2013.08.26 Mitsuko Iwai
"Uchi Wa Seinikuten (We Run a Butcher Shop)" is a story about the Kitade Butcher Shop that has been in business for 7 generations in Kaizuka City, Osaka. This traditional butcher shop raises its own cows. They carefully nurture the calves they purchased at an auction and once they are old enough, they take them to the public slaughterhouse and the entire family work together to slaughter and dissect the cows. It is very rare to find a family-run butcher shop such as this that carefully processes and sells fresh meat. In the beginning of the book, you will find photos of cows being led down a residential street. People who have seen such a sight may have been quite surprised and wondered, "What's going on here?"
This picture book was created when the decision was made to shut down the Kaizuka City public slaughterhouse that the Kitade family had used for years. The slaughterhouse was closed down due to the increase in imported meat and the shift of the industry to more efficient methods. Photographer and movie director, Mr. Seiichi Motohashi wanted to capture the family's last slaughter in March 2011 and that is how this book of 30 photographs and accompanying explanations came about. The book was published by the Rural Culture Association Japan this March. Once the cow is knocked unconscious, they immediately cut the carotid artery to let all the blood drain from the body, skin it careful not to make any holes, and sort out the organs. The only time the family used a machine was when they sawed the body in half. The sheer power and technique necessary to process a 700kg cow by hand is really astonishing.
Most of us are only used to seeing processed meat in small packets sold at the super markets or on our dinner tables. If we don't make a conscious effort, we don't really see what goes on in a slaughterhouse. Mr. Motohashi has paid regular visits to slaughterhouses in Osaka for almost 30 years, and according to him, most of the processes involved has become automated, so nowadays livestock are transformed into blocks of meat in a very efficient, automated factory. Throughout the years, the Kitade family has taken extra care to aim the hammer right in the center of the cow's forehead to make sure it doesn't suffer, but today, even this process is handled by machines.
The people of the Kitade Butcher Shop know from experience that every part of a cow may be used. Besides the meat, the blood and bones may be used for fertilizer, the fat for oil, and skin for leather products. In the old days, people used to say that the only thing that can't be used was the cow's "moo." For example their second son, Akira, is good at making a Japanese drum using leather. You will see his picture in the book. Kaizuka City and Kishiwada City are famous for their autumn festival called "Danjiri," and Akira is making a large drum that will be used in this festival. In order to make it equally tight Akira jumps on the drums and steps on it as if he is dancing. The scene helps communicate how food is part of a region's culture and how the lives of livestock are intricately connected to our lives.
This Kitade Butcher Shop's story is now being made into a movie by Mr. Motohashi. This movie will be released by the end of the year. The movie, "A Story About a Butcher Shop (working title)," is funded by donations from people who support this project. Their names will appear in the credits, and they will also receive a package of Kitade Butcher Shop's delicious beef tsukudani (boiled beef seasons with soy sauce and sugar). If you are interested in supporting the project, please check out this website.