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The meat-eating culture of Japan at the beginning of Westernization
In March 1854, the Tokugawa Shogunate concluded The Treaty of Peace and Amity between the United States and the Empire of Japan followed shortly by peace treaties with various Western countries such as England, The Netherlands, and Russia. 2004 marks the 150th anniversary of this opening of Japan’s borders to other nations.
The opening of Japan’s borders, along with the restoration of political power to the Imperial court, was seen as an opportunity to aggressively integrate Western customs into Japanese culture. In terms of diet, removal of the longstanding social taboo against the eating of meat became a symbol of this integration. While there are cultures throughout the world that forbid the eating of beef or pork for religious reasons, the social taboo against the eating of all types of domestic livestock once seen in Japan is unique. However, this does not mean that meat was never eaten by anyone in Japan. Taking era, region, and social class into consideration, quite a number of people ate meat.