Under the bright lights of the waterfront Haedomari warehouse in Shimonoseki, Japan, tails twitch and bodies writhe in defiance of the onset of death.
The floor is awash with seawater as Yoshi Yanagawa moves down a line of 20 boxes, each containing about 15 puffer fish of varying values, lengths and states of coveted plumpness.
"Eeka! Eeka!" he chants, as 20 or so interested parties put their hands up to bid.
The puffer fish, or "fugu" in Japanese, gulp in more air, ballooning out their white belly sacs.
The first thing offered to me at Suntory's Yamazaki whisky distillery - the birthplace of Japanese whisky - is a glass of water. It's so delicious it comes as a shock.
Even before the reason is explained to me, I'm asking: why does it taste so crisp, so different?
The distillery is surrounded by beautiful bamboo forests on a mountain - they must be getting to my brain.
When it comes to food movements, the word “local” is a rarity in Okinawa. That's because restaurants in Japan's southernmost prefecture have been doing the local thing long before it was trending - or even just trendy.
World-renowned for promoting health and longevity, traditional Okinawan cuisine uses primarily local ingredients. What's more, it's easy to find.
World-renowned chef, author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visits Tokyo, Japan in the next episode of "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," airing Sunday, November 3, at 9 p.m. ET. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.
"Maybe the most important thing you need to know about Tokyo, from my point of view is, every chef I know – every high end chef, from Spain, France, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles basically every chef I’ve ever met. If you asked them, 'If you had to spend the rest of your life, in one country, eating one country’s food for the rest of your life, where would that be?' They’re all gonna say the same thing. Japan. Tokyo. Period," says Anthony Bourdain.
Looking for a drink in Japan?
A bottle of sake or a few pints of a domestic beer are the most obvious choices, but wine drinkers should give the local grape, the Koshu, a chance.
Koshu wine is produced by about 80 vineyards in the Yamanashi prefecture at the base of Mount Fuji.
Ayana Misawa, winemaker at Grace Vineyard, describes the variety as charming, with a crisp acidity and low alcohol level.
“Koshu has a very elegant smell," she says. "Aromas like citrus, white flowers."
Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.
Who do you think set a world record for most new Facebook fans in 24 hours? No, not Charlie Sheen back when he was winning. And not The Avengers movie either, though that’s a good guess.
In fact it was a potato chip. Last April, Frito-Lay’s Facebook page got over 1.5 million new "likes" in one day. That’s a lot of instantaneous fans.
And maybe it’s not such a mind-blowing number if you look at the mind-blowing new flavors capturing the attention of chip fans worldwide. Recently, the New York Daily News highlighted Russia’s affection for Red Caviar potato chips (it’s especially popular in Moscow, where they love their caviar).
Here are some other snack food flavors that you probably never would have dreamed of. You just have to guess what country is chowing down on them. Hint: If you’re lazy and want to answer "Japan" for all questions, you’ll be right a lot of the time. Scroll down to the bottom for the answers.
Being waited on hand and foot now comes at an affordable price in Tokyo. A new butler-themed cafe in the Japanese capital is proving a hit with young females in search for a relaxing afternoon, an English lesson and just as importantly the chance to interact with friendly foreign men.
Shibuya's "Butler Cafe" in the heart of the city has surroundings that bring to mind a Victorian grandmother’s sitting room, with classical music, ample accents of lace and more hearts and roses adorning the furniture than can possibly be counted.
A chopstick making company has whittled down broken baseball bats so sushi can be shoveled with a swing.
Hyozaemon specializes in traditional hand-crafted eating utensils and in 2000 introduced their "kattobashi" chopsticks. The name is a play on words combining the Japanese word for chopsticks, "hashi," with a familiar chant heard at Japanese baseball games.
About 20,000 bats, used and abused by pro and amateur players, turn up at Hyozaemon's workshop each year. So it's a good bet the bats of Godzilla himself, Hideki Matsui, in his pre-Major League Baseball days, will have ended up on a Japanese dining table at some point over the years.