Voracious Vernacular

Secret Menu

by Eric Larsen

I love MEAT! But there are those who don’t. More importantly, there were those that did and didn’t in Japan. I’m talking—- waaaay back in the day for Japan.  Supposedly around AD 700 (if not, definitely in the Edo period), the consumption of meat was banned in Japan. Some cite Buddhism, while others cite the government.  Either way, meat was taboo! But flowers weren’t…  Even though meat was だめ, some people still enjoyed eating it. Thus euphemisms were used to talk about/order meat. Horse, deer, and boar each had a corresponding “flower-name.” I can’t find when the meat ban was lifted, but still today the nicknames remain. (warning— young people probably only know さくら, which will only make you look cooler when you know Old Japanese culture that Japanese people don’t know!)

ばにく (baniku) = Horse meat = さくら (sakura)
The most commonly known euphemism today, さくら means cherry (blossom). The red/pink outside, white inside of cuts of horsemeat supposedly look like cherry blossoms.

しかにく (shikaniku) = Venison (deer meat) = もみじ (momiji)
もみじ means maple (leaf).  Deer are supposedly fond of, and often found eating at or relaxing under

 いのしし (inoshishi) = Wild boar = ぼたん (botan) /やまくじら (yama-kujira) (forest whale). ぼたん means peony. Mountain whale obviously isn’t a flower, but is another name.

So whether or not you eat meat: go out, make new friends, and blow your friends’/coworkers’/strangers’ minds at izakayas with your meaty-knowledge!

Wanna share your nihongo knowledge? Send us your favorite slang, dialectal phrases and study habits to goodmorningaomori@gmail.com

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3 thoughts on “Secret Menu

  1. Pingback: June 2014, Vol. 1 | Japan life in pictures and words

  2. Pingback: GMA Spotlight – Good Morning Aomori

  3. Pingback: Weird Words: Sakura Edition – Good Morning Aomori

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