Japanese people usually say 頂きます itadakimasu (literally, "I take") at the beginning and ご馳走様 gochisosō-sama (literally "it was delicious") at the end of meals. Although most people don't usually stop and think about the original meaning and intent of these now formulaic expressions, they are meant to convey gratitude for taking the lives of plants and animals in recognition of human beings' role in the food chain.

Manga artist 牛川いぬお Inuo Ushikawa (@TDQFRYtruJY7ZxR), who works on a dairy farm, drew a manga about elementary school students who visited on a school trip one day. This happened before the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The children, who were between 8 and 10 years old, seemed to enjoy listening to the director and the dairy farmers who talked to them, as well as seeing all the cows.

However, when they learned that the cows they were looking at would be turned into meat for human consumption, one girl, who had been very talkative until then, said very briefly: "Poor cows."

"How the reaction of the elementary school students who came to visit my farm was not what I expected"
I thought it was going to turn into a quiet mood.
(This happened before the pandemic)
I don't know if this is the norm, as I rarely accept farm tours, but I thought at the time that children are honest."

Reproduced with permission from 牛川いぬお Inuo Ushikawa (@TDQFRYtruJY7ZxR) / English translations added by grape Japan

The farm director told the girl that she could choose not to eat meat. Indeed, while eating meat is quite common around the world, there are other possible dietary and lifestyle choices that don't involve eating animals.

Seeing the president speak in such a direct manner to kids who were only a few years into their elementary school, Ushikawa was concerned, but as it turned out, the students couldn't hold back their feelings and revealed that they enjoyed eating meat.

Not only did the children react differently than he had expected but he was surprised by their honesty.

Ushikawa's manga became a topic of conversation on Twitter, with comments such as:

  • "What a great lesson in 'food education'...."
  • "I understand. That's why we say 'Itadakimasu' before we eat."
  • "I laughed at the children's honest reactions. I think honesty is good!"

The children surely learned a lesson about the importance of being grateful, and even though it looks like they rejected the suggestion that they could choose to not eat meat, perhaps it became food for thought and provided an opportunity for them to discuss the subject with their parents at home.

By - Ben K.