Anthony Bourdain said this about Japanese cuisine: “There is a level of perfectionism, attention to detail, quality ingredients, tradition and technique like nowhere else.”

I am okay. The food in Japan is epic. A simple trip to the grocery store uncovers alley after alley of gastronomic treasures. Even a simple bento box at a train station looks like it was handcrafted by a designer. I soon discovered that it would take months to scratch the surface and understand the plethora of tastes, so what do you do if you only have 10 days? Eat pufferfish, for one.

When I first heard about the myths about this poisonous fish, I was intrigued. I never imagined that I would one day be in a restaurant serving it, or that I could afford such a meal. After all, isn’t it true that the Japanese pay thousands of dollars to dine on this delicacy?

I had other weird delicacies: rotten shark in Iceland, ant eggs in Mexico, cobra in China, piranha in Colombia, and fruit bat in Seychelles. Menu items like these are arguably tricky: either they taste really bad or they bite you before you bite them. Osaka is a city full of delicacies and pufferfish— fugu– not in a hidden alley, as you might expect. In fact, the giant mammoth-sized 3D pufferfish swings over a restaurant in the Dotombori region like an inaccessible piñata. The restaurant is called Zuboraya Sheinsekai and it is a popular choice for those who want a taste of fugu.

In the sea, this unpretentious fish appears to be a normal creature until threatened. Then it expands its body with air and spikes appear, making it a seemingly inedible choice for potential attackers. It also has glands full of neurotoxins which will kill a human if consumed. This is exactly why it has become such a dietary challenge. Skilled chefs spend years learning how to remove the toxic layers between edible flesh. If they make a mistake, the boss will be poisoned. Think of it as some kind of Russian seafood roulette.

Zuboraya’s menu was bright and colorful, the image of the spiky mascot looked almost cartoonish and non-threatening. A couple sat down and ordered something in Japanese. They looked like they had been here before and they were still … alive. It’s a good thing, isn’t it?

When in doubt, drink sake. We were doing. Then we had more.

The restaurant’s fame is that it serves the whole pufferfish in the form of sashimi, fried fish, and then soup. We decided to split the dish and order more sake.

As soon as I placed the order and prepaid I remembered a skydiving trip I took for my 40th birthday. Signing up was easy. Driving to the airport? A piece of cake. Putting on the equipment wasn’t even really scary. But once the plane got on and I watched an open door of sky, clouds, and possible death, things got incredibly real. I had changed my mind, but such things are not allowed once you have already paid. There’s a reason you pay first.

No other sit-down restaurant in Japan had required upfront payment except this one. A really confident restaurant would charge you later, maybe even give credit. Nope. Nobody slices your fugu until the money is in the cash register.

While we were waiting, I googled fugu again. I have found that the neurotoxin in fish is 1,000 times more potent than cyanide and can instantly cripple a person. Do I really trust this place? It sounds funny when you mention it, but how disappointed would my mom be if she saw me kill myself in sushi on Facebook Live?

The sashimi was off-white, the translucent layers arranged like petals. As a handful of Houston nightlife friends curiously eyed Facebook, I squeezed the raw fugu down into my mouth. I chewed slowly, wondering how I would feel if I were suddenly paralyzed. The meat was a bit chewy, not the best sashimi I have ever put in my mouth. Hamachi (yellowtail) is still my favorite.

It didn’t have a lot of flavor, but maybe it’s an acquired taste. The soup wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was interesting to try different fish preparations. The fried puffer fish was the most palatable. But frying can add flavor to almost anything. And then we’re done. I had eaten deadly fugu and was still alive.

Did I mention there is Blowfish sake? Even their tiny fins were served with rice wine, so it was time for a party drink. A toast to life.