• Kyodo

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A university student in Nara Prefecture is hoping his YouTube cooking shows and cricket powder coffee will help people swat away their aversion to eating insects.

“When the perception toward eating insects changes, I want to share that moment with as many people as I can,” said Kazuki Shimizu, a third-year student at Kindai University.

The 21-year-old, who studies in the university’s Faculty of Agriculture in Nara Prefecture, recalls being surprised that insects were quite delicious when he tried a locust boiled in soy sauce during a biology class in high school.

Following that experience, Shimizu tried deep frying and eating beetle larvae, commonly used as feed for aquarium fish, before branching out to grasshoppers caught in a nearby park.

He soon became hooked and started frequenting a restaurant that served insect dishes.

To generate interest among his peer group for his unconventional tastes, Shimizu started a YouTube channel in April named “KonTube,” based on Japanese word konchū (insects), to share recipes using bees, cicadas and other creepy-crawlies.

Collaborating with one of his favorite Osaka cafes and a venture capital company based in Tokushima Prefecture, he also developed a coffee containing crickets ground into powder form for those who want an introduction to bug-eating that does not involve crunching down on a leg, wing or thorax.

The coffee received much positive feedback from students when it was distributed at an event held at his university in early December. A 22-year-old student, who had at first hesitated to drink it, admitted it tasted just like normal coffee.

“If I had the custom of eating insects since I was young, I probably wouldn’t have felt any resistance to it,” she said.

Insect eating has attracted attention in recent years as a possible solution to global food insecurity.

A 2013 report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations promoted the idea, saying that insects need far less feed than cattle and pigs to produce the same amount of protein.

Insect farming’s contribution to global warming-causing greenhouse gas emissions, a major problem for the traditional meat industry, is also comparatively low.

But the United Nations also noted that “consumer disgust” remains a barrier to many Western countries incorporating insects into their diets.

Such unfavorable perceptions, which also exist in Japan, have caused a dining establishment in Nara serving edible insects to refrain from putting their bug dishes on the menu.

Only people who have learned of its eccentric offerings through a previous press release or word of mouth can order them via Uber Eats.

“If people found out we served insects, it would hurt our sales,” said the head chef of the establishment.

Shimizu, however, remains passionate about increasing the buzz around the untapped potential of edible insects.

“While it is difficult to change the image that eating bugs is weird, I want to continue to engage in activities that help people understand that they are delicious,” he said.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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