Spud reports for duty at the Hotel Okura

Spud was sitting at home one night channel surfing when he decided to tune into the World Sumo Wrestling Championships on Pay Per View. The potato had always been astonished by the fact that sumo wrestling was so hugely popular in Japan. He had once seen a couple of obese men in diapers fighting one another in a sanitarium a few years back, and it never drew a crowd. The competition was fierce during the two hour event and the Japanese crowd was worked up into a frenzy by the end of it. Unable to comprehend the appeal, Spud decided it was time he made the long journey to the Far East island nation and learn more about these people and their obsession.

A journey to the other side of the world was expensive though, so he answered a want-ad from a major Asian hotel chain that were looking for staff for their 4 star Hotel Okura in Tokyo. The potato's experience in the kitchen won him an interview and the company paid for the tuber's flight overseas.

Although Japan is one of the most technologically advanced nations and an enormous trade partner with all the English speaking countries, little if any English is spoken there. Spud wasn't intimidated by this fact though, as he had seen Shogun at least 10 times.

Hey - isn't that Charlie Tuna over there?!When the tater landed in Tokyo and met with hotel management, they were taken back with Spud's appearance. The Japanese had never seen a potato before and weren't sure what to do with him in the kitchen. Instead, they offered the side dish a job as a bell hop. Unfortunately, that didn't work out too well either, as he was too short to lift any of the guests' bags.

Spud had been in Japan for less than a day and he was already unemployed. No fear though, as now it gave him the opportunity to explore!

The Japanese people are known the world over for their love of sushi; consuming more than 80 lbs (36 kg) of marine life per person each year, so the first obvious place to catch the local people was at the Tsukiji Fish Market.

The Tsukiji fish market is by far the largest market of its type in the world - selling a staggering 5 million pounds (2268 tonnes) of 450 different types of sea life per day; 7 times that of the second largest fish market in Paris, France.

The tato arrived in the middle of the night to a flurry of activity as thousands of bluefin tuna were being offloaded for the morning auction. At 5:30 AM bells rang signaling the beginning of the wholesale auction. Auctioneers bellowed at the top of their lungs and quickly barked up the price of the huge fish amidst frantic bidding. The pace was so rapid, the gavel fell about every 4 seconds; signaling a sale. In 45 minutes, almost 2000 fish were sold off.

One of the auctioneers saw Spud scratch his forehead and took the gesture for a bid. Next thing the tuber knew, he had just purchased a 650 lb (295 kg) tuna for about 1.2 million yen (almost $12000 US dollars). The tato glanced into his wallet and found a lone $10 bill and no interest in a fish the size of a small car. While the auctioneer had his back turned, Spud climbed inside a styrofoam case containing fresh squid and smuggled himself out of the marketplace.

Spud stands at the Hozomon Gate - gateway to the Sensoji templeThe case Spud was in was unloaded at a restaurant a short time later. The potato made his escape and found himself at Nakamise Dori, a popular shopping street in the Old Town of Tokyo.

Everything from paper fans to pet Kimonos could be found at the many stalls that lined the long pedestrian roadway which led to the Great lantern of the Hozomon Gate; the entrance way to the Asakusa Kannon (Sensoji) Temple - the oldest temple in Tokyo and a popular place for local worship.

Spud was impressed with the remarkable architecture of the 7th century building which was built in 645 AD as a place of worship in homage to Kannon - the Goddess of Mercy. Today locals and visitors from across the country are drawn to the Temple for its great healing powers and the wisdom it provides in its fortunes.

Not knowing where he was going to get enough money for a plane ride home, Spud entered the temple to seek guidance from a fortune. The tato received his guidance shortly thereafter as a few Buddhist monks quickly guided him to the exit for tracking in a gelatinous sludge trail onto the ancient Temple's floor which smelled suspiciously like squid.

Having acquired a rather bad reputation in Tokyo, it was time to get out of town, so the potato hopped on a train and headed South. His $10 was only enough to get him to the town of Kamakura some 30 miles away. Having great difficulty reading the Japanese roadsigns and street maps and quickly learning that the amount of Japanese he learned from Shogun was not enough to get by, the tato grew despondent in trying to resolve his difficulty. Everywhere else the potato is held in such high regard, but over here in Japan, Rice is King. Saddened, Spud stopped in a heavily wooded park and tried to ponder his future.

The Great Daibutsu shares his wisdom with SpudIt was there that he noticed a grand figure looking toward him through the thick cover of the woodland. The figure seemed to beckon to the potato and the tater got up and moved toward the spectre.

Spud entered the grounds of the Kotoku-in Temple and the home of Daibutsu: Amida Buddha - a gargantuan bronze statue weighing 123 tons (125 tonnes) and rising 37.5 feet (11.47 metres) in height. The statue was cast in 1252 and has survived tsunamis and earthquakes to become a constant reliable symbol of the Japanese resolve and a fixture in their worship.

Buddhism arrived in Japan in the 6th century. Although it initially conflicted with Japan's native religion of Shinto, it was quickly adopted by the nobility of the time who welcomed its complex theories. 15 centuries later, Buddhism has firmly woven itself into the fabric of the Japanese soul.

Buddha biscuitsSpud had never been one for practicing religion, but there was such a strong compelling force calling him to the foot of the Buddha that he followed without question. Perhaps it was the spiritual enlightenment that Buddhism affords its followers, or perhaps it was the smell of fresh baked Buddha Biscuits in the nearby gift shop...

The potato cleansed his hands with water at the shrine's purification fountain and then lit a stick of incense in offering to the immense figure towering above. The potato stood in silent prayer and then awaited for a sign of guidance.

Suddenly a huge gust of wind grabbed the potato and hurled him into a field nearby. Spud was a mess as his appendages were strewn everywhere. As he picked himself up and began rebuilding his dismembered body, the tater noticed an English language newspaper that had been discarded in a trash bin.

Godzilla attacks!The front page had a full page spread on a giant reptile that was terrorizing people and destroying villages in the north of Japan. The panicked headline continued to state that the enormous beast was headed towards Tokyo.

Spud clutched the paper to his chin and stared back at the Great Buddha. This was his destiny...his purpose...

Spud would have to battle !

Click here for part 2 of the Japanese adventure!



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