< Routine Episodes >

I have advocated that we pick routine subjects for haiku. For that matter, I have an unforgettable episode, which I want to share with my readers. Please bear with me for a little digression.

In the morning we spread the newspaper and scan through accidents and affaits of human life all of which we think are totally unrelated or at best very remote to us. To those of us, ordinary citizens, who live a peaceful, quiet routine life, those reported affairs look as remote as accidents to strangers in another world. Should they happen in our neighborhood, they still remain unnoticed until they really involve us personally.

Winter is the season for tasteful blow fish("fugu") dishes. Haiku trips often take me to Kyushu and Yamaguchi prefectures and feast of fugu dishes. I remember the impressive taste of sashimi or thin sliced pieces of raw meat so transparent that decorative patterns on the dish showed through. Concern about the fish poison was not serious enough to spoil my fugu taste.

It was some 10 years ago, I guess. Four friendly couples of us decided to go to a highly reputable fugu restaurant in Kobe. One cold day towerd end of January, perhaps the last occasion for the fugu season, I left home with exciting anticipation of a pleasant gathering abd chat over fugu meal.

All those familiar face naturally filled the tatami room with a warm and joyful atmosphere. Presently came impressive arrays of thin sliced fugu sashimi on the plates accompanied by hot Japanese sake with a fish fin dipped. After a while, two pans of water for fugu cooking began to boil with steam filling the entire room.A young cook, apparently under apprenticeship, served fish neat and others in the boiling water. Then he picked up some light brown soft stuff from another plate. I asked, "Is that a fugu liver?" He replied yes. "Is that all right?" "Sure, all right." As he tried to serve a boiled piece of liver in my dish, I said,"I'm not Sure it's all right. Maybe I should pass." I turned down the offer as I had not tried liver before while I always enjoyed fugu sashimi.

"Let me have yours, then." a man volunteered from the other side of the table, I tried to hand over my share to him, then the young cook warned," a piece only per person. Please donlt give yours to others beyond prescription."

"Maybe, that's the fatal dose." people laughingly joked for a while and their as8luring remarks eased my stubborn reluctance. I timidly ate a piece of fugu liver for the first time inmy life while all my friends closely watched me!

"My lips are hot and burn," I said. "It's because of spices," they assured me and laughed.

After the fugu dinner, we dropped in at another place and came home together: we decided to take advantage of the occasion and play mah-jong.

Approximately four hours had passed after the fugu meal - I was not the only person who felt numb on finger tips. "Probably we ate poison today," someone said. "My finger tips won't hold a piece of mah-jong ," someone else joined. We all felt something out of ordinary but nobody took the matter seriously.

The mah-jong was over and I tried to rise for the guest's belongings upstairs. I fell on my hip before I knew. "What on earth is the natter?" I wondered, but managed, while feeling ny body numb,to go upstairs and get back to my guests.

"I feel dizzy, " someone said.
"Something i8 Strange, " others uttered and they all left. I felt too sick to put things away. "sorry but let me go to bed," I excused myself and rose to go to ny bedroom upstairs, then I suddenly felt like vomitting. My stomach by then was empty and left me in sheer agony. I felt dizzy and crawled on all fours to the bed.

I was barely aware of a phone persistently ringing downstairs, then someone answered. Presently I heard approaching steps on the stairway and my sister reported," The fugu restaurant you visited today says that some customers were poisoned today, and that they found a bad fugu fish Was served to your party and wonder if you are all okay." She continued," They suggest that you go to hospital right away if you feel sick. Your guests are all on their way to hospital. What would you do?"

"What else could I do but lie in bed. I would hardly survive the cold outside. Better in bed, I think."
"I see," she said and went downstairs for the waiting phone.

I felt my whole body.in sickening rotation whether I opened or closed my eyes. I felt pressures on the breast and hard to breathe. I called for my husband. who would not wake up. Our eldest son, then a primary school student, woke to help me. I asked him to bring me certain medicine for heart, which helped soothe the ailing condition and gave me some sleep.

I remember joking under all such agonies, "If I should die, take 48 hours before you bury me. You may come to life again when poisoned by fugu." I learned to my bitter experience that one would hardly relate one's own sickness to death.

My poisoned sickness lasted for good three days and nights. The docter came for camphor injections and said that I would have to wait for natural recovery. After all, none of us died or appeared in the newspapers.

When I read articles reporting death due to fugh poison including the case of Bando Mitsugoro, famous Kabuki actor I always remember the agonizing sick feeling.

hitogoto to
omoisi fugu ni
atari taru   (Teiko)

fugu poison
hardly my affairs
hit me

dare kakre ni
aeba atarishi
fuguno koto   (Teiko)

whoever I meet
popular subject
fugu accident

These are memorable works that were born of my "once in a lifetim" experience.