I am a carnivore, through and through. I’ve rarely met a protein that I haven’t happily scarfed down and then promptly asked for seconds of.
This past weekend, some of my fellow Aomori-shi ALTs headed down south to Shichinohe (七戸) for the annual White Battle snowball fight competition. Writing about that actual event, however, will have to wait until the next post…because before that, we made the trek to Gonohe (五戸), where one of our fellow ALTs, Dave (who also just so happens to hail from the Pittsburgh area), let us invade his tiny little town. We were in Gonohe for one delicious reason: horsemeat. Gonohe is home to Sasaki (佐々木), a tiny barbecue restaurant that has an amazing 1300円 (about 14USD) all-you-can-eat meat buffet. In short, it is heaven.
My college roommate, who has ridden horses her entire life, expressed abject horror the first time she’d heard I’d gone last year. Admittedly, I can’t really blame her. Had I grown up around horses, I probably would have felt the same. But as my parents never gave me a pony for Christmas, I didn’t have any reservations about digging in.
Horsemeat, compared to most other red meats, is pretty lean. Of course, this healthy aspect goes right out the window, since you need to grease up the grill with a hunk of horse fat so that the meat doesn’t burn. Apparently the really hardcore connoisseurs eat the straight fat…as you might have guessed, I decided to skip that particular culinary hurdle.
Even though 佐々木 is most famous for their horsemeat, they also have lamb, chicken, and beef, as well as cabbage, to grill. Couple all of that with unlimited rice and miso soup, and you’ve got a proper feast. And since the pieces of meat are rather small, it’s easy to go through several plates in only ten or fifteen minutes. All-you-can-eat meat buffet sounds like an amazing plan on paper…but it’s easy to end up nursing a third trimester food baby in only an hour and a half. That being said, the pain is so, so, so worth it. Yakiniku (restaurants where you grill your own meat) is one of my favorite styles of food in Japan, as the atmosphere, while smoky, is just as rewarding as the food itself.
Once we had stuffed every ounce of meat into our stomachs that we could, we headed back to our hosts’ houses to retire for the night. But going to sleep wasn’t as easy as we’d hoped. No sooner had we snuggled into our futons that our phones started blaring the dreaded klaxon that meant a sizable earthquake was coming. Most phones in Japan have these alarms built in, and the extra heads-up, only if it’s thirty seconds, is always appreciated. That being said, the things are terrifying. They sound like the alarm you’d hear if a nuclear reactor was headed into a meltdown.
The earthquake on Saturday night was around a 6.4, which is one of the stronger quakes I’ve felt in the last year and a half. This one was long and strong, so much so that one of my friends had to catch a large shelf from falling over. (I know what you’re thinking: Why didn’t we go outside? Most quakes only last between twenty and thirty seconds, so by the time you can get outside, it’s already over.) And because we were in a traditional Japanese house with lots of wooden sliding doors and windows, the rattling was pretty intensely loud.
Just another winter evening in northern Japan…horsemeat buffet and then earthquake alarms.