In the year 675, Emperor Tenmu decreed that eating meat would be prohibited from April through September each year — a broadly Buddhist idea generally adhered to until the Meiji Era (1868-1912). Curiously, wild animals were exempt.
Hunting for meat is nothing new. It sustained humanity for millions of years. But we’ve moved on since then to farming and fast food — now, most people don’t hunt because they need to, but because they want to. However, in the past few decades, hunting wild animals has made a comeback in Japan out of a different sort of necessity.
Here, it’s known as jibie (from the French gibier), not game. Just as it does in the West, gibier encompasses wild boar and deer, of course, but also meat from less conventional creatures such as todo (Steller sea lion) and bear.