Super Sunday Itadakimasu
12 December, 2011
3 years 3 months and 3 weeks later I finally understand the word ‘itadakimasu.’
On Sunday I woke up to a phone call just before noon. I was offered to go horse riding around Adogawa with my friend Maki and her 2 horses. I was dressed, on my bike, and headed to Maki’s house in less than 20 minutes. As soon as I get to her house she tells me to saddle up because we have less than 4 hours of sunlight. I jump on her bigger horse and learn 5 basic commands: left, right, go, stop, and a ‘good job boy’ type of praise. Maki gets on her horse and we’re off.
Through empty cold rice fields, over a bridge, across a few 2 lane streets, then up and into the hillside we went. Spots of the forest floor peeked through the slightly melted layer of this year’s first snow. Stretches of trail enveloped by tall pine trees reaching straight towards the sky give way to patches of native trees whose leaves have fallen leaving the bare canopy drenched in afternoon hues. On the highest point of the trail we take in views of Mt. Hakodate, Lake Biwa and beyond.
Upon our return to her house Maki receives a call from her neighbor. He just caught a 3 year old female deer in one of his traps. You see, the city of Takashima awards ￥10000 a deer as incentive to curb population growth. This was the reward for Sakeshitasan, but for me, the reward was the mental transformation about to take place in the following 2 hours we spent butchering.
Seemingly simple aspects associated with deer are only skin deep. Slicing beyond that layer reveals amazing levels of intricacy, detailed structures with purpose, efficiency and high performance, craftsmanship unmatched by modern human technology, the environments footprints, the awe of life and death – all of this shaped together by nature was now being unwrapped before me with each pull of the knife. The deeper we went the warmer the raw flesh – the thicker the steam it released. Steam was the proof of life, proof she was alive just moments ago. Now she hangs by her neck on a chain before us, her head the only part of her body intact.
With both hands deep inside her chest Sakeshitasan puts all his weight into his grip and pulls downwards. In one stroke her entire insides drop. Nothing but a muscular configuration remains hanging. Amongst the sack of organs sprawled out on the ground we search for her edible heart. The intestine walls are quite transparent allowing me to see the contents of her last meal. Sakeshitasan’s 2 dogs continually slurp and lick the blood seeping from scraps of her body.
On this evening, three knives and two hours made one deer our provider. Her body was separated among us but we each took home the same amount of life.