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[flagged] Japan's ‘dancing zombie squid’ (bbc.com)
39 points by lelf 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments

There’s something particularly unedifying - for me, at least - in making a dead animal 'perform' for you before you eat it. I was surprised the bbc adopted such a neutral tone on this one.

It's both a matter of taste and a cultural thing. The first time I was in Seoul, a friend of mine took me to a place where they served "live octopus" with raw meat + raw egg yolk. It was extremely delicious, the raw octopus legs where still moving and twisting (just like in this example it was just nervous endings activated by chemicals in the food), they even wrapped around the chopsticks. The octoups + the yolk + raw meat provided an incredible mix of flavours and textures. I'm not Asian (actually I'm from South America), but my friend told me I already ate most than what even a typical S.Korean eats. I guess I was just more used to experience "weird" food because my family is from the country side in Chile and I also I really like to eat/try all kinds of sea food.

Going back to your comment: it's not just about making the animal "perform", I see it more as a proof of freshness. In the end is all about the textures and flavours.

So much talking about food, now I'm hungry :)

Can any moral issue be ignored by calling it a "cultural thing"?


I mean if you eat chickens...You're supporting the practice of throwing male chicks into the blender.

Yes, and that's not even the tip of the iceberg.

I do still eat chicken, but I recognize it as a personal moral failing and point of shame. The fact that I come from a culture where it is normalized explains my behaviour, but doesn't absolve my responsibility.

Making a show of torturing the animal in front of the customer is particularly abhorrent.

I am not sure why this is a show of torture. The squid is quite dead before it reaches the table. It's basically being used as a marionette by chemical signals, but still quite dead---hence calling it a "zombie".

> I see it more as a proof of freshness

seems like the most practical reason, though the practice does make me very uncomfortable

Why would they not? Clearly at least some people (the consumers in Japan) think this is ok, so why would the bbc choose your point of view over theres? This is called objective journalism.

I see it as edifying - a creative and insightful display of biological and chemical reactions. No different from the pyrotechnical demos or frog dissections used to spark curiosity in children.

Related submission about the ike jime method mentioned in the article here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19085530

Japan is probably the only country that keeps suprising me and is often (in my eyes) absolutely contradictory - I love many of their animes, some of their movies (e.g. the old samurai classics, "I am a hero", etc) some of their music (I listen from time to time to "J1 radio"), but at the same time e.g. some other animes really go over my thresholds, they have the problem with child prostitution, keep fishing anything that moves, are ultra-protectionist, etc... .


How did it happen that they're sometimes absolutely great/avantgarde/etc... and then sometimes they fall back to the exact opposite?

I often think that on the day when I'll be able to understand japan culture, I'll have no challenges left on this planet => I'll need some kind of extraterrestrial-invasion or faster-then-light-travel to find new interesting stuff to understand :)

I think a lot of the confusion around Japan's culture often stems from the fact that from the outside, to casual observers, they seem so culturally integrated with the rest of the world; yet don't seem to have assimilated many (if any) of its social norms.

The reality is, Japan is a net cultural exporter, and seems to have gone out of its way to prevent contaminating its social identity with foreign imports. Needless to say, the country has been heavily influenced by the brands it's imported, and the processes of technological/financial exchange abroad. But the nation itself has broadly kept its interactions with the outside world professional, or one-sided.

Attempting to measure the nation (honestly most east-asian nations) with the metrics of progress we would we would use for more culturally integrated countries will always be confounding. They represent a parallel civilization that refuses to be subsumed by western thought in the way many less geographically defensible/isolated and technologically developed societies inevitably have been.

As a result, their social development will never quite adhere to the broad trends that more westernized societies seem destined to follow.

As someone who lived in Japan for about 5 years, most of the confusion comes from taking an isolated phenomenon from Japan and assuming it's something common that most Japanese people do every day.

Imagine a "Florida man" news making the buzz in Japan, and them assuming most Americans wrestle a gator every day before breakfast.

Now back to the zombie squid, it certainly exists but I'm sure most Japanese have never eat that dish, probably even never hears about it. Just like most French people have never eaten an ortolan (something I consider much more shocking than the squid video - and I'm French.)

That a convoluted way of saying: "The Japanese have a unique culture and have adapted western ideas without giving up their Japanese identity".

The same could be said about Indians, Thai or Nigerians.

True, but I like to qualify my assertions when making statements like that. People often unpack complex claims in such a way that they make the wrong assumptions about the reasoning behind them.

I believe that the assertion is Moreso true for Japan than it is for just about any other culture on earth, given their heavy cultural influence and integration into the global economy. I also believe their practices are far more hygenic than those in other non-western States.

It's much harder to pick out the western footprint in Japanese culture because western influences are so heavilly mutated during their transition to Japanese society, and more of them just don't map onto it. The same is harder to say for many other countries that more often emulate than dissect and adapt. Western elements in other societies tend to stick out like sore thumbs, and remain relatively unchanged from their sources.

India is also a good example.

> Thai

If you include Thailand in countries that have maintained their unique culture free of Western ideas, I think you have to include virtually all countries. I’ve lived around half my life in Thailand, and like any country it has its specialties, but particular resistance to Western ideas is not one of them. It’s a country that has previously prided itself on integration of Western ideals (cf Rama V), and continues to wholeheartedly embrace fusion with certain cultures (Chinese, Western, Japanese) while strongly pushing back on others (Indian, for example).

I mean, in the US, you have creationists and you have Silicon Valley. People are different everywhere. You just don't hear about strange curiosities from Brazil or Tasmania because journalism about Japan is more mainstream.

Those are not necessarily opposites. The centuries of various forces, traditions, and habits are what insulates them from western homogeneity. That is what enables them to produce artifacts that seem to be out of the norm to a western observer.

I think the best way for you to be able to understand them better is to remember while they are a country with a population of 120 million. There is going to be contradictions in their culture.


One of the reasons I went back to being a vegetarian (and then became vegan) was a video of something like this. I was so creeped out. I haven't gone back.

It may have been this:

"Adding salt to freshly cut muscle causes it to spasm." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCeA72UFg3Q

No, it was a dancing squid corpse video, but ..... Thanks? :(

Not a vegetarian but needless cruelty is repellent.

If you watched the video they explain that the animal’s brain has already been removed, so anything after that is not felt by the squid.

I can see why it messes with our intuitions, though. Most of the other animals we eat don't flop around like that unless they're still alive and in distress. Except the occasional headless chicken. Chickens are weird.

Yes, which is a great wait to reveal someone who does it to make themselves feel better vs the actual welfare of the animal.

It's dead.

It wasn't always dead. It was caught, killed, and its brain was removed. And then its corpse was made to flail about wildly in a bowl. I find it, if even only the last part, creepy.

Once the animal is dead, I don't see how there's any cruelty involved. You are welcome to find it creepy, or object to the killing of the animal in the first place, but it's certainly not feeling pain by having its corpse being made to dance around.

Sorry, I thought you were replying to me, but you were replying to that other comment. I agree that the dead are spared cruelty, and this wouldn't be considered cruel.

I guess the lactic acid doesn’t get “forced” out during the dancing? Seems like it would.



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