This post is my contribution to the “Eat, Drink, Cook” Japanese bloggers’ carnival. See below for a list of the other bloggers!
Well it’s that time of year again – the plum and cherry blossoms have bloomed and the days are finally starting to warm up. Time to get out the grill and head to the park for some delicious Japanese BBQ, or yakiniku.
Oh yes, Yakiniku – the edible favourite of both Japanese and Gaijin alike. A tradition passed down (using tongs!) from one hot, steaming generation to the next. A tradition that dates back to the samurai of Medieval Japan – nay, a tradition that spans over a millennium back to when the god and goddess Izanagi and Izanami gave birth to the Oyashima, the Japanese islands.
Am I wrong about this?? Well, the Japanese Wikipedia Page for Yakiniku itself (resource) says that the origins of Yakiniku are hard to pin down, as people began frying meat with the discovery of fire, and that in Japan the frying of meat has been depicted in folk art of yore.
But surely we can get a little more specific than that! Let’s see what we’ve got…
Yakiniku – A Korean Invention
In 2002 an NHK programme suggested that Yakiniku was possibly a Korean tradition that was adopted into and changed by Japanese culture after World War Two. Evidence for this points to the presence of Yakiniku in both countries, although differing in both: many Japanese visitors to Korea are surprised when they order Yakiniku and receive a sukiyaki-style meat. Conversely, the use of BBQ sauces (or tare) in Japan, and items like horumon which have become quite popular in Japan, are uncommon in Korean Yakiniku.
Other theories posit that Yakiniku was invented in Japan, but by a Korean. It has been said that a female Korean factory-worker living in Japan before WW2 was given some entrails, which at the time were often used for fertilizer. However, instead of using the entrails in a garden, she took them home, cooked them and ate them, thus beginning the tradition of Yakiniku.
Another theory cites The Treaty on Basic Relations Between Japan and the Republic of Korea (link), which was passed in 1960. This treaty contributed to an influx of Koreans moving to Japan, where many of these migrants opened Yakiniku shoppes and claimed Yakiniku as a Korean dish.
Yakiniku – A Japanese Invention Promulgated by Foreigners
That Korean dishes such as bulgogi and bibimbap often appear in the menus of modern-day Yakiniku shoppes adds to the air that Yakiniku has Korean origins. However, in the Meiji Era Tokyo (1868-1912) many Korean restaurants existed as high class establishments which allegedly did not serve Yakiniku. Indeed, claims have been made that Yakiniku has a long history of being referred to as ‘baabekyuu,’ in Japanese, suggesting a connection to the Western food culture of BBQ.
One of the more common explanations of the origin of Yakiniku suggests that it started during the Edo Era (1603-1868) when animals such as hogs, deer, dogs, cow and birds were fried for consumption. At the end of the Edo Era when Japan was opened by foreigners, European, American and Chinese merchants opened shops for foreign travellers in port cities that served Yakiniku as an introduction to the food culture of Japan. In fact, a slaughterhouse that was founded in Kobe around this time by a British man is said to be the start of the now-famous Kobe Beef Company.
So where did Yakiniku come from?
it would appear also that Korean Yakiniku can be dated back to the Joseon Era (1392-1910) of Korean history where it was a dish served to nobles. Perhaps Yakiniku is indeed a Korean invention! Or have the artifacts of Yakiniku history been burned away or devoured over time.
Where do you think Yakiniku came from?
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This post is my contribution to the “Eat, Drink, Cook” Japanese bloggers’ carnival. The other contributions are:
This post is my contribution to the “Eat, Drink, Cook” Japanese bloggers’ carnival. Please check out the other contributions!
Being Vegetarian at Japanese Work Parties by Sophelia’s Adventures in Japan. Sophelia regularly blogs about teaching, adoption, dogs, vegetarianism and general geekiness.
Eating My Way Around an Island by Big Red Dots and Squggly Inkblots. Furiida blogs about her experiences as a JET Programme participant in the rural prefecture of Oita.
The History of Yakiniku by Angry Gaijin. Cameron Ohara is a Gaikokujin (foriegner) living in Japan. But get this – he was actually Japanese in a previous life! Now it’s all he can do to get his Japanese comrades to look beyond his red hair and tall nose and see the Japanese human that exists within!
Samurai Sushi by Gaijin Explorer. Zacky Chan studies aikido and kyudo, and informally practices whatever else is relevant. He can usually be found on his days off exploring forests and mountains on his mountain bike.