Interview with Shoichi Uchiyama, founder of Insect Cuisine
How did you get interested in edible insects issues?
I was born in Nagano Prefecture, where entomophagy is popular even now.
When I was a child, insects were used to cook. In autumn, rice grasshopper is a very popular seasonal food for us.
I have not had chance to eat insects for a long time since I came to Tokyo.
I was at the “World Edible Insect Exhibition” held in Tama Zoological Park in 1998: I missed eating insects because that reminded me when I was a child, so I caught some Migratory Locusts near my house, I fried them and ate them. I was very surprised by the taste of fresh grasshopper! That was my opportunity to begin my research with edible insects.
Tell us about the idea behind Insect Cuisine
First of all we think that entomophagy is a traditional food culture in Japan. And edible insects are attracting attention as new ingredients also thanks to the FAO report in 2013.
Insect Cuisine developes recipes to eat delicious insects and holds tasting events. The goal is spreading edible insects as everyday ingredients, like meat and fish.
What do the people think about eating insects in rural areas of your country? And in the cities?
Considering edible insects -especially Locusts and Hachinoko (hornet larva)- as a valuable protein source is something recent in rural areas (especially inland areas). But now, even inn those areas, eating insects is no longer a strange behaviour.
In urban areas such as Tokyo, there are few opportunities to get in contact with insects. For many people, insects are just dirty and unhygienic cockroaches, but I think that entomophagy could have strong entertainment-elements in urban areas.
Is entomophagy something gaining popularity and market in Japan?
Japanese are eating insects for a long time, so I think that entomophagy will have a natural development, but we need to arrange a “mass consumption environment”.
Are there many companies working on edible insects products?
To my knowledge, few companies are currently breeding edible insects in Japan.
Since when the FAO have published the report, there are an increasing number of people who are interested in insects as food and want to try farming.
Do you think that entoproducts will be successful in the West?
Unlike the East, West do not have insects food experience, but I think that both producers and consumers can accept entoproducts without prejudice.
Just what happened with Sushi.