Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It's What's for Dinner

Strap on your galoshes and full-body frocks, it's time for a trip to the slaughterhouse Central Wholesale Meat Market! See firsthand how last weekend's yakiniku found its way from an animal's body and into your belly.

Don't get too excited quite yet. Reservations are required to tour the factory grounds, so be sure to call ahead of time and make your self a date with your meat maker. For those of you who are unwilling to wait, or simply lack the fortitude, there's still the Meat Information Center. This mini-museum to all things butchery holds your hand through the whole process with child-friendly illustrated flow charts. Do the Japanese incapacitate their livestock with gas, brain-blowing air guns, or a good old-fashioned bump on the noggin? Discover these answers and more as you peruse their cache of awesome tools used to rend a thousand pounds of muscle into lean jerky.

"After the foot cutter does its job an air knife is used to remove the skin."

The conclusion of the museum is far more upsetting than the carnage implied so far. Tucked into the far corner is an oblong glass case containing hate-filled letters sent by citizens. Traditionally, people in the meat and leather industry have been discriminated as members of the Buraku class, Japan’s outsider caste akin to India's Untouchables. The class system was abolished in the Meiji period, though this did little to cleanse the social stigma that continues to live on in certain parts of the country. According to mainstream opinion the situation has improved in the post-WWII years, although the recent trend towards sweeping the problem under the rug in the hope that discrimination will disappear if the Buraku vanish from the public conscious is the subject of hushed debate.

Going back to the letters, they're real Son-of-Sam type sensational trash. Clawed handwriting fills the pages with threats to flood the factory with Sarin gas ala the Aum subway attacks. Baseless allegations accuse workers of having contracted mad cow disease from snacking on infected bovine brains. Quotes that "the life of an Untouchable is only worth one-seventh that of a normal citizen" echo the judicial ruling from a 1859 homicide case where a man was pardoned for murdering a Buraku. The writer asserts ominously that he'll need quite a bit of blood on his hands before any court would convict. Thankfully, these threats of violence led to his eventual arrest, but not before he sent over 300 letters in a two year period.

As if to cleanse the palette of the bilious aftertaste, the case of correspondences concludes with words of encouragement from elementary school students who toured the factory. One girl chimes in with the adorably self-unaware hypocrisy we all wish we could emulate.

“I learned that killing animals is really scary! I love animals. But I love meat more!”

Truly a mooooving eulogy. I’ll eat to that.

Image borrowed from オッさんの頭


  1. @Baloons Studio: True, but not quite as disgusting as the giant beef bowl at the bottom of the post!

  2. @voidmare: yup! I agree with you. It definitely awful.

  3. Is the homegrown meat movement present at all over there? A lot of people disgusted by the meat industry over here have resorted to growing theor own or commissioning small co-op farms.Seems like outside of rural areas that could be taboo. Great post!