Yep. I have eaten raw chicken. It’s a good story.
When I went to work in Japan I went with The JET Programme, which sends thousands of graduates to the middle of nowhere (known in the biz as “bumfuck inaka” …I’m going to get some awesome google hits now…) to stand in classrooms being human tape recorders.
I was fresh in Japan and excited to do ALL the things now I was being paid a ridiculously large tax-free salary to do very little each day. A Japanese teacher from one of the other schools in the town decided to take a bunch of us foreginers to dinner at a Japanese izakaya pub his family owned. I was so excited.
It was a bit of a trek but we made it to his little back-street pub in the middle of nowhere. The only other customers were a group of Japanese people, his friends, who, over the next two years would become our drunken drinking partners as well.
We met the teacher’s daughter, niece, wife and mother – an old lady who sat on a step at the back and cackled to us in a thick dialect when we went near her. It was a sticky hot summer night so when the beer started flowing, everyone was happy.
It was a set menu of seasonal foods, which was nice. As is the norm in izakayas, we were presented with lots of small plates to share between us – usually resulting in us arguing over who got the last piece of the really good stuff. Then, small plates of raw chicken were placed in front of us.
“Uhm…this is raw chicken”
“Yeah, it’s OK don’t worry – the chicken hasn’t been dead more than 15 mins, plus, if you use it with that soy sauce and ginger mix there, it kind of stabalises it in your stomach. It’s totally safe to eat.”
We side-eye the Japanese guys next to us hoovering up everything on their plates, shrugged, and then ate ours. It tasted exactly as you would imagine raw chicken to taste. It isn’t that nice.
The funny thing with food poisoning from chicken is that it takes two days to set in. We ate the food on Friday night and on Sunday night each one of us foreigners found ourselves in hospital with drips in our arms from severe food poisoning. All the Japanese people were completely fine.
The pain from the poisoning was so bad I cried down Skype to my parents, who told me I was an idiot.
Exactly one year later, when there was a new set of fresh foreigners in town to welcome, we went to the same pub with the same guy and ate the exact same set meal. When the chicken was put before us, most people turned it away. But I remembered how the Japanese people hadn’t been affected by it, so thought that if I tried it again, I’d be OK because my stomach would be used to it.
At 2am Monday morning I woke up face down in a pool of my own juices on the kitchen flood with my cat Sherbet licking my face.
I cried down Skype to my dad who told me I was a ridiculous idiot who shouldn’t be let outside, let alone out into the wide world.
Moral of the story: Never eat raw chicken – you will never be Japanese.
The other thing that happened on The Night of the Raw Chicken is that, after the meal, the teacher wanted to take us all out for a drink in a local bar. We said OK. The bar he took us to actually turned out to be a hostess bar – a bar with ‘table fees’ and over priced, watered down drinks, where half naked women come and chat and flirt with male customers. The Japanese teacher walked in there and everyone knew his name. In a room full of Filipino and Thai girls, the most beautiful of them all came up to him, put her arms around his neck, found his hand planted firmly on her bum, and welcomed us to her bar.
We sat awkwardly sipping our ridiculously priced drinks and half-heartedly singing karaoke with the girls until it was a polite time to leave.