Rice with Cooked WASPS: An Emperor Hirohito’s Favorite Dish

Jun Mitsuhashi
Tokyo University of Agriculture

Recently some Japanese weekly journals have reported the following story:

The Emperor had a surgical operation on his pancreas last September (1987). Although he is said to have recovered completely from the operation, he seems to have lost his weight and appetite. However, he reportedly finished all of the wasp-rice dish even when he had no appetite and left most of the other dishes.

The wasp-rice is a mixture of cooked rice and canned wasps. The canned wasp is a speciality of Nagano Prefecture. It is a cooked wasp (a mixture of larvae, pupae, and adults of Vespula lewisi; sometimes male larvae of bees, Apis mellifera, are used) with soy sauce and sugar. In my experience, the wasp-rice tasted good. It was somewhat sweet and nutty. The shortcoming is that the shapes of dark adults with wing, pupae, and white maggots are well preserved. If one doesn’t care about the appearance, it is really good.

People in Nagano Prefecture have developed an interesting method for collecting the wasp. First they catch a frog. They

kill it and leave it in the open. They also take a small piece of meat from the frog, and attach it with a small piece of floss-silk. Then they may wait for some time, probably drinking sake, until a wasp comes to the frog cadaver to get meat. While the wasp is cutting a meatball from the cadaver, people substitute the meatball with the one they prepared previously. Then the wasp flies back to its nest, they run after it by watching the mark of floss-silk on the meatball. In this way they can easily find wasp nests.

The nest of the wasp is built underground. People light fire- crackers near the entrance of the nest. Soon the nest is filled with smoke, and the wasps are paralyzed. Then, people dig out the nest and collect the wasps while they are motionless.

The wasp is a protein-rich food and contains B-group vitamins and iron, 10 times as much as ordinary food. For the above reason, it is supposed to stimulate hematopoiesis. The old Chineses Pharmacopoeia said that wasps are effective in curing damages to internal organs and in preventing people from getting old when the wasps are administered continuously.

At present a can of the cooked wasps (about 65 g) is sold at 1,000 yen, (ca. US $8.00).