What meat does Japan not eat?

Japan is known for having a cuisine that includes a wide variety of meats and seafood. However, there are some meats that are not commonly consumed in Japan due to cultural, religious, or legal restrictions. In this article, we will explore the different types of meat that are rarely or never eaten in Japan.


Beef is widely consumed in Japan today, but this was not always the case historically. For many centuries, eating beef was taboo in Japan for Buddhist reasons. Beef consumption only became widespread after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when the emperor lifted the previous ban on meat eating. Now, beef is a regular part of the Japanese diet, particularly in dishes like sukiyaki and shabu-shabu.


Horse meat is not traditionally eaten in Japan. While it is consumed in some other parts of the world, the idea of eating horse is met with revulsion by many Japanese people. There are no long-standing religious or cultural taboos against horse meat in Japanese history, but it seems to go against modern sensibilities in Japan regarding horses as pets or work animals rather than sources of meat.


Dog meat is not eaten anywhere in Japan today. Historically, there is evidence of ritual consumption of dog meat in ancient Japan. However, by the 9th century AD, under the influence of Buddhist teachings, the eating of dog meat had been completely abandoned. Today, dogs are beloved pets and companion animals in Japanese society.


The consumption of whale meat in Japan has declined dramatically in recent decades. Throughout much of the 20th century, whale meat was an important protein source. But with the 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling, Japan’s whaling industry has shrunk significantly. However, limited whaling still occurs in Japan for ostensibly research purposes, and the meat is sold commercially in specialty shops and restaurants. But whale is no longer a regular part of the Japanese diet.


Kangaroo meat is essentially unavailable in Japan. Kangaroos are native to Australia and not found in the wild in Japan. Moreover, there are strict quarantine regulations on importing kangaroo products into Japan. As a result, most Japanese people have never had the opportunity to eat kangaroo meat.


Snake meat is not traditionally eaten in Japan. Today, eating snake remains extremely uncommon. There are a few exotic restaurants in major cities like Tokyo that serve imported snake dishes like snake wine or snake steak. However, this is a novelty fare aimed at adventurous diners rather than mainstream cuisine.


Bushmeat refers to wild game meats from animals like antelope, porcupines, monkeys, bats, and more. Eating bushmeat is common in parts of Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia, but does not really exist as a cuisine category in Japan. Japan has strict food importation laws that prohibit the import of most bushmeat due to health concerns.


Rabbit meat has historically not been widely eaten in Japan. Rabbits are seen more often as pets and are not usually thought of as a meat source. While wild rabbit can be found in some parts of Japan, there is no tradition of hunting or cooking rabbit. Recently, some high-end restaurants have begun offeringrabbit meat dishes like rabbit stew or grilled rabbit, but this is still very rare.


Alligator and crocodile meats are principally sourced from the Southern United States and parts of Southeast Asia. As Japan lacks native crocodilians, their meat is essentially unavailable. Moreover, crocodile meat cannot be imported due to Japan’s restrictions on exotic meats. As a result, alligator and crocodile are virtually never consumed in Japan.


Like crocodiles, ostriches are not native to Japan and their meat is prohibited from import under most circumstances. Ostrich meat consumption is most common in certain parts of Africa, where ostriches are farmed. The absence of domestic ostrich farming and the legal hurdles to importing ostrich meat make it an extremely rare-to-non-existent part of the Japanese diet.

Venison (Deer Meat)

Deer can be found in the wild in parts of Japan. However, there is no widespread practice of hunting them for meat. Venison and deer meat dishes have seen a very slight increase at upscale restaurants recently, but the vast majority of Japanese people have never eaten deer or venison. It remains a niche curiosity rather than an established part of Japanese cuisine.


Goat meat, sometimes called chevon or mutton, is not traditionally part of Japanese cuisine. Goat herding and farming exists on a very limited scale in Japan. While other cultures and cuisines regularly feature goat dishes like goat curry and grilled goat, these are rarely seen in Japan. Goat meat would be considered highly exotic by most Japanese diners.


There is no history or tradition of donkey meat consumption in Japan. Today, eating donkey meat is essentially unheard of and most Japanese find the idea to be shocking. Much like horses, donkeys are seen as beasts of burden and pets, not as a food source.


Eating cat meat, while practiced historically in some parts of Asia, is completely taboo in Japan today. Cats are beloved companion animals and eating cat flesh would be seen as abhorrent and unthinkable by almost all Japanese.


Bears have been hunted for their fur and gall bladder in Japan, but eating bear meat is very uncommon. Bear meat is tough and often has a strong smell. Moreover, bear populations are small and protected, making hunting bears for food illegal. The consumption of bear meat is essentially non-existent in modern Japan.

