Photo/IllutrationCicada: Cicada larvae and adults coated with fresh cream and milk chocolate (Minako Yoshimoto)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

NAGOYA--Kenichiro Nishikawa’s cooking lesson featured protein-rich ingredients plucked from trees, gathered along riverbeds and scooped up in grass before the food could hop away.

The fourth Semikai event in September attracted 12 male and female participants ranging in age from 9 to 58. They arrived here to cook and eat cicadas, larvae and other bugs.

Nishikawa, 26, and Ayaho Kunieda, 27, organized the event and spread the word mainly through social media.

The main ingredient was a moth larva known as “sakura kemushi” (Japanese cherry woolly bear). As its name suggests, the larva feeds on Japanese cherry leaves and is “in season” in fall, just before it emerges from its cocoon.

Kunieda described the species as “a relatively common foodstuff.”

The organizers prepared around 300 grams of frozen sakura kemushi, as well as 15 woolly bears “just caught in the morning” in a riverside area in Aichi Prefecture.

Other ingredients prepared that day were frozen cicada larvae and adults caught in a park in August, darkling beetle larvae known as mealworms, dried crickets and powdered silkworms.

Nishikawa, who has the cooking license, guided the groups of visitors in preparing eight kinds of bug dishes.

The frozen sakura kemushi were cut into small pieces. The Italian dish bagna cauda was cooked in a way that maintained the taste of the sakura kemushi, while anchovies and garlic were added for flavor.

Fresh sakura kemushi caught in the morning were boiled only lightly to retain their flavor.

A 38-year-old man and his 9-year-old son from Nisshin, Aichi Prefecture, made a salad using mealworms and nuts. They used a lid to protect themselves from the oil splashing in a pot of deep-frying mealworms.


All of the dishes were completed in about an hour, and they resembled lunches one might find in a cafe.

The pieces of sakura kemushi for the bagna cauda were so small that it was difficult to see that insects were part of the meal.

Boiled fresh sakura kemushi with soy sauce and citrus juice boasted a strong flavor of cherry. But the black woolly bears seemed bland on their own.

The worm would pair well with alcohol.

The crispy deep-fried mealworms were a popular topping for salads.

For dessert, vanilla ice cream topped with sugared cicada larvae and adults were mixed with melted chocolate and fresh cream and solidified in a refrigerator.

Deep-fried cicada larvae tasted like nuts, while chocolate containing the larvae was quite similar to almond chocolate.

Cicada wings are not very tasty, but they can be used as attractive decorations.

“We should make insect meals that have a stronger impact,” a repeat visitor said.

Insects have been floated as a possible solution to food shortages around the world.

“We are looking for people who are interested in our activity and will provide cooperation,” Kunieda said.

Nishikawa apparently has a bug banquet in mind.

“I want to develop many more meals using a wider range of insects,” he said.