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According to research conducted by the Japanese Ministry of Commerce and Agriculture in 1919 on the number of edible insect species, the Nagano prefecture had the highest number with 17 species. In this area without access to the sea but with plentiful fresh water, river fish and insects have been a basic source of protein for local populations and are still valuable, though the custom of eating Hachinoko (bee pupa) and Zazamushi (river larvae) is increasingly rare. Catching Zazamushi is concentrated in the upper reaches of the River Tenryugawa, which originates in Lake Suwako near the town of Ina, and the practice appears to date back to Takatou rule in the Edo period. The name Zazamushi (literally ‘insects under the slow current’) refers to a range of species belonging to the families Trichoptera and Megaloptera such as Stenopsyche griseipennis MacLachlan, Hydropsyche sp., Parastenopsyche sauteri Ulmer, Protohermes grandis Thunberg. The larvae of these species, which are about 2 cm long, live under rocks at the bottom of the river. Between December and February, when the water flow diminishes and the temperature drops, they are caught using a net called a Yotsude-ami (hung from a bamboo structure like a balance), following the direction of the current. After they have been collected, they are washed in warm water to remove sand and then cooked on a high flame with soy sauce and sugar (Tsukudani). The collection of larvae is regulated by the Tenryugawa fishing cooperative: only authorized fishermen may participate and their numbers (between 15 and 50) vary according to the time of the year. Since the presence of Zasamushi is very much affected by the water conditions, river pollution is the most serious danger for these species. Their collection is in any case becoming much less common as there are very few fishermen familiar with the right collection techniques. The ‘Friends of the River Tenryugawa’ group was recently founded to protect the river, which in the last 10 years has registered an improvement in water quality, with an associated increase in the Zazamushi. Ensuring these species can develop in a healthy environment and promoting sustainable harvesting practices are the only viable ways of preventing Zazamushi from disappearing. Contact person: Mr Kiyoto Ikegami c/o Kaneman Ltd., Irifunemati, Ina Tel. +81 0265 72 2224

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Nominated by:Slow food Shinsyu Takanori Ito