Depending on the wind, it’s an 11- or 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. On a typical flight, I would eat two meals, watch three movies, and take an occasional nap. Japan is 17 hours ahead of California.
I would leave L.A. at noon on Monday and arrive in Japan about 4 p.m. on Tuesday and then take the bullet train from the airport and arrive in Toyota City around 8 p.m.—that’s 3 a.m. back in California. I went to sleep, but woke up five hours later. It was 2 a.m. in Japan but early morning in L.A. I couldn’t sleep. I blankly stared out the hotel window, listening to the silence of the city. Maybe I’ll call home and then go to the lobby at 6 a.m. for a cup of very strong Japanese coffee.
The day began at 7 a.m. and was packed with meetings until 6 p.m. After the meetings, the Japan staff excitedly told me they wanted to take me out for a special treat: sake and puffer fish. I’d had five hours of sleep in the last 48 hours. I’m jet-lagged and just want to go to bed, but I can’t say no.
It’s called a puffer fish because it puffs itself up to appear threatening to its enemies. It’s a rare and expensive delicacy in Japan that is strictly controlled by the government because it’s also poisonous. The liver of the fish contains tetrodotoxin, a poison 100 times more lethal than cyanide. Chefs must go through years of rigorous training before being certified to prepare it. There are several deaths each year from eating puffer because of the fish being prepared improperly at home. It is eaten raw. The poison causes a tingling of the lips and tastes a little like—what else?—chicken.
We arrived at the restaurant at 7 p.m. Sake is a Japanese alcohol made from rice and is much more potent than wine. I normally don’t drink sake, but on this occasion it seemed appropriate in order to bolster my courage. The Japan staff completely agreed with me; they were most encouraging.
The puffer was served a little bit at a time so that each part of the fish could be savored. The sake was arriving at remarkable speed. It was explained to me that we would eat all of the fish except for the poisonous part. I was cautioned that a little poison was okay, but it might make my lips tingle. As the sake kept coming, the atmosphere became quite cheery, and my mood improved dramatically. My lips started tingling. The Japan staff assured me it was okay and happily poured me more sake.
The more interesting parts of the fish were served last. My head was starting to spin. Thankfully, I couldn’t see what I was eating but was pleasantly surprised that it was quite tasty. Everyone was laughing easily—everything seemed so funny. I never realized the Japanese could be so interesting.
The last of the puffer was devoured. I was now in full swing and suggested we have another round of sake. The Japan staff took pity on me and decided that might not be a good idea. Someone should help me get back to the hotel. I valiantly declined, explaining I was fine, but they insisted.
In the same way my friends guided me to safety, God’s wants to guide His people throughout their whole lives. Click here to find out more about His love for us.
The ride back to the hotel seemed to take forever. I wasn’t feeling very good. I staggered into my room exhausted from jet lag. My face felt hot, my head spinning. It seemed to me my lips were tingling more than a little from the poison of the puffer fish. I threw myself headfirst into the bed and passed out.
“A staggering drunk is not much fun.” Proverbs 20:1 (MSG)
Back in California, Dick Chitty came to my office. There was a Cadillac dealer in Dallas that Dick insisted we both go visit. This dealer had the reputation for the best customer satisfaction in the country. Dick and I flew to Dallas where we learned from Carl Sewell how to earn customers for life.
(To be continued in “Customers for Life”)