While walking home from our Japanese class on Tuesday night we came face-to-snout with an Inoshishi – wild boar. There are signs all over our neighborhood with, presumably, warnings about the inoshishi because they will come down from Mt Rokko to eat garbage. When I go on early morning walks there is usually evidence of their presence in the form of poop in the middle of the road and garbage scattered on the street. Japan is really clean and old women from the neighborhood usually have the evidence cleaned up before 8am. When we almost walked into Wilbur's mountain cousin, Craig saw the pig first and grabbed my arm. I thought SPIDER and jumped back with a gasp. When he pointed out the inoshishi, I was just glad it didn't have 8 legs.
The boar went up to about my hips and we couldn't tell if it had tusks but I wasn't scared of seeing one. You know those cartoons with two guys stranded on a desert island and they start hallucinating that the other guy is a burger or hot dog – when I think of inoshishi I think of bacon cheeseburgers and pulled pork. This doesn't mean I don't respect the fact that they're wild animals. I kept my distance and didn't try rubbing any seasoning into the ribs of the one we saw, it just means I wouldn't have jumped back and gasped if I had known it was an inoshishi Craig had seen. I'm thinking I should find a recipe that uses spiders – if I discover they're tasty then maybe I won't be so irrationally afraid of them.
We crossed to the other side of the street and continued on our way. The next day Craig told some of his co-workers about our inoshishi spotting. Turns out there is a region in Japan known for its inoshishi cuisine. Guess where we went on Saturday.
I got a picture with a dude dressed up as an inoshishi.
Here is a link about the town we went to: http://archives.kansaiscene.com/2009_11/html/getaway.shtmlIt took about 1.5 hours by train. This was the first small town we've visited here. The sidewalks rolled up promptly at 6pm, it took us 3 hours to get home because the buses come once an hour and the train out of town twice an hour and the two were not coordinated.
The first thing we did was buy a little bag of roasted chestnuts to snack on while walking around. There seemed to be a little festival so we stopped in for some inoshishi sausage and a black soy bean cake. The region is known for wild boar and black soybeans. The soybeans were everywhere and pretty tasty.
We walked around a castle that was built in the 1600s. It only took 6 months to build. It wasn't built as a monument to some ruler's greatness but as a strategic stronghold to besiege Osaka castle. A lot of stone was used to build the walls and, we're guessing, a lot of peasants died due to a grueling work schedule.
Inoshishi is traditionally prepared in a stew. We found a restaurant specializing in said stew and ate our fill of the inoshishi. At the table there was a gas burn and the waitress set a big pot of broth on it and waited till it was about boiling. Then she brought out a plate piled with thinly sliced inoshishi and various veggies and some noodles. She dumped everything in the broth and told us to wait 10minutes. It was really good. Not too gamey but not as mild as pork. After our meal we walked along a road with restored samurai homes that still have thatched roofs. We also went to a shrine dedicated to victory. There was a long staircase up to the shrine that had a lot of red gates over it. We decided this is where the Japanese Rocky would train. After all this it was starting to get dark and we discovered everyone was closing down for the day.
After our three hour bus/train/waiting we were walking up our hill home and saw another inoshishi. I told him how delicious I thought his cousin had been, from across the road. He didn't dignify my comment with a response.