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Thread: Eating meat in olde Japan

  1. #1
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    Default Eating meat in olde Japan

    Did people eat meat in feudal Japan? Sometimes I've heard that they only ate seafood, and other times I have read that they also ate birds. I think not eating 4 leged animals may have been a Shinto thing. This seems strange considering the Chinese would eat anything that moved.

    Anyway, does anyone know what the story was with eating animals?
    Liam Cognet

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    Default Don't have an answer, but...

    Given how little of the landmass can be used effectively to farm, livestock wouldn't have been a viable protein source for most of the populace (even today w/modern farming, most meat products in Japan are imported).

    Be well,
    Jigme
    Jigme Chobang Daniels
    aoikoyamakan at gmail dot com

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    One thing needs to be kept in mind, transport.

    Fresh seafood more than, say 40 miles, a two day trip, from the source was not common. Transport was via foot, goods hauled via human pulled carts. You want to eat any fish not refrigerated or preserved some how after a day or two? Think about why people in the middle of the US really ain't too crazy about seafood in general. It used to be hard to get fresh seafood, freezers are a modern invention.

    I've got numerous books on old Japan, specifically, Tokugawa-early Meiji era. One book, "Memories of Silk and Straw", has accounts from people alive in early Meiji era on life and food is a major part of some of those memories.

    Meat inland, in mountain regions, was consumed when you could get it. Even out in the Ibaragi - Kashima area where lake fish and sea fish like salmon was common, horse meat was sold and consumed. Deer, racoon, rabbit, pheasant, quail, duck, all were mentioned in several recollections as sources of protein for many, including the samurai. One section has a man's recollection of his grandfather, who was an executioner for a daimyo in the late Tokugawa era, taking him hunting for duck and how he hunted with his rifle.

    I've got another book, deals specifically in one chapter with diet and food sources in Tokugawa era, I can't remember the name of the book at the moment. But it essentially outlines the diet of several sections of society. One thing in common for lower classes, was calories consumed were low, nutrition values were bad, and most protein was vegetable based, soy is mentioned, as are sweet potatoes. It also mentions, as Jigme pointed out, livestock was not part of the culture for food, but wild game was used to supplement the grains and vegetables.

    So, yeah, meat was consumed. My take on dietary needs for old Japan is the harder life was for people, the more likely you were to eat what was available, belief restrictions be damned.
    Last edited by Neil Yamamoto; 12th October 2006 at 22:46.

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    Ever been to Gifu, Land of Bee Larvae Boiled In Soy Sauce? Mm-mm-good! (Not.)

    So, yeah, I figure they ate whatever meat they could get their hands on. Especially during the winter, things were tough. Land-locked, snowed-in peasants aren't going to turn their noses up at food out of Buddhist scruples. And I doubt boar and horse sashimi and nabe are a recent invention either.

    Kanazawa, my wife's home town, is famous for jibu, a stew made with duck. Interestingly, the sauce is thickened with wheat flour, leading some food historians to speculate that it was originally a Nanban thing.
    Earl Hartman

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    Quote Originally Posted by Earl Hartman
    Mm-mm-good! (Not.)
    Need to remind myself not to read Earl's posts when eating. Thanks for the laugh, Earl!
    George Kohler

    Genbukan Kusakage dojo
    Dojo-cho

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    When I went to Gifu on business a long time ago, a guy tried to give me a bottle of bee larvae (it could have been wasp larvae; they looked really big) done tsukudani style (boiled with soy sauce, sake, and sugar). It was a glass bottle, so I could see all of the pale, fat grubs swimming into view from the depths of the dark sauce, their little faces and forelegs scrunched up against the glass, like commuters in downtown Tokyo at 8:00 on Monday morning pressed up against the windows of the Ginza line.

    I must have jumped backwards about 10 feet.

    I really felt sorry for the poor guy. He was only trying to be nice.
    Earl Hartman

  7. #7
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    How about rice paddy grasshoppers!! Yum yum! They even tell you how healthy it is to eat them, with a blurb about what good it does for you. In the end, it's all about eating creepy crawlies.

    Quote Originally Posted by Earl Hartman
    Ever been to Gifu, Land of Bee Larvae Boiled In Soy Sauce? Mm-mm-good! (Not.)

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    I've eaten fried ants in Mexico. Not bad... Taste like popcorn.
    George Kohler

    Genbukan Kusakage dojo
    Dojo-cho

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    "so I could see all of the pale, fat grubs swimming into view from the depths of the dark sauce, their little faces and forelegs scrunched up against the glass, like commuters in downtown Tokyo at 8:00 on Monday morning pressed up against the windows of the Ginza line."

    Thanks, Earl!
    I am NEVER going to look at my fellow NYC subway hordes the same way again

    mew
    Margaret Welsh

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    Quite a few times in Japan I had to diplomatically inform my gracious host/ess that invertabrates were not part of my normal diet. The only reason that really holds any water for the eating of such things is the complete absence of real food. Mountain people in Aichi and Shizuoka were fond of venison and bear [still are]. I suppose if you had a bastard of a daimyo you just had to eat what you could hide from the tax collectors.

    The freaky one was chocolates with bee larvae fillings...num nums....teh scariest was the appetizers [I use the word in lieu of a better one] in the Izakaya- slimy raw squid-lets, delightfully fried chicken cartilage [not bad] and something slimy, disguised by wakame seaweed and just impossible to swallow without immediately regurgitating- and I am not a fussy eater by any means- locusts in Thailand, dog and monkey in Malaysia, even jungle rat in Kota tinggi Battle School...............
    Lurking in dark alleys may be hazardous to other peoples health........

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by George Kohler
    I've eaten fried ants in Mexico. Not bad... Taste like popcorn.
    I've heard of that and wanted to try it. Man I am missing out. Are they sweet, or just "anty?"

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    Below is an extract from an paper I wrote on national cuisine:

    One such example during this time was the taboo of eating meat. Originating in the Buddhist prohibition of killing, the ban on eating meat was given greater emphasis when the consumption of meat was also banned by Japans own indigenous religion, Shinto. So when in 1872, when the emperor ate Beef in public, he not only single handedly abolished one of Japans ‘superstitious taboos’, he also enhanced his own position as a “progressive ruler who leads his people toward ‘Civilization and Enlightenment’”.

    More info on this can be found in the following articles:

    Cwiertka, Katarzyna. “A Note on the Making of Culinary Tradition – and Example of Modern Japan” Appetite 30 (1998): 117-128

    Cwiertka, Katarzyna J. "Western Food and the Making of the Japanese Nation-state." In The Politics of Food, eds. Marianne Elisabeth Lien and Brigitte Nerlich, 121-139. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2004.
    George Ujvary

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    Quote Originally Posted by George Kohler View Post
    I've eaten fried ants in Mexico. Not bad... Taste like popcorn.
    I ate ants in Australia. There's a specific kind of tree ant that tastes like citrus. Kind of weird...
    Regards,

    Jeffrey Luz-Alterman

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    EEEeeeeeeeeeew. How about fresh grilled tarantula? I saw a tribe who throws them on a big fire and cracks them open after the fur is singed off, pulling off the legs and discarding them.

    If you get dispepsia from eating ants, do you have to use antacid?



    yuk.
    Dawn Tirschel

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