Sukiyaki (pronounced by the Japanese in three sylllables with no accent--shee-yah-kee) is the dish that has proved most popular among American visitors to Japan. It is not, as it is sometimes described, a Japanese imitation of chop suey, but is a native concoction with a long and honorable history. Its ingredients may vary, but they consist usually of raw beef sliced paper-thin, onions, spinach, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, bean curd, and a kind of gelatinous noodle, with sugar and rice wine and soy sauce as seasonings. It is the cooking and eating of sukiyaki, however, rather than the food itself, that makes it an experience to remember. The guests gather round a thick skillet set on a charcoal burner, and the raw ingredients (brought in beautifully arranged on a huge plate, for the Japanese believe in eating first with their eyes) are cooked in their presence. After part of the food has been allowed to simmer with its seasonings for a tantalizing while, the guests reach into the common skillet with their chopsticks, taking out whatever pieces please them and dipping them into a beaten raw egg. Sukiyaki is not just a food, it is a social experience; for all evening long the guests sit around the pan "cooking and eating," as the Japanese say, "and eating and cooking."