The locals from Osaka say the area south of Tsutenkaku Tower is full of danger. After taking a wrong turn (south) at Shin-Imamiya station I found myself in the dead lands of Nishinari. Ashen faces of the homeless who have long since lost hope are mingled with those who have found their call in selling speed and other narcotics. With dusk fast approaching I head north for the more familiar streets of Shinsekai before I live out every Zombie film I have ever seen.
The safety of Shinsekai leads to more extreme dangers but of the culinary kind. First stop is the legendary Fugu restaurant Zuboraya. For those of you who don’t know Fugu – blowfish – is the deadliest food you could ever eat. The liver contains tetrodotoxin (there is no antidote) that causes certain death and only licenced Fugu masters are able to cut and serve this fish.
It’s a Sunday night and the place is pretty quiet, whether this is because it’s Sunday or the regulars are all dead it is unclear but regardless we order a plate of fugu sashimi.
Traditionally the Fugu season runs from late autumn to winter. This is when the poison is at it’s lowest but nowadays with selective farming and manipulation of water temperatures Fugu is now available all year round. It is said that when the rapeseed flower blossoms, it is too dangerous to eat wild Fugu.
We order wild Fugu sashimi that is cut wafer thin and displayed in a fan shape with pieces of blanched skin and strips of cooked flesh. A dipping sauce accompanies the rather bland tasting meat. Luckily for us we order Fugu Kaarage – Seasoned pieces of fugu served deep fried on the bone. Imagine KFC but made of Fugu. This reinforces my long time theory that many foods are so much better deep fried.
Enough Fugu and off for another brush with danger. We forgo the Bear Biker Maid Bar in search of less risqué adventure – a bar that serves live fish suspended in a glass of sake. After an hour of walking and asking – no luck.
Disappointed we push on looking for adventure. We find a sushi restaurant with the culinary version of Skull and Crossbones outside. The “cetaceans of the world” poster bids all a warning that those who step through the noren face grave danger. The danger is a two edged sword, there is the moral danger of succumbing to the high pitched whale song sounding very much like “eeeaaattttt meeeeee” and the physical danger – those that eat their fill of sweet juicy whale meat wondering who will be waiting outside.
Roku-sen is a full service sushiya and if you can’t get past the moral implications of kajiya – whale, forgo it as the rest of the menu is excellent. The chef visits the central markets daily to hand pick the best seafood available. The style is more rustic than refined but the sushi is delicious and great value. Cautiously we step outside, not an inflatable boat or fire hose in sight so it is safe to make an exit.
Far too much adventure for one day so it is back to the Bear Biker Maid Bar for a final drink. At least the only danger there is having our ears cleaned by a hairy biker dressed in a maid costume, and all for only ¥1000.