Boar/Wild Pig

Wild boars can be found in parts of Japan, especially in rural areas. Traditionally boar meat was eaten in limited quantities by hunters who caught boars that were considered pests. But it has never been a mainstream Japanese food. Due to fears of parasites, wild boar meat is banned for sale under Japan’s health codes.

Squirrel, Opossum, Raccoon (Small Wild Game)

Small animals like squirrels, opossums, raccoons, armadillos and similar wild creatures are sometimes eaten in parts of the United States and other countries. However, there is no tradition of eating these animals in Japan. They are seen as pests at best, not potential food sources.


Carrion refers to the meat of an animal that has died of natural causes rather than being slaughtered. Most cultures avoid eating carrion due to health concerns and admonish its consumption. Japan is no exception – meat from dead animals is not considered food and is not part of the Japanese diet under any circumstances.

Endangered Species

Meat from endangered animals like tigers, pandas, rhinoceroses, and other threatened species is completely unavailable in Japan. Japan bans both the domestic sale and import of any products made from endangered species. Eating endangered animals would be unthinkable to the vast majority of Japanese citizens.

Amphibians/Reptiles (Frogs, Turtles, Lizards)

Frog meat is eaten in some parts of the world, but is not common in Japan. Other amphibians and reptiles like turtles, snakes, and lizards are essentially never consumed in Japan. These animals are associated more with disgust than appetite for most Japanese.

Rodents (Rats, mice, etc)

Rodents like rats, mice, squirrels, and hamsters are reviled as pests and vectors of disease in Japan. Eating their meat is unheard of and would be abhorrent to Japanese sensibilities.


Japan follows international protocols banning the consumption of primate meat for both ethical and health reasons. Monkeys and apes are not regarded as food sources in Japan.

Birds of Prey (Hawks, Eagles, etc)

Predatory and scavenging birds like hawks, eagles, vultures, and condors are not part of the Japanese diet at all. There would be no market or demand for their meat in Japan.


While small songbirds are eaten as delicacies in parts of Europe and Southeast Asia, this practice never became established in Japan. Songbirds like nightingales are appreciated for their beauty and music rather than viewed as a food item.


Urban scavenger birds like seagulls, crows, and pigeons are reviled as “flying rats” in Japan. Their meat is not considered edible or desirable at all.

Pets (Dogs/Cats)

As discussed above, dogs, cats, and other common pets are never eaten in Japan. There are no exceptions for stolen pets or animals that die naturally. Pets are beloved family members, not food.


Eating insects and grubs is common in some Asian and African cuisines, but insects are not part of the traditional Japanese diet. Some novelty insect snacks like cricket chips have recently appeared in Japan, but consumption remains very rare.

Raw Meat

Sushi and sashimi notwithstanding, raw red meat is not commonly consumed in Japan. Raw chicken, pork, lamb and the like would never be served due to acute health risks. Meat is expected to be cooked thoroughly before being eaten.

Meat from Cloned Animals

Japan has not approved meat or products from cloned animals to be sold for human consumption. While cloning research exists, current Japanese consumer sentiment finds cloned meat unnatural and unsafe.

Lab Cultured Meat

Lab-grown or cultured meats are not yet approved for sale or consumption in Japan. This emerging biotechnology could eventually create beef and chicken without slaughtering animals. However, cultured meat remains illegal at present while approval procedures are developed.

Mystery Meat

Japan requires strict labeling of meat products’ origin and contents. “Mystery meat” products of uncertain providence are not approved or common. Consumers demand to know exactly what animals their meat comes from.

Meat from Subtherapeutic Antibiotic-Treated Animals

Unlike in some countries, subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics as growth promoters in animals are prohibited in Japan. All meat comes from antibiotic-free animals or those individually treated for diagnosed illnesses.

Meat from Animals with Hormones

Japan bans imported meat from animals administered hormones or steroids. Domestically, beef from cattle given hormones is also prohibited. Japanese meat comes from drug-free animals.

Meat from Animals Fed Other Animals

Due to concerns over mad cow disease and other health risks, Japan prohibits feeding protein or meat from mammals to other mammals. Cows, pigs, and sheep cannot be fed animal protein under Japanese laws.

Meat from Cloned Animals

Japan has not approved meat or products from cloned animals to be sold for human consumption. While cloning research exists, current Japanese consumer sentiment finds cloned meat unnatural and unsafe.


While Japanese cuisine is often associated with raw fish and seafood, it includes a wide variety of meat as well. However, there are also many types of meat that are not approved, available, or culturally acceptable for consumption in Japan. Restrictions based on animal welfare, health risks, cultural taboos, Buddhist traditions, and legal regulations exclude exotic meats, pet meats, endangered species, and more from Japanese diets. Overall, the story of meat consumption in Japan reveals a cuisine shaped by both permissiveness and prohibitions.

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