"That thing from Spirited Away actually exists...(I bought it)"

As evident from the caption he provided, Japanese Twitter user 道民の人 Dōmin no hito (@North_ern2) couldn't hide his surprise when he saw something virtually identical to a food he thought only existed in the Studio Ghibli animated film Spirited Away.

Many foods appear in Spirited Away, some delicious-looking and familiar and others more mysterious and perhaps less delicious, at least to humans who aren't spellbound. For example at the festival stalls at the beginning of the film, when Chihiro's parents are seen ravenously feasting, one of the jiggly delicious-looking dishes they're eating was long rumored to be the Taiwanese street stand dish Ba-Wan 肉圓 but it turns out to be a rather unappetizing seafood organ instead.

Within the bathhouse where most of the action of the film takes place, the guests are treated to lavish feasts replete with dishes that mostly look tasty and appetizing to viewers. However, when it comes to the treat favored by the bathhouse workers, which is イモリの黒焼き imori no kuroyaki, or "charred newt," some—not all—viewers may have turned up their noses.

As Dōmin no hito revealed in his photo, something virtually identical to this treat seems to actually exist. Here's the proof:

Reproduced with permission from 道民の人 Dōmin no hito (@North_ern2)

It looks just like the charred newt that often appeared in Spirited Away. While some fans have created cookies, for example, that resemble the treat, cooking an actual newt is a level of realism most fans wouldn't dare to reach.

What you see in the photo is サンショウウオの燻製 sanshō'uo no kunsei, smoked salamander, a treat in the remote village of 檜枝岐 Hinoemata in Fukushima Prefecture, where it is sold. イモリ imori usually means salamander, but in this region, the word is sometimes used to describe a newt. Moreover, although its dark color is the result of smoking, not charring, Dōmin no hito explains that smoked foods are simply called 黒焼き kuroyaki in those parts, so some locals would indeed call this イモリの黒焼き imori no kuroyaki.

So how does it taste? According to Dōmin no hito, who actually bought it and tried it, it's like "something between fish and bird meat" with a taste reminiscent of 炙り aburi, a flame searing technique usually achieved with a kitchen torch, and often used in sushi restaurants, for example.

The "smoked salamander" was a hit on Twitter and aroused people's curiosity, eliciting comments such as:

  • "I wonder if it tastes good or not..."
  • "Maybe it would be delicious with mayonnaise."
  • "I've had it before. If you put mayonnaise flavored with shichimi spice mix on it and have beer, it's a great pairing!"

If you're curious, why don't you give it a try? Hinoemata Village is known nationally for its kabuki performances and as a gateway to the Oze marshlands, so it's worth visiting. And if you're not feeling adventurous enough to savor smoked salamander, you can also enjoy their soba noodles, which are locally famous.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.