Seafood so fresh it “dances”.

You can find a lot of regional specialties around Japan, and up in Hakodate in Sapporo, there’s a culture of eating “dancing squid“. So-called because the squid is so fresh the muscles are still moving, or “dancing”, especially when exposed to the sodium in soy sauce, this type of seafood is usually only enjoyed in port towns, but there’s a place in Tokyo where you can get a taste of it too.

Our reporter Seiji Nakazawa had long heard of this dish but never tried it, so he ventured out to a restaurant that had been recommended to him — Ika Centre, in Shinjuku.

Located at the west exit of Shinjuku Station, Ika Centre specialises in ika, or “squid”.

▼ イカセンター (“Ika Centre”)

Seiji ordered the Katsu Aori Ika Sashimi (Live Bigfin Reef Squid Sashimi) for 3,900 yen (US$26.15), which was highly recommended on the menu, and when it arrived, he was surprised to see it was wriggling on the plate, even without any soy sauce on it.

This was Seiji’s first time to eat something that was moving, and it frightened him. Looking closer, he could see that it wasn’t just the flesh that was moving but the dots that made up the patterns on the squid’s surface.

The dark specks grew larger and smaller, moving in an undulating manner before his eyes. This was something he’d never seen before, and it only served to make him even more nervous about eating it.

After a while, the wriggling stopped, allowing Seiji to feel slightly better about eating it, so he put his hands together and said a solemn “itadakimasu” to express his gratitude for the squid.

He’d initially thought fresh squid would be light in flavour, but it turned out to be more creamy and mellow, with a strong aftertaste. Adding salt was recommended to bring out the sweetness, and after trying it Seiji agreed it would have been spoiled with soy sauce, with salt allowing the flavour of the squid to shine through.

After eating the dancing squid, Seiji had a whole new outlook on eating sashimi and a greater appreciation for the food we eat. While he doubts if he’ll ever eat the dish again, it really brought a deeper meaning to the Japanese word “itadakimasu“.

Restaurant Information

Ika Center Shinjuku Souhonten / イカセンター新宿総本店
Address : Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 7-10-13
Open: 5:30 p.m.-11:00 p.m. / Sundays and holidays 3:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.
Closed: Year-end and New Year holidays

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