TOTTORI – An enthusiastic female hunter-trapper in Tottori Prefecture has a tempting offer for people staying at her guesthouse: wild-animal cuisine.
Satoko Umeno, 30, originally from Fukuoka, runs Ba-Bar, an inn converted from a 40-year-old house in a suburb of the city of Tottori.
She cooks dishes using game meat such as deer and boar and invites guests and local children to join in. The meat is grilled, fried or cooked in a bubbling “nabe” pot.
Local reaction has been positive. “We are having a lot more fun ever since Ume-chan came to this town,” Umeno recalls one resident saying, referring to her by her nickname. The comment delighted her.
Umeno has long been interested in conservation. She studied livestock science at Kagoshima University and specialized in the ecology of Japanese deer while in grad school at Kyushu University.
She thought hard about humans’ relationship with wildlife when she learned that many farmers across Japan suffer crop damage from wild animals.
“Human beings and animals should coexist in different living spheres,” Umeno said.
She became interested in a nonprofit organization founded by Tottori University students to build bridges with local residents and thereby help to revitalize the area. It prompted her to move to the city.
Umeno also obtained a hunting license. She wanted to try to help local farmers, and so she became the city’s first registered female hunter.
Every day, Umeno checks the traps she sets. When she finds an animal caught, she promptly drains its blood and takes it to a processing plant.
“Life is valuable, so we process them into edible meat whenever possible,” she said.
Originally an outsider in a rural, tight-knit community, Umeno said she tries to appear at as many local meetings and events as possible and mingles with residents.
As a result, neighbors have warmed to her and now give her vegetables they harvest.
“It makes me feel that I am being cared about,” she said. “What I like about farming and mountainous villages is that residents are close to each other..”
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