Learning to Play Ball at Issian

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Issian is an izakaya in Wallingford that advertises itself as a stone grill and a sushi bar. This Japanese pub is a perfect place for a group to enjoy drinks, share small plates, and engage in spirited conversation.

During a recent visit, my group went a bit wild for grilled and fried food. As part of a feast, we ordered stone-grilled enoki mushrooms, grilled mackerel, grilled tuna collar, a variety of yakitori, fried-chicken cartilage (my favorite dish), kushi katsu (fried tonkatsu on a stick)--even French fries with wasabi mayonnaise. And, per Japanese custom, to fill the stomach at the end of the meal, grilled onigiri (rice balls), which are miso-glazed and delicious.

So what does Issian's onigiri teach us about sex?

It's all about the handling of the balls.

It's fun and fairly easy to make onigiri--especially after a bit of practice. Almost every Japanese person knows how. Children can be taught to make onigiri, and elderly women who've made them for decades can basically do it in their sleep. It's just a matter of learning the technique.

I web-searched onigiri-making, reaching a random website that gave helpful tips. These included washing your hands well beforehand and keeping your hands moist. Then, getting specific: "Make the shape of a C with your left hand, and keep turning the wad of rice against this to give it a round edge. With the thumb and fingers of the right hand, press the rice into a flat shape--so your left hand makes it round, and your right hand makes it flat, turning it all the while, and both contribute to squeezing it together."

And on to this note of encouragement: "It sounds complicated, but once you have some practice you can stop thinking of it step-by-step like this and it becomes simpler and more intuitive. Squeezing too hard will smush the onigiri up; too light a touch will mean it doesn't stick together properly. You will be able to feel and see when you are applying enough pressure."

Well, wouldn't you know? Ball-pleasuring can borrow similar technique.

While every guy has his own preference about touching the testicles, follow the onigiri method to see what works. Lubricate a finger and run it along the seam that divides the ball sack and up to the base of the penis. Try making a C with your left hand, using it to cup his balls while stroking his penis with your right hand. Slowly, play with movement and pressure. You might want to slide the balls over each other or squeeze. Some guys like a harder squeeze, while some like a lighter touch; you "will be able to feel and see when you are applying enough pressure." And, as with onigiri, you might even want to take the balls into your mouth.

Bottom line: Give good balls, guys go nuts.

A serious note: This week's Sexy Feast has fun with rice balls, but rice balls, along with instant ramen and other items have played an important role in feeding so many stricken by disaster in northern Japan. Just over one month has passed since the earthquake and the tsunami, and while radiation concerns remain in the news, it's easy to forget that huge numbers of Japanese people continue to live in difficult conditions and face shortages of food, water, medicine, and other supplies. Seattleites have provided enormous help, and relief efforts will continue, as the hard-hit areas of Japan will take years to rebuild. Watch for more charity efforts, including the big Sushi Chef Dream Team event on May 5 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center. Seattle's top sushi chefs and other prominent local chefs will prepare food, and there will be live entertainment and an auction to raise funds. You can also continue to give money to organizations like the Red Cross in whatever amount you can afford.

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