You are traveling Japan. Loving old temples and castles. You are also a big fan of Japanese food. You smell the yummy food from every corner of every street. At a restaurant, you happen to have chicken sukiyaki with your Japanese friends. It smells good and you can’t wait to try it. And you notice something different. Something is wrong with the chicken. Bite sized chicken floating in the amazing sukiyaki broth seem to have gross parts. You poke them with chopsticks and wonder. Is this a mistake? Did they not remove those skin part and fatty part in the kitchen? You look around. Your Japanese friends seem to be eating happily, They are looking at you expecting you to have a bite. Pressure. You are not sure what to do with this unfamiliar “unneeded” parts attached to the chicken meat!
Restaurants in the States, even ones run by Asian people tend to shed all the “unneeded” parts. It is for American customers. Unfortunately, with only the white meat parts, the dish is never full flavored. Actually thanks to those “unneeded” parts, great broth comes out to deepen the taste. They give just the right amount of grease into the sauce without any artificial adding to fake it. Most importantly, you can appreciate the full potentials of the chicken that died for you. Yes, chicken cubes used to be a living chicken.
A movie, “The Cove” had the hardest time to be shown at all in Japan. It appeared in public one night at Tokyo International Film Festival. However, after that, theaters postponed indefinitely because of numbers of protests. “The Cove” became the most controversial movie in recent years while it was more than just accepted in America. Many people in Hollywood felt anger and sorrow for poor dolphins. This documentary film moved enough people, it won Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Against such a heated movement in Hollywood, many Japanese people seem to be upset. Hollywood usually appreciates Japan. Sushi, Toyota Prius, Ninja, Samurai or Otaku culture these days entertain so many people here. But no, America didn’t like the idea of killing and eating dolphins.
Whales and dolphins used to be a bigger food source for Japanese people. Whales fed many people for cheap because of their size. Meat and internal organs are for cooking. Fatty parts are for oil, soap, margarine or candles. Bones are for cooking, art, umbrellas, and needless to say, a bow for a violin. All parts were appreciated and used. Interestingly, Japan has a strong association with whale hunting, but it used to be common among Native Americans of various locations, some parts in Europe and even in Hawaii. An accepted entertainment among general Westerners? Whale/dolphin watching. Though watching doesn’t kill them directly, yet constant human eyes surely stress them, some believe.
Not only Japan, but also some places outside of Hollywood criticize “The Cove”. Some say it’s a propaganda film, others say America is overreacting to the realization of variety of food cultures in the world. In American culture, where no common traditions root among so-called Americans, the origin of food culture may be ignored more than other places on Earth.
Old tradition in a culture versus new world standard. Is the life of an animal heavier when it’s smarter than the other? “The Cove” remains with ultimate questions. Meat certainly comes from a living creature, that is the truth. What we take for granted in modern life is to have appreciation to the lives that gave up for you.
Nonetheless, it is essential to realize there are cultures, history, traditions and reasons in food all over the world. Without them American people face the need the food culture is established by human convenience in America today.
About Jasmine Natsumi(pen name):
Born in 1982 in Japan. Came to America in 2003. Ever since, graduated, worked, and married. Currently live in Oregon.