Lately I've been addicted to lamb meat.
Lamb has not been popular in Japan until very recently. For a long time, the Japanese people did not eat meat of four-footed animals, following the edicts issued by the ancient emperors in accordance with the Buddhist teachings against killing living creature. It wasn't until the middle of the 19th century, when they began to interact with the meat- eating Western people, that the Japanese people began to openly eat meat. Thereafter, Kansai people became accustomed to eating meat, mainly beef, and Kanto people, mainly pork. However, in contrast to beef and pork, mutton was not popular at all, maybe due to its smell.
Hokkaido has been the only place where mutton is popular. Mutton is used for Jingisukan (*), a local specialty. In Hokkaido, sheep were bred to obtain wool for clothing, but eventually the market was overwhelmed by imported wool and chemical fibers, and sheep were turned into food instead of producing yarn, and Jingisukan began. However, the use of locally produced mutton for Jingiskan was only a transitional phenomenon. Jingisukan barbecue remains popular, but mutton production has stopped, and now 99% of the mutton used for Jingisukan is imported meat. Australia is the largest exporter of mutton to Japan.
Along with Akihabara, Jimbocho' s bookstore district is the place where I feel most at home in Tokyo. The restaurant I nowadays prefer to go to when I am in Jimbocho is this "Lamb Meat Tender". They serve not only lamb but also beef and pork, but as the name of the restaurant suggests, mutton is the centerpiece of the menu. In order to attract Japanese young people who are becoming more and more fond of meat, the restaurant offers “yakiniku” (grilled meat) that is not Korean yakiniku that has been too usual by now. They use mutton, which is not usually included in Korean yakiniku, and grill it very wildly using charcoal oven in front of the guests. Various appealing ethnic elements, such as phakchi and chili con carne, are arranged on one single dish.
I ate lamb rice today and lamb curry the other day. Both are super delicious! Perfectly suited to my palate. The mutton is freshly grilled in the open charcoal oven in front of you, and is light, tender, fragrant and spicy. The lunch plate first seemed a little too much for an elderly person like me, but it was so delicious that I ate it all in one go. It still makes me want to repeat it over and over again.
Even though they are so delicious, their prices are super cheap, 1000 yen for lamb rice and 850 yen for lamb curry. At the current exchange rate of 140 yen to one dollar, they are only worth 7 dollars and 6 dollars, respectively. Somehow it reminds me of the times when I ate cheap and delicious local food at stalls in Southeast Asia. Why don't you let Japan quit the G7 and OCED and join the Global South?!