By MiNa Kim
As many of you may know, one of the most fun things about traveling in Japan is how every region has a “famous food”. Is it really famous? How many people know about it? Is it also the best? Can it be only found there? There are so many questions to challenge these claims, and I’m gonna attempt on answering them.
The hilly town of Gonohe claims its fame on having the freshest and most delicious horse meat. Eating horse can be controversial for some, even for the Japanese, who eat some crazy sh*t. (Sperm sacks, amirite?) One of my teachers loves horses. It’s her favorite animal: she draws pictures of it, has horse figurines, and absolutely refuses to eat it. A friend of mine back home, one of many horse fanatics in the USA, pleaded me not to eat them with tears in her eyes. Alas, in a town where horse meat is abundant and plentiful, and is served for school lunch, I eventually consumed it willfully and proudly. AND LET ME TELL YOU. It’s not that different than beef. Both hooved, both red meat, both animals.
A lot of people go crazy at the idea of eating something unfamiliar, and I, too, am one of those people. However, after having eaten it for the past 5 years now, I can say it’s just another cut of meat. You can find horse dishes at a few places in the nanbu area, and it is a delicacy. It’s more expensive than beef, but also leaner. If you do go looking for it, you’ll see that a famous and recommended way of eating it is raw. RAW. Like sashimi, it’s a top quality cut, but dipped in a miso sauce rather than soy. It’s called basashi, or horse sashimi, and it’s pretty incredible.
But why should you eat it in Gonohe?
A long time ago, when the roads were still dirt and people taking day trips to the market was still a thing, Gonohe was rather a hopping place. It was a market for fruits and vegetables, handcrafted goods, knick knacks maybe, and most famously, an auctioning market for horses. Those were the good old days, and Gonohe provided horses for farming families, war generals rampaging villages, and even perhaps a rich kid’s first pet. That last part might be an American stereotype. However, history went down with getting rid of the samurai, topping it off with eventually being banned from even having a military, and so the market for horses became drastically smaller. Soon after, technology got a bit better, and gramps and grandma probably got those tractors they presently block the roads with, and the demand for horse dwindled away. So, what to do with the supply of horse being as steady as ever? People decided to eat them. Turns out, they’re quite tasty.
One family in Gonohe, the Ogata clan, claims to be the best horse serving restaurant and I can’t say they’re wrong. If fact, most people will recommend it and it’s the most familiar place for many out of towners. Not only do they have have a butcher shop IN THE RESTAURANT to make the freshness of the meat unquestionable, they have a great variety in the menu, from yakiniku, shabu-shabu, sukiyaki, teppanyaki (stir-fry), and even horse katsu and pizza. Yes, horse pizza, made with bits of real horse. Baniku-jiru, or horse soup, is traditionally made with a miso base broth, mixed with cabbage, konyaku, tofu, onions, gobo and lots of horse. The katsu is my personal favorite. Super soft meat, with amazing flavor. Ogata is not cheap though, it’s more of a splurge than the all you can eat restaurant up the street. However, it is so worth it, and the taste is crazy out of control. If you’re ever in town, or in the nanbu area, check it out. You won’t be sorry.
For more information/Menu (JPN)
Address: 〒039-1558 三戸郡五戸町博労町18-1
Hours: 10am to 9pm
Good for groups of any size.