Home Podcasts Ichimon Japan Are rabbits counted as birds because eating meat was taboo in japan? (About the History of Meat “Bans” & the Counter -wa)) | Ichimon Japan 41

Are rabbits counted as birds because eating meat was taboo in japan? (About the History of Meat “Bans” & the Counter -wa)) | Ichimon Japan 41

12 min read
Comments Off on Are rabbits counted as birds because eating meat was taboo in japan? (About the History of Meat “Bans” & the Counter -wa)) | Ichimon Japan 41

On this episode of Ichimon Japan we ask: Are rabbits counted as birds because eating meat was taboo in Japan?

Topics Discussed

  • The practice of counting rabbits as if they were birds in Japanese
  • Whether Japanese people eat meat
  • What exactly qualifies as meat
  • The history of meats “bans” in Japan
  • The hypocritical and dubious nature of meat “bans” in Japan
  • What the earliest written Japanese records say about meat consumption in Japan
  • The influence Buddhism had on the practice of eating meat in early Japanese history
  • The declaration by Emperor Tenmu in April of 675 AD that prohibited people from eating meat in Japan
  • How the consumption of wild game was tacitly permitted throughout much of Japanese history
  • A description of a Heian era feast involving bear paws and rabbit spleens
  • Possible penalties faced by those who ate meet
  • Having to fast for eating meat
  • The arrival of the Portuguese in Japan and the hard time they supposedly had adjusting to the Japanese diet
  • The Tokugawa’s promotion of Buddhist culture and ideas
  • Meat bans and meat eating during the Edo Period
  • Shops in Edo that sold the meat of wild game
  • The discrimination faced by people who slaughtered animals and tanned hides
  • Consuming meat for medicinal purposes
  • How meat consumption was looked at in a much more positive light during the Meiji Period
  • An incident in 1872 in which Buddhist priests broke into the Imperial Palace due to opposing the Emperor’s promotion of meat consumption
  • The death of the historical Buddha
  • The counter system in Japanese
  • What the Japanese counter -hiki (匹)is usually used for
  • What the Japanese counter – (頭) is usually used for
  • The supposed “correct” way to count rabbits in Japanese
  • Various theories about why -wa, the counter that is normally used to count birds, is supposed to be used to count rabbits as well
  • The rabbits are counted using -wa because their ears resemble wings theory
  • The similar flavor and net theory
  • A theory that says that -wa is supposed to be used to count rabbits because of the kanji used to write rabbit in Japanese
  • The theory that people decided to count rabbits in the same way they count birds because they wanted to create a loophole in order to get away with eating meat
  • An atypical reading of the kanji for rabbit
  • How butterflies are counted using the same counter used for livestock in Japanese
  • And much more!

Listen to Ichimon Japan on

Apple Podcasts Google Podcasts Stitcher Spotify iHeartRadio PodBean Tunein RSS

Support on Patreon

If you enjoy Ichimon Japan and want to ensure that we’re able to produce more episodes, then please consider becoming a patron on Patreon.com. You can join for just $1 a month and that comes with perks like early access to episodes, a shout-out at the beginning of a future episode, bonus content, and discounts to Kimito Designs. For $3 a month you get all that plus access to Japanese Plus Alpha, a podcast produced by me (Tony Vega) that focuses on the Japanese language and its many quirks. Whether you are studying Japanese or just enjoy learning about language and linguistics, you’ll enjoy Japanese Plus Alpha.

And it goes without saying that if you sign up, you’ll also get my undying gratitude. Thanks in advance!

Sources, Links, Videos, Etc.

For mroe information about Japan’s relationship with so-called meat bans, you can check out the article below. This is the one that was found on the Kikkoman website.

Here is another English-language reference.

Here are some of the Japanese-language articles used as sources for this episode.

Here is the video referenced in this episode in which someone proposes counting rabbits with –usa.


To check out the two shirts inspired by today’s episode, use the links below. Or you can just go to KimitoDesigns.com. Any purchases from KimitoDesigns.com will support this show.

Here’s some of the Ichimon Japan episodes mentioned in this episode.

Don’t forget to check out the latest episode of the Japan Station podcast.

Japanese Vocabulary List

Most episodes feature at least one or two interesting Japanese words or phrases. Here’s some of the ones that came up on this episode. All information is from Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC.

  • Usagi
    • うさぎ (n) rabbit; hare; coney; cony; lagomorph (esp. leporids)
  • Hane, -wa, u
    • 羽 : 羽(P); 羽根(P) 【はね(P); は(羽)】 (n) (1) feather; plume; down; (n) (2) wing; (n) (3) (羽根 only) blade (of a fan, propeller, etc.); (n) (4) (はね only) (See シャトル・1) shuttlecock (in badminton); (n) (5) (羽根 only) (also written as 羽子) (See 羽子・はご) shuttlecock (in hanetsuki); (n) (6) (羽根 only) (See 矢羽・やばね) arrow feathers; (P); 【わ(P); ば; ぱ】 ; (ctr) counter for birds, rabbits, etc.; (P); 【う】 ; (n) (See 五音) fifth degree (of the Japanese and Chinese pentatonic scale)
  • Umō
    • 羽毛 【うもう】 (n,adj-no) feathers; plumage; down
  • -hiki
    • 匹 : 匹(P); 疋 【ひき(P); き】 (ctr) (1) (ひき only) counter for small animals; (ctr) (2) counter for rolls of cloth (two han in size); (ctr) (3) (き only) (arch) counter for horses; (n) (4) roll of cloth
  • Atama, Kashira, -tō
    • 頭 【あたま(P); かしら(P)】 (n) (1) head; (n) (2) hair (on one’s head); (n) (3) (あたま only) mind; brains; intellect; (n) (4) leader; chief; boss; captain; (n) (5) top; tip; (n) (6) beginning; start; (n) (7) (あたま only) (See 頭数) head; person; (n) (8) (あたま only) (abbr) (See 頭金) down payment; deposit; (n) (9) (かしら only) top structural component of a kanji; (n) (10) (あたま only) (col) {mahj} (See 雀頭・ジャントー) pair; (P); 【とう】 ; (ctr) counter for large animals (e.g. head of cattle); counter for insects in a collection; counter for helmets, masks, etc.

We Want Your Questions

Is there something about Japan that confuses you? Is there something about Japanese culture that you would like to learn more about? Is there something in Japanese history that you would like us to explain? We’re always looking for new questions about Japan to answer, so if you have one, please send it to ichimon@japankyo.com.

Special Thanks

Opening/Closing Theme: Produced by Apol (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Fiverr)

Ichimon Japan cover art: Produced by Erik R.

Illustration in featured image: By Rhama based on concept by Tony Vega

Follow Japankyo on Social Media

Full Show Notes


Comments are closed.

Check Also

Japan’s UNBELIEVABLE DOG Pilgrimages | Japan Station 131

On this episode of Japan Station, we talk about how dogs in Japan used to go on religious …