The author, who writes under a pseudonym, is a Japanese sushi chef. In 1982, at the invitation of a Japanese-North Korean trading company, he started working in a sushi restaurant in Pyongyang. In 1988 he agreed to serve as Kim Jong Il's personal chef
The women of this entourage were frequently summoned to the "Number 8 Banquet Hall" in Pyongyang to perform
elegant dances. The stage of this hall was equipped with an elaborate lighting system that included footlights on the
sides and even a disco mirror ball hanging from the middle of the ceiling with strobe lights. The floor was also decked
out with lights that flashed from below, and floor-to-ceiling speakers pounded out music.
During a banquet one night a group of five dancers in the entertainment entourage were performing a disco dance.
Suddenly Kim Jong Il ordered, "Take off your clothes!" The girls took off their clothes, but then Kim told them to take
it all off. They seemed surprised and could not hide their bewilderment, but they could not object to their Dear
Leader's orders. In awkward embarrassment they stripped down and continued their performance in the nude.
After a while he turned to his cabinet staff members and instructed them, "You guys dance with them too." And soon
enough I, too, was ordered to dance. However, he cautioned us, "You'll dance, but you won't touch. If you touch,
you're thieves." In other words, I think Kim Jong Il felt these girls were like his own daughters.
He had had a lot to drink that evening before the meal, and I suggested that maybe that was the reason.
He replied, "Maybe..." He seemed doubtful, but didn't pursue it any further.
However, when I returned to the kitchen, I checked the seasoning used that day and found that the sugar was ten grams
Kim Jong Il is an avid equestrian, and has even appeared in a TV movie atop a snow-white horse. (All horses
belonging to the Kim family are white.) I often accompanied him on long rides. A group of guides would lead the
pack, followed by Kim Jong Il, his wife Ko Young Hee, the children, and me.
One day in 1992, as I was riding behind Kim Jong Il at a right-turning path, I noticed that his horse was standing by
itself. Kim had fallen off the horse. It had apparently slipped on a bed of pebbles laid over some asphalt being repaired.
Kim Jong Il had hit his head and shoulder quite hard and had fallen unconscious. A doctor was called immediately.
From that day, every evening at 10:00 P.M. for the next month, five or six of his administrative staff members and I
would be injected with the same painkiller that Kim Jong Il was taking. He was afraid he would become addicted to it,
and didn't want to be the only one.
The reason the shipment weighed so much was that I had bought a very large Indian tuna whole. I also bought an electric saw to use to fillet the fish. I had once spent six months filleting tuna at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, and I wanted to show Kim Jong Il and his family my technique.
In any event, here are the countries I visited and the foods I frequently bought there:
Urumqi (in northwestern China) for fruit, mainly hamigua melons and grapes
Thailand for fruit, mostly durians, papayas, and mangoes
Malaysia for fruit, mostly durians, papayas, and mangoes
Czechoslovakia for draft beer
Denmark for pork
Iran for caviar
Uzbekistan for caviar
Japan for seafood
He gave the signal to start, and I rammed the accelerator as hard as I could. Halfway through I looked at him and
realized that I was leading by about half a boat length. For a moment I thought I was making a mistake, but I
remembered that he had said he wanted me to take the race seriously, so I crossed the finish line first.
At that moment I thought maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to win, and I regretted it a bit. But he had said it was a serious race, so I decided I wasn't wrong in winning. Until then nobody else had ever won a contest against Kim Jong Il.
I departed promptly, and when I reached the Beijing airport, I placed a call to the Mitsukoshi department store in
Tokyo's Ginza district to reserve 100 regular red-bean-filled rice cakes and 100 mugwort-filled rice cakes. The next
morning I retrieved the cakes and immediately marched back to Beijing. Each cake cost only about 100 yen, but I
calculated that with air and hotel expenses each one cost a whopping 1,500 yen [about $14].
When I lined up the Japanese cigarettes on the baccarat table, Kim Jong Il smoked only the menthol kinds. At the time,
he had been smoking a British brand called Rothmans Royals, but he said he had wanted to try Japanese menthols as
well. After that he smoked Cartier menthols, but from 1998 to 1999 he quit smoking altogether.
As for the rice cakes, he awaited the approval of the inspection staff before tasting them. Once he did, he was very
satisfied and remarked, "Japanese rice cakes are really delicious. Why can't our cooks make them this way? The aroma
of the mugwort is also very nice."
cellar. Famous liquor brands from around the world were lined up, maybe about 10,000 bottles in all.
At the time, Kim Jong Il drank Johnnie Walker Swing for whiskey and Hennessy XO for cognac.
The liquor cellar also had a karaoke set, a piano, and a round table that could seat fifteen or sixteen people. There, I
And then, at that moment, I remembered that my sister had dubbed several dozen of her more interesting videos of
Japanese TV shows for me. Among them was a tape of a cooking program called The "Which Dish?" Show. I recalled
that an exceedingly tasty-looking sea-urchin dish was featured on the show, and thought that I should show it to Kim
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