Is one man plus 80 mussels a recipe for disaster, or just a really good dinner?

Earlier this month, we gave our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun 100,000 yen (US$885) to take three of his coworkers out to dinner. But while P.K. came back full, he definitely wasn’t satisfied.

See, P.K. had wanted to use every last yen in his six-figure budget, but in the end was only able to blow through 23,048. Part of that might have been due to his choosing Saizeria, Tokyo’s cheapest Italian restaurant chain, as his venue, but P.K. felt differently. Some quick math shows us that the 23,048-yen bill worked out to 5,762 yen per person, but P.K. has, on numerous occasions, managed to spend a cool 10,000 at inexpensive restaurants all by himself.

▼ P.K., filled with monochrome melancholy after his last visit to Saizeria

Burning with the desire to avenge his loss of table cred, P.K. headed back to Saizeria for a solitary rematch, Determined to eat 10,000 yen worth of food all by himself or die trying, he was accompanied by the highest-ranking member of our organization, SoraNews24 founder and president Yoshio, who went along to document P.K.’s victory or dispose of his carcass, depending on how the meal turned out (and also to talk their way out of trouble with the cops, should he and P.K. manage to somehow almost get themselves arrested again).

Since he was going double or nothing with his honor as a dude who eats way too much, P.K. put a lot of effort into planning his assault on Saizeria’s menu. As he sat down at the table, he explained to Yoshio that after extensive research, he’d formulated a strategy which he’d dubbed Project M.

That’s M as in “mussels,” and also murugai, as they’re called in Japanese. At 399 yen for four, Saizeria’s garlic roasted mussels are one of their pricier side dishes, but not as filling as the starchy, cheesy, or creamy pastas and pizzas that make up the bulk of the restaurant’s menu. There’s also the fact that P.K. absolutely loves shellfish. “In my past life, I think I may have been an otter,” he told Yoshio after putting in his first order: 10 plates of mussels.

Between that and his unlimited refill soft drink, the opening strike in P.K.’s battle already had his tab at 4,180 yen, so it seemed like he’d be off to a good start. But when the waiter returned with the food, he struggled to find space to put it all on the table, and we figured P.K. was going to have the same problem with his stomach.

But where an ordinary man would have had his spirit broken, P.K.’s was soaring. With a veritable ocean of one of his favorite foods arrayed before him, he happily dug in, and in less than 10 minutes, he’d cheerfully cleaned all 10 of his plates and had 40 mussels in his belly.

P.K. quickly put in a request for five more plates of mussels, but then came his first real test. While he’d put in his order immediately after finishing his last mussel, the food obviously didn’t come out immediately. Actually, it was a pretty long wait, by Saizeria standards, and as P.K. sat there, he could feel the three-and-a-quarter-dozen mussels beginning to fill him up as they settled in his stomach.

What’s more, Saizeria’s mussels were bigger than he’d expected them to be. Still, he soldiered on, and having now eaten 60 mussels, his bill had reached 6,175 yen, putting him more than half-way to his goal.

As he waited for his next batch of five plates of mussels, P.K. became aware of a new problem. As much as he loves shellfish, having spent roughly an hour doing nothing but eating mussels had completely saturated his taste receptors. He felt like his mouth had become the sea itself, with his tongue constantly registering an enveloping brininess. That’s when Yoshio, as you’d expect of a caring boss, stepped in with advice on how his employee could continue cramming himself with shellfish.

“Why don’t you try drinking some cola?”

“That…that just might do the trick!”

P.K. had completely forgotten that he’d ordered an unlimited-refill soft drink (which, like at many casual Japanese restaurants, operates on a self-serve system at Saizeria). Not trusting his stomach to handle any jostling caused by walking, he had Yoshio fill his cup for him, then took a long pull…

…to learn that…

Yoshio’s advice had been spot-on! The cola acted like a sweet, fizzy palate cleanser, and P.K.’s tongue was ready to go again when mussel plates 16-20 arrived.

Unfortunately, the restorative effects of the cola were short-lived. As soon as he ate another mussel, the seafood sensation began to overwhelm him again. Eventually, he settled into a pattern of alternating bites of mussel with sips of soda, but then the carbonated liquid began to make his already stuffed stomach feel fuller still.

▼ At the 8,170-yen mark, is this the end of Project M?

Once again, though, Yoshio spoke up, this time employing his masterful motivational technique.

“Wow, you’re amazing, P.K.! You’re really going to pull it off!”


“Incredible! You can do it! You can do it!”


“All you need to do is eat 20 more mussels, right? You’ve got this in the bag! You can do it! You can do it!”


“Go, P.K.! I’m telling you, you can do it! You’re almost there-“

“Shut yer non-mussel-eating pie hole! Damn it, I’m the one who’s gonna decide if I can eat another 20 mussels or not!”

Ordinarily, addressing your boss in this sort of manner is a major breach of Japanese business etiquette. However, exceptions are made when an employee is so full of mussels that they’re likely pressing on his brain and corrupting his ordinary logic/etiquette functions, so Yoshio decided to let P.K.’s slip of the shellfish-scented tongue slide.

P.K. decided that he did not, in fact, have the mental fortitude to eat another 20 mussels. While this put great shame upon the spirits of his otter ancestors, P.K. still had every intention of fulfilling his professional responsibilities, and so he called the waiter over one last time and put in a final order for a few plates of sliced salami and, because there’s really no other sensible way to end a meal, some cake for dessert.

So was P.K.’s last spurt enough?

It was! The final bill came to 10,164 yen, which Yoshio happily paid. He was proud of his employee, and told him as much as they parted ways, sending P.K. home to his loving wife and adorable daughter to regale them with tales of his heroism, or torment them with the ear-splitting sounds of his stomach digesting 80 mussels.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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