Sea urchins (“Uni”) course menu
You may not know but Yamaguchi prefecture is one of the leading producers of sea urchin (“Uni”) and pufferfish (“Fugu”) in Japan. If you have a chance to travel to Yamaguchi prefecture, which is right next to Hiroshima, you should definitely make a stop at a restaurant called “Kogushiya” located in Shimonoseki city of Yamaguchi prefecture. The restaurant offers amazing Uni and Fugu-themed Japanese course menu. The restaurant started in 1871 during the Meiji era and served as personal chef for the Mori clan in the past. Takasugi Shinsaku, a samurai from the Choshu Domain of Japan who contributed significantly to the Meuji Restoration, also used to have meals in this restaurant. Once you enter the restaurant, you can feel the history of the place with beautiful antique furniture in the Japanese tatami room. Today, I’d like to introduce a mini Uni-themed course menu that I had the other day. If you are a big fun of Uni, then you must fly to Yamaguchi prefecture to try their course menu! Every dish comes with Uni from Yamaguchi which are valued for its fresh-from-the-sea aroma.
Fugu in Shimonoseki
The Kogushiya restaurant also offers Fugu-themed course menu which I have never had before but looks amazing on the website.
If you are a big fan of Fugu (i.e. puffer fish), then you may know that Shimonoseki is best known for its Fugu. It is famous that Fugu contains lethal amounts of the poison in its inner organs; therefore, chefs are licensed to prepare the fish, which is often eaten raw as sashimi. In Shimonoseki, Fugu has been eaten by people for more than 2000 years.
In 16th century, Fugu was prohibited by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a Japanese daimyo and politician of the Sengoku period as a lot of soldiers from all over Japan who came to Shimonoseki ate Fugu and lost their lives without knowing Fugu has poisons. The tradition continued until the Meiji era but the people secretly enjoyed eating Fugu.
There is one episode about how Fugu was allowed to be eaten publically again: When Hirofumi Ito who was the first Prime Minister of Japan visited Shimonoseki in 1888, he was amazed by the taste of Fugu and worked to lift the ban on Fugu. The restaurant had no choice but to serve the Fugu dish to the Prime Minister on that day due to the bad condition of the sea.
In the Meiji era, the Fugu hotpot was a popular dish but gradually, people start eating the fish raw as sashimi. The decoration of the Fugu sashimi on a plate is just stunning that it is almost considered a piece of art as you can see in the website of the restaurant.