Part of the excitement of traveling is trying foods that you have never seen, heard of, or even contemplated before. So when our lodging in the wilds of Nikko offered roasted salamander for dinner, I had to give it a try. Not just to satisfy my curiosity and my pride, but to report back to you, dear reader, about what amphibi-lizard on a stick tastes like.

Deep in the mountain wilderness of Oku-Nikko is a small village known as Ieyasu no Satothat’s Ieyasu Tokugawa, for you Japanese history fansand its handful of lodging houses serve dinner cooked around a traditional irori hearth.


Ieyasu no Sato still maintains the matagi hunting culture of living off the land, so the cuisine includes lots of locally grown and foraged vegetables, but also freshly caught wild game.

▼Deer sashimi!

IMG_2325Photo: RocketNews24

Many of the meats on offer are not unfamiliar to Western eaters, such as deer, boar, and pheasant. Bear was a bit of a surprise, but not unheard of.


But among all the skewers of meat, some in particular stood out.



I couldn’t take that gustatory challenge sitting down. Well, actually, I was sitting down, but anyway, down the hatch one went.

▼ “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”


▼ Going…




▼… uh, so I just chew this thing?


Salamanders are… crunchy. I’ll admit, I had no idea how long you are supposed to let a salamander cook, so it’s possible we drastically overcooked these beady-eyed little guys, but I didn’t want to take the risk of biting in and having something slimy come gushing out. More than any particular flavor, I just got a very crunchy mouthfeel. I wouldn’t say it was unpleasant, exactly, but not really an experience I would seek out again.

On the other hand, when used as puppets, salamanders on a stick do make for excellent dinnertime entertainment.

▼ “… and they lived happily every after.”


Photos © Scott Fukuyama, used with permission