Our reporter Seiji ventures back to Ueno’s bug vending machine to learn if crickets and grasshoppers taste the same.

We’re more conscious of nutrition and potential future food shortages now than we ever have been, and this is why some companies are turning their eyes to meat substitute products, including soy meats, mushrooms, and things that don’t even try to mimic meat at all. Like bugs.

We don’t live in such meatless times yet, but our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa is still eating bugs for some reason. You see, he happened across a huge and well-stocked bug vending machine in a street in Tokyo’s Ueno district, and just couldn’t help himself.

“Grasshoppers and crickets are pretty similar,” Seiji mused, “Both live in grass. Both jump a lot. They’re like alt-color picks for a fighting video game, so I wonder if they taste the same.”

▼ As Seiji works for SoraNews24, he decided to indulge this idle wonder to the best of his ability.

The vending machine  is stocked with 29 different kinds of bugs prepped and ready to munch straight out of the bag. Seiji’s goal this time, though, was to compare and contrast grasshoppers with crickets, so rather than selecting the Fun Mystery Can like he did for his previous adventure in entymophagy he selected a can of each.

▼ The black crickets cost 1,100 yen (US$10.22), and grasshoppers were a little pricier at 1,300 yen (US$12.08).

So now it was time for Seiji to bite the bullet. Or the bug. The bug-llet? Anyway, he faced the containers and steeled himself, at least safe in the knowledge that he’d have a double layer of vinyl packaging to rip through before being confronted with creepy-crawlies. That was how the Fun Mystery Can was packaged, after all.

▼ And yes, all products come in this plastic tube. Apparently insect retailers haven’t gotten the “go green” memo yet.

Seiji gathered his nerves. Okay, now to tear open the first layer. The first step. Then he could take a breather before the second bag and–


Okay, never mind, it looks as though the insect vending machine was reducing some of their packaging after all, at least in the lower-grade cans. Clearly the Fun Mystery Can and its premium price tag was intended for a more delicate clientele.

“These are just bugs! Raw bugs! At least tell a guy if there’s not gonna be a second bag!” — Seiji

Shocked by the sudden sight of the bugs, Seiji got another nasty fright when he poured out his grasshoppers onto a plate. Both the grasshoppers and cricket containers allegedly contained 15 grams (0.03 pounds) of insects, but…that’s so many bugs…

▼ Here’re the grasshoppers.

▼ A bountiful helping of black crickets.

In his shaken and unnerved state, Seiji wasn’t so sure he wanted to eat them anymore. It was hard to achieve that mental nirvana he’d once attained, where anything could look like an edible snack food — whether that’s stewed loaches, British ramen, or a single really big bug. Sigh. But the show must go on.

Seiji had asked the journalistic question “Do grasshoppers and crickets taste as similar as they look?” and now he was duty-bound to answer it, starting with the crickets.

▼ Trepidation…

▼ And then acceptance.

So how was it?

▼ “…”

▼ “Tastes like roasted soybeans.”

Seiji elaborated in that the crickets tasted very specifically like the roasted beans used to hurl at oni for Setsubun. There was also a hint of dried sardine flavor… Basically it tasted like the savory snacks you might expect your grandma to dish out.

Now he had some momentum going, it was much easier to wolf down the grasshoppers for a taste comparison.

▼ Down the hatch.

“Roasted soybeans.”

They were even crispy and crunchy like soy beans! At first Seiji thought this had a stronger “buggy” flavor than the crickets, but then doubted his own judgement. He went back for a second helping just to make sure. He studied each one closely before chomping down:

▼ Two bowls, both alike in dignity (and flavor, as it turns out).

▼ “This one is a cricket.”

▼ “This one is a grasshopper.”

They both tasted just like roasted soybeans.


Setsubun, the holiday where you throw roasted soybeans, is widely enjoyed by children. They get to eat one bean for each year of their age, and throw them to drive out the terrifying oni — usually a well-meaning adult in a mask. As Seiji ate more and more, he was assailed by Setsubun memories…and memories of his own fearless youth, where he would gambol into the wild grasses unafraid of any creepy-crawly that headed his way.

Maybe it’s a good thing to venture out of your comfort zone every once in a while. Maybe something you’ve been dreading or been repulsed by actually just tastes like delicious soybeans when you bite down. Food for thought.

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