Does Fugu Semen Wine Help Men Be “Stronger” and Celebrate Father’s Day?
A traveling companion told me that he had heard of “fugu” (pufferfish), and that eating it is good for you. But because it’s so poisonous, he wouldn’t dare to try it.
During the era of the shogunate, around 270 AD, there were reports of samurai dying after eating fugu. Thus, at the end of the 16th century, General Toyotomi Hideyoshi prohibited the consumption of fugu. However, people in Yamaguchi Prefecture in Kyushu still ate the so-called deadly fish, simply because it tasted so delicious.
In October 1868, at the start of the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese people – who were under the leadership of a new emperor – secretly began to eat fugu. But due to a shortage of chefs capable of professionally handling fugu, many people have been poisoned and died after eating fish.
Therefore, the Meiji government tightened its control over the consumption of fugu.
Fugu’s liver is extremely toxic, and a person can be killed within 10 to 30 minutes of accidentally ingesting the toxin, unless they are immediately taken to hospital.
Having said that, however, the proteins in fugu have exceptional medicinal value, and you can be sure that the brave Japanese are not going to give up such a wonderful delicacy sent by God.
Hirobumi Ito, who became the first Prime Minister of Japan in December 1885 (and served a total of four terms) tried for the very first time a fugu fondue dish specially prepared for him by Fujino-san at the Shunpanro restaurant in his native prefecture of Yamaguchi. He was impressed with the meal.
Ito then insisted that everyone try this wonderful gourmet gift from heaven. In 1888, he lifted the ban on fugu consumption, and naturally, Shunpanro became the main base for fugu ryori or cooking fugu.
Other prefectures and cities, meanwhile, couldn’t keep up with Yamaguchi because there weren’t many chefs who knew how to handle the delicate fish.
Ito, 53, also used Shunpanro to promote fugu internationally.
For example, the 29-day negotiation of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, one of the most monumental historical events of the century between Japan and China, was held in Shunpanro in 1895. Ito served as the fugu chief negotiator of the Qing dynasty, 72 years old. , Li Hongzhang and his delegation.
Unfortunately, Li refused the meal for fear of being poisoned.
Li and his delegation knew that fugu was a premium culinary treat and that refusing the meal could have consequences. During the negotiation, Li was shot in the left cheek by a rebel named Toyotaro Koyama.
The Meiji government has apologized to the Qing Dynasty government.
On June 16, 1909, Ito again enjoyed his favorite fugu hot pot in Shunpanro. The next day, he embarked on a ship bound for the Korean peninsula, which followed a trip to Dalian in China. He arrived at Harbin Station on June 26, but was sadly killed there by Korean nationalist An Jung-geun.
Ito had opposed the colonization of Manchuria by Japan, but there was nothing he could do to change anything. His assassination took place around 10 days after he had eaten fugu for the very last time.
(Some of these historical facts about fugu are based on Hisako Kuroiwa’s book, Diplomacy On The Tip Of The Tongue.)
Today, whenever the Japanese enjoy a fugu feast, they can just remember Ito, I guess. He once said that it is heavenly food that all Japanese people should enjoy together.
While fugu has slowly grown into a unique delicacy that ordinary citizens can enjoy today, the dish is only available to patrons of restaurants specializing in fugu. Most of these stores offer five different ways to taste fish, namely, grated fish skin in vinegar; thin slices of sashimi; fried fish fillets; hot pot with fish meat, fish bone, cabbage, tofu and kombu; and fugu rice porridge with egg and seaweed.
On the last Fukui tour that I led with famous food critic Chua Lam, he made a special arrangement for the band members to come to Hamato Fugu Restaurant at Kuroshio Market in Osaka for lunch.
In this restaurant the chefs demonstrated how to kill a live fugu which was impressive. But while they were doing this, many of the group started to worry about whether the toxins from the fish would splash onto them!
Chua assured them that this would never happen as the people who work in the restaurant are all seasoned Fugu chefs. He also jokingly said, “Look at the fugu semen. The gentlemen here should try the fugu sperm wine later, there is no fishy smell at all. It will make you strong tonight!
I think most foodies aren’t afraid of the fugu toxin and wouldn’t hesitate to eat fish – provided it’s handled by experts, of course. Some especially like to challenge themselves and try the fugu liver and stomach lining, usually served finely chopped and seasoned with green onion vinegar and a special Japanese condiment.
I must say that this dish is particularly delicious – simply divine!
Pufferfish farming has today become a valuable aquaculture industry. Nonetheless, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, which has so far produced eight Japanese prime ministers including Hirobumi Ito, Eisaku Sato, and Shinzo Abe, people still insist on eating wild fugu instead.
When we can all travel again, I’ll take you to Shunpanro to eat fugu.
The opinions expressed are entirely those of the author.
Leesan, the founder of Apple Vacations, has traveled to 132 countries, six continents and enjoys sharing his travel stories and ideas. He is also the author of two books.