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A chef cuts deer meat at a restaurant in Japan's Gifu Prefecture. (Photo by Yoshiyuki Tamai)
Tea Leaves

Game on: Japanese dining taps its wild side

Gibier restaurants take off as diners go for healthier, sustainable meat


I am staring at a plate of raw badger meat that I am about to roast and consume -- and thinking about "The Wind in the Willows." In Kenneth Grahame's Edwardian children's tale, Badger is one of the good guys, gruff and solitary, but also brave and warmhearted. His meat, it turns out, is mostly fat, as befits a creature who spends the winter months lazing around his comfy cottage in dressing gown and slippers.

The taste? Surprisingly good, when flavored with mountain wasabi and washed down with unpretentious red wine from Yamanashi Prefecture. After the badger, it is time to move on to two types of deer, ezoshika and nihonjika, followed by wild boar and a few slices of Hokkaido brown bear. This is rarely available, although the animal is one of the few of the world's bear species not listed as endangered.

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