Feb 17, 2016
News: Is The Ikizukuri/生き作りDebate Alive and Kicking in Japan?
We’d never come across the term stunt eating until doing research for this post about ikizukuri in Japan. The term was attached to the antics of British filmmaker Louis Cole, who’s YouTube channel Food For Louis saw him travelling around the world eating stuff that was still alive. These videos have since been removed. Louis now concentrates on another channel - Fun For Louis, where hundreds of thousands of viewers live vicariously through him as he travels around the world having … fun.
Perhaps for many, Japan could be a stunt-eating paradise. A veritable skatepark of gastronomic thrills and the occasional hard fall.
At the top of the stunt-eating pyramid seems to be a plate of something that’s still alive. In fact, for people like Louis, the plate probably isn’t needed. Here in Japan though, they like to maintain an air of civility - alive and kicking … and dressed for the occasion!
Typically it’s seafood that bears the brunt of Japan’s dietary urges. Ikizukuri/生き作り is the preparation of sashimi made of live seafood (usually fish), as in, the fish is still alive when it’s served. Obviously, this is going to present a challenge for many. Particularly those who hark from nations where celeb chefs bang on about freshness, whilst mass media plants seeds of fear about eating raw food and then dying 20 years later from some Hollywood-horror of a disease.
Does it present an ethical/moral challenge though? PETA, in their usual blunt rhetoric, said of Louis Cole that he ‘should undergo psychological tests’ after he was filmed eating a live scorpion, and I don’t think it was because he chose a scorpion instead of a fish. It could have been anything. The point was that it was still alive when he got his chops around it.
People like Louis are going to be an easy target though - he looks like someone who has too much fun in life. But he’s in more ‘highbrow’ company. Kitchen A-lister Raymond Blanc ate live eels when he came to Japan, saying he could feel them jiggle in his tummy.
I wonder, if fish had the capacity to understand our debate, they might question what all the fuss is about. They eat/get eaten alive on a daily basis (without seasoning, to boot). They might even sigh with relief at being spared the cramped misery of battery cages and slaughterhouse queues.
For many though, this debate is a distant concern, it’s not part of the cultural/gastronomic landscape … until we come to Japan. That said, here, among locals, debate centers largely (though not exclusively) on whether or not they can physically stomach it, rather than concerns about ethics/morals.
Over to you? Is ikizukuri/生き作り right, wrong, delicious, disgusting? Is there even a need for debate? We went out to gather some opinions. Check out the video.
Thanks to everyone who stopped and talked to us for this video.
Join the ‘debate’ and leave your comments below.
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