga Prefecture. Yobuko is renowned for its squid/cuttlefish, which you can see hanging up to dry all over town. However, the thing to do in Yobuko is to eat いか活り造り (ika ikizukuri), which is squid that has been cut into sashimi.......... while still alive. They serve it up still wriggling a bit. This was my first time eating this delicacy. It was somewhat uncomfortable (though after eating whale meat and raw horse meat, not many strange foodstuffs faze me anymore), but it truly was the best ika sashimi (one of my top 3 favorite raw seafoods) I have ever had in my life. I advise squeemish individuals and PETA-supporters to proceed with caution.

A somewhat gloomy day, but good for a drive. It was nice being in a small seaside town for a change.
The victims in their natural-ish habitat (in the restaurant, at least)
That's where the guy comes to scoop them up and take them away. Our table was right next to this tank thing.
HERE THEY ARE! Two different kinds of ika. I believe the two on the left are sasaika (called yariika in sushi restaurants), and the one on the right is mizuika (or aoriika). They were different in texture- the sasaika was nearly transparent and a bit chewier, especially towards the end and head bits, and the mizuika was white with a softer texture. I liked both, but the texture of the mizuika was more appealing to me.
The mizuika was moving a lot. And it started changing color, as squid do when they are pissed. It sounds so cruel and awful, but it really wasn't that terrible to me... maybe I am just a horrible, heartless person.
Yummo! That purple seaweed stuff in the background was really delish too. ika shumai. A steamed Chinese-style dumpling with tiny shavings of squid all around and a touch of spicy mustard on top. SO TASTY.
The lunch set included a bunch of stuff. After we had munched on the sashimi for a bit, they took our squids (is squids the plural of squid?) away and fried them up into tempura bits. Amazing. So tender, not anything like calamari, which is almost always chewy.
Squid-scooping guy. He came out twice while we were there, each time taking back a net full of maybe 10 or so squidz.
A very unique dining experience.
A nearby observation thing. Not a big deal, but kind of nice.
The bridge to the observation island.
This map is flipped nearly upside down (south is at the top). Yobuko is the little pink dot, Nagasaki Prefecture is to the right, and Fukuoka City is on the bay in the very top left corner.
View of the sea. I think it's pretty interesting how the farmland goes RIGHT up to the ocean in Japan. They don't waste any space that isn't mountain here.
View of Yobuko. Such a cute little town! It is literally just the land along that tiny harbor. The restauran we went to is near the brown sandy-looking wharf to the left-ish.
Amanatsu-mikan, another mysterious citrus fruit of Asia that I never heard of until I came here. I think my host mom makes marmelade with it. I would describe it as having the tartness of a grapefruit, but the flavor of a tangerine. We bought amanatsu-mikan flavored carmels, hard candies, and pudding, respectively.
The under-sea observatory thing at Hado-misaki, a 15-20 minute drive from Yobuko.
The area around Yobuko is known for having incredibly clear water. This was 7 meters or so udnerwater, but we could see without any artificial light- plus, it was a cloudy day. We didn't see too many fish other than these pufferfish (fugu).
Guy folding squid-shaped origami in the observatory.
He gave me one (so cuuuute!) and here I am showing it off to the pufferfish.
Hado-misaki has this funny heart sculpture and is deemed a "lover's sanctuary" because of it's scenic view and the fact that "Hado" sounds like "ha-to," which is how the Japanese pronounce the word "heart." Silly, but cute.
A vintage Mini Cooper club was having some kind of gathering, hahahahaha.
She grills turban shells by the seashore.
Definitely my least favorite food of the day, and perhaps one of the least appetizing seafoods I have ever consumed. Turban shells. I do not recommend. Ewwww.
Squid, everywhere! Take them home to your family!!
Mmmmm ika manju... A hot bun filled with ika goodness.
Ika everywhere!
One of my coworkers is from Karatsu, a city not too far from Yobuko, and we met up with one of her HS friends, whose family owns several strawberry hot houses. She let us wander the rows and eat as many strawberries as we wanted. It was HEAVEN.
The mother of all strawberries.
The ones I picked to take home
The sign in the middle with the picture of a sunfish (the weird-looking fish I posed with back in December)? Yeah, you can EAT IT in Yobuko. We passed the restaurant, which was floating on the water surrouned by what I assume are netted areas for the sunfish. We didn't try it. I wonder if it is any good. Not too thrilled by the idea.
Then we visited my coworker's friend's friend, who is a gajillionth generation potter and lives with his family in a beeeyoooteeeful house in the middle of absolutely nowhere. They have a teahouse in their backyard. A TEAHOUSE. He treated us to an informal tea ceremony :)
There was a stained glass window INSIDE the teahouse!
I wouldn't mind living there, except for the fact that it was truly in the middle of nowhere. We drove for 15 minutes before my cellphone got any reception. But it was lovely, and a real treat!


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