Kushikatsu Tanaka : Try Osaka dishes and think buraku problems

Kushikatsu Tanaka (串カツ田中) is a chain izakaya (居酒屋, Japanese style pub) restaurant, and there are about 60 restaurants in Tokyo. These restaurants serve Osaka dishes like kushikatsu (串カツ), kasuudon (かすうどん), or saiboshi (さいぼし).

kushikatsu

Kushikatsu is deep-fried meat or vegetables on skewers, and is eaten dipped in sauce. Kushikatsu is often eaten in Osaka, especially Shinsekai (新世界) near Tsutenkaku (通天閣). There are so many kushikatsu restaurants in Shinsekai. Shinsekai is near Kamagasaki (釜ヶ崎), the largest flophouse area in Japan, and there are many day laborers there. This style of eatery was invented for day laborers in 1929, because kushikatsu can give them a full stomach for a low cost.

kushikatsu

These days, kushikatsu has also become popular in Tokyo. Kushikatsu Tanaka was opened in 2008, and expanded to about 60 restaurants in Tokyo. There are many menu options with kushikatsu. You can eat kushikatsu of pork, beef, quail egg, cheese, fish, shrimp, lotus root, onion, asparagus, and ginger. First cabbage will be served as otoshi (お通し, an appetizer which is automatically served for about 300 yen when you are seated). You can eat this cabbage and kushikatsu dipped in sauce. To dip in the sauce twice is forbidden. Some people dip in the sauce with cabbage. In addition to kushikatsu, there are also other izakaya dishes, like edamame, onigiri, or yakiudon. This izakaya serves Osaka dishes which are usually eaten only in Osaka.

kushikatsu

Kasuudon is udon noodle topped with aburakasu (fried beef intestines).

kushikatsu

Saiboshi is beef or horse meat jerky.

kushikatsu

These foods are only eaten in special areas in Osaka, called hisabetsu buraku (被差別部落). There was a caste system in the 17th century, the Edo period. There were four social classes, samurai, farmers, artisans, and merchants (士農工商). However, there were still lower people called eta (穢多) or hinin (非人). They worked as buchers, leather craftsmen, executioners, or undertakers. These people were gathered in specific areas. The areas were called buraku (部落) or dowa-district (同和地区), and people who lived in were called burakumin (部落民). Many burakumin worked as buchers, and they often ate inner organs. They made aburakasu and saiboshi for preserving food.

被差別の食卓 (新潮新書)

Aburakasu and saiboshi were only made and eaten in these buraku areas. Yoshihiro Uehara (上原善広), a writer about buraku problems, was born and grew up in a buraku area in Osaka. He wrote books about buraku food in Hisabetsu no Shokutaku (被差別の食卓). He said there are many soul foods in the world which are often eaten by discriminated people. Fried chicken has been a soul food for black people in the American South, and aburakasu and saiboshi are Japanese soul foods from the burakumin.

The Buraku Issue and Modern Japan: The Career of Matsumoto Jiichiro (The Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies Series)

Buraku problems exist nowadays. The caste system was demolished in 1871, but there is still discrimination even now. The organization called Buraku Liberation League (部落解放同盟) was established in 1946, and they have fought against discrimination. Nowadays, there is still discrimination, for example some parents disagree with marriage to a person who is from a buraku area. Let’s consider buraku problems, while eating tasty kasuudon or saiboshi.

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