When you send Mr. Sato out to do the shopping, sometimes he comes back with something crazy.

You might not guess it from all the time we spend scouring the country for 100-yen (US$0.88) underwear, 10-yen soft drinks, and 1-yen cameras, but we actually work just a short walk from one of the most luxurious shopping destinations in all of Tokyo. But it’s not just the fashions that are fancy at the Shinjuku branch of department store Isetan, but the food too.

In addition to hosting culinary events celebrating wagyu beef and gyokuro green tea, the Shinjuku Isetan has a sprawling gourmet supermarket in its basement level, and our reporter Mr. Sato recently found himself browsing its aisles.

As has been happening with troubling frequency these days, Mr. Sato suddenly felt a mysterious force compelling him to open his wallet as he stood in proximity to all the high-end edibles. Before he realized what had happened, he was back at SoraNews24 headquarters with a shopping bag but no recollection of what he’d bought. Looking at the receipt in his hand wasn’t much help either, since it just said neiriseihin, meaning “paste product,” and showed a total purchase price of a whopping 5,400 yen (US$48).

Attempting to unravel the mystery, he reached into the bag and pulled out an elegant wooden box, an realized that he’d splurged on some top-of-the-line kamaboko, or fish sausage.

While kamaboko is eaten year-round in Japan, it’s especially popular for celebrating New Year’s, with its pink outer layer and white inner core being considered close enough to the auspicious red-and-white color scheme of auspicious New Year’s decorations.

The kamaboko Mr. Sato had bought comes from Tokyo seafood product company Kibun and is made with 100-percent croaker fish. A pleasant scent of the sea greeted Mr. Sato as he unwrapped it, and his anticipation only grew as he cut a few slices. The texture was firm but supple, with no trace of the soggy condition that afflicts some cheaper kamaboko, and yet this extra-expensive version still had an enticing luster.

Usually, kamaboko is eaten like sashimi: you pick up a piece with your chopsticks and dip it in soy sauce before popping a morsel in your mouth. But to his delight, Mr. Sato discovered that the kamaboko he’d bought was tasty enough to enjoy without any extra condiments, and he quickly polished off a plate before he felt the gaze of his coworker, Ahiru Neko, on him as he stuffed himself with the pricey foodstuff.

Generous guy that he is, Mr. Sato cut a few more slices, then offered one to Ahiru Neko. But in contrast to the way joy Mr. Sato’s taste buds had experienced, Ahiru Neko’s reaction was far less enthusiastic: “Yeah, it tastes good and all, but it’s just kamaboko, right?”

It is true that kamaboko, like many Japanese delicacies, doesn’t have an overpoweringly heavy flavor. It’s also true that you can find passable-tasting versions for far less than what Mr. Sato paid, though they don’t come in snazzy wooden boxes.

▼ On the left: Mr. Sato’s 5,400-yen kamaboko from Isetan
On the right: Some 100-yen kamaboko from the convenience store

Perhaps Mr. Sato simply has more cultured, developed taste buds than Ahiru Neko, or maybe there’s a subliminal effect at play where his brain won’t allow him not to like the flavor of something he just dropped 50 bucks on. Either way, he knows that he thought the high-end kamaboko was great, and if Ahiru Neko doesn’t share his opinion, and so isn’t going to ask him to share, that’s fine by him.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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