Happy Birthday, Dad

    Today was my host dad's birthday, and my host mom brought home sushi to celebrate. It came from the local sushi shop we went to for my older sister's birthday, a tiny restaurant run by a reticent-but-warm sushi chef and his wife, the most adorable woman in the world (um, except you, birth mom). It's hard to explain why, but she's got a voice, face, and manner that twinkle in a way that make you forget all the pain and suffering in the world, and stuff your face with delicious raw fish. I compared notes with my friend Sam, who stayed with this family a few years back, and he had exactly the same impression.

The story of tonight's dinner is probably better told in photos then words:

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Sitting down for dinner. I came home at 8:30 or so, after a Waseda Business Association meeting, and instead of the waiting-to-be-warmed dinner I usually run into when I arrive late, I was welcomed with the most epic sushi spread I've ever seen. Note my host dad at left; he has a very low ratio of smiles-to-awesomeness.

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The absolutely fantastic spread. Unagi, maguro, yaki-tamago, ebi, a few sorts of maki, ika, and probably some others in there I missed.

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Akami, which is what we usually think of as "Maguro" in the states. Maguro is usually split into akami, chuu-toro, and o-toro here (for Japanese learners, that's 大とろ and 中とろ), which describe which part of the tuna the cut comes from. I was a diehard sake (salmon) fan for a while, but in the last year or so, maguro's become my sushi of choice. The Akami above is the leanest cut of maguro, but it's still delicious.

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Toro (didn't quite fit into 大 or 中, because it was from a different sort of tuna) a fattier cut from the stomach of the tuna. It melts in your mouth, but it's hard (and probably not too healthy) to eat a large amount of it.

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Unagi (eel). I never tried it as a child, because the idea grossed me out, but once I did I realized that it's like the most moist, succulent chicken you've ever eaten, barbecued in a sweet, tangy sauce o' wonderful (unlike most nigiri, unagi isn't served raw).

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Ebi (shrimp). Like salmon, this was a staple of my early years, but I've grown to like the other sorts of sushi more in the last year or two. That said, the giant prawns on the perfectly-formed mounds of sticky rice tonight were sublime.

As usual, there's a full set of photos up at Flickr.

In other news, a bunch of friends from Lewis and Clark are coming for winter break, which is really exciting. We'll be getting together with the Waseda kids who exchanged at Lewis and Clark for the past few years, and making a party of it.   

Also, if you're a sushi fan, or just a little curious about this odd tiny-raw-fish subculture, The Sushi FAQ is a spectacular resource.