35° 16′ 52.8276″ N, 139° 40′ 19.9236″ E
When I went to Yokosuka with my host family which is about an hour and a half from their home in Yokohama, we went to a place called Le Soleil. It was a farm where I could see Mt. Fuji, which is Japan’s most famous mountain, from a distance. After that, we went near the bay area where I saw many boats along the dock for fishing. We went into a small market that specialized in everything seafood. I saw things that looked familiar like crabs but I also saw ver strange things that I would have never tried otherwise.
We walked up to a small tank full of black, slimy creatures that were suction-cupped to the tank and to one another with bumped along their bodies. It is called Namako in Japanese and a “sea cucumber” in English. I made a disgusted face at the strange creature and then my host mom said “This is tonight’s dinner.” My heart dropped. “Really?” I asked. I got really scared and I thought about how disgusting it probably would taste.
I was really nervous as we all sat at the dinner table and they insisted that I try the namako that was now chopped into small pieces and in vinegar. My host sister and I were both afraid to eat it. I decided to muster up my courage to do it. We both decided to eat a piece together. We picked up the namako with our chopsticks and counted to three. 1…2…3…and we put it in out mouths. I was very tough to chew. It was hard and rubbery. I thought it really did not have a taste. I tasted more of the vinegar. Once I swallowed it, I looked over at my host sister and smiled. We did it! After that I ate another peice!
After bringing home the namako still alive in a plastic bag, my host mom places it on a cutting board and got out a knife. She tried to cut into it but the blubbery creature was hard to cut in to. She was finally able to cut into it and then put it over the sink to drain out black slime that oozed out of it. I watched in horror. She rinced out the namako and then place it back on the cutting board. It was so much smaller once she drained everything out of it. After that, she cut in into small pieces and placed it in vinegar. It was a simple process and it did not require much preparation.
They are found in the sea so being that Japan is an island, Namako can be found fresh in markets like the one I went to in Yokosuka. It is also used in Chinese cuisine soups and the dried form is used in Chinese medicine. It is well-known in Japan, but I believe that it is an aquired taste meaning that some people like it and some people do not. It is not an everyday dish but it is well-known.