As icky as it sounds to many of us brought up in Western cultures, the human consumption of insects is common in many parts of the world.
Most Japanese people are on the same page as the rest of the developed world in thinking of bugs as unappetizing—not to mention creepy, gross, and/or scary— little creatures that have no place in the home, and especially not on the dinner plate.
However, there are some rural regions of Japan where insects are are a local delicacy, and have been so for centuries. In Nagano, the prefecture this writer calls home, you can walk into any supermarket and expect to find plastic packs of grasshopper (inago) or stonefly larva (suzumushi) boiled in soy sauce, and sometimes even read-to-eat packs of boiled wasp larva mixed in with rice (hachinoko-gohan).
In the cities, eating bugs is still taboo, and even in rural areas insect cuisine is now considered fringe cuisine, especially among the younger generations. But in Tokyo, there is a group of people who believe that bugs just need to be given a chance, which is why they are hosting what is now the 4th annual Tokyo Insect Eating Festival (Tokyo Mushikui Festival) on November 23.
Sorry, we didn’t hear about it ourselves either until today…
The event is now in its fourth year and is hosted by the Tokyo Bug Eating Club, a gathering of individuals who hope insects will one day become a staple of Japanese cuisine.
At the helm of this eccentric club is Shoichi Uchiyama, a 62-year-old insect chef and native of—who would’ve guessed— Nagano prefecture.
Shoichi has authored two books for those interested in insect cuisine but are unsure of where to start or even how to cook the little buggers.With the Insect Eating Festival, he hopes to provide people with the opportunity to learn more about insect eating from the pros and, hopefully, try a bite themselves.
There will even be insect cooking festival where attendees can submit their specialty dish for tasting by a panel of judges.
The festival will take place tomorrow, November 23, at Momozono Kaikan in Nakano. Entrance is 2000 yen (US$24) and runs from 17:00 to 20:30, with doors opening at 16:00. There is a special gift for those who reserve a spot in advance, but you can still show up the day of if you’re feeling adventurous and don’t have any plans for dinner tomorrow.
We’ve shared a few pictures from previous events hosted by the Tokyo Bug Eating Club below so you can get an idea of what might be on tomorrow’s menu, though if you get squeamish just by looking at pictures of bugs, you might want take your eight legs and crawl to a different part of the web.
■ Information: Insect Eating Festival
Address: Momozono Kaikan, 35-1 Sanchome, Nakano (a few minutes walk from JR Nakano Station South Exit)
Date: November 23
Time: 17:00-20:30, Doors open at 16:00
Price: 2,000 yen
Reservations/Inquiries: email@example.com, send to 虫フェス運営事務局
▼ Insect Sushi!
▼And finally, silkworm Christmas cake, just in time for the holidays.
▼Merry Christmas, everyone!