Photo By: Joost Van Itterbeeck
Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Gifu
Population
2,107,687

Edible Wasp Festival

Discover how locals hunt and cultivate wasps as a hobby and even eat them as a treat. Whoever raises the most wasps is the champion! Stick around to see who wins.

In central Japan, some people are known as wasp hunters. In summer, they search for the nests of hebo, or yellow jacket wasps in the forest. Then they raise the hachinoko (larvae and pupae) in wooden nest boxes. The hachinoko of hebo are among the favored foods of rural people in the southeastern part of Gifu Prefecture.

Hunting hebo and raising the hachinoko has become a hobby of cultural importance. It reaches its climax in November when harvesting time arrives. This is a highlight of the year. So why not compete with one another? Whoever raises the most hachinoko is crowned champion!

Photo by: Kenichi Nonaka Who will be the champion?

Hebo festivals are organized in several villages and towns every year, and they are well worth a visit. The best-known and biggest festival is in Kushihara village, on the border between Gifu and Aichi prefectures.

Competition

Wasp hunters take their nests to the Kushihara festival and harvest the hachinoko on the spot. You can watch them donning protective gear, calming the adult wasps with smoke and opening the nest boxes.

Photo by: Joost Van Itterbeeck Bags of freshly harvested hachinoko.

Excitement and tension fill the air. The wasp hunters look like children unwrapping Christmas presents. The hachinoko are then put in plastic bags and weighed. The harvests range from less than 1 kilogram to over 7 kilograms. Whoever raised the heaviest amount of hachinoko is crowned champion!

Eat and buy wasps

Photo by: Joost Van Itterbeeck Hebo gohemochi. Tasty!

You can try the traditional hachinoko gohan (steamed rice with wasp larvae). Be sure to try the hebo gohemochi. These are rice cakes that are covered with a sauce of ground hachinoko and grilled over hot coals. This is an excellent snack for those who are a bit squeamish about eating whole hachinoko. A local band will be playing music while you enjoy your hebo rice and hebo gohemochi.

You can also buy packages of hebo hachinoko to take home, as well as inago (rice grasshoppers) and kaiko (silkworm pupae).

Gujo Hachiman

The wasp hunters also sell their harvests. Prices are indicated on the plastic bags containing the hachinoko. You can take these home, remove the hachinoko from their cells by yourself and prepare them to your own liking. You will find a few adult wasps in there as well. Some people like to deep fry the adult wasps. It only takes a few seconds for them to be ready to eat. Sprinkle a little salt on top of them and you have got yourself a crispy, adventurous and traditional snack.

Photo by: Joost Van Itterbeeck Hebo for sale.

While you’re in the area

Want to learn everything there is to know about wasp hunting? Visit the small hebo museum in Kushihara. Pictures, wasp hunting equipment and nest boxes will be on display.

Looking to do more than just eat wasps? The festival is next door to the onsen, the mallet golf course and the souvenir shop. Check out local produce in the souvenir shop, play a game of mallet golf and unwind in the beautiful onsen before heading back home. They serve lunch and dinner at the onsen. I recommend the hachinoko kamameshi (rice cooked in an iron pot together with hebo hachinoko).

For more info: Although these websites are in Japanese, if you’re looking for more information here are two resources: Kushihara Hebo festival and more info on Kushihara onsen, mallet golf and souvenir shop: kankou-ena.jp/kushihara.

Get the scoop on seasonal fun. Discover even more festivals in Japan.

Topics: , ,

Trivia

Gujo Hachiman

Local vibes of Ayu sweetfish and all-night dancing.

More

Things To Know

Where and When

The festival takes place at the Kushihara Community Center. It happens yearly on “Culture Day,” in November and starts at about 10 a.m.

Safety

Got stung by a wasp? Here’s what to do: There is a medical stand with staff dedicated to treat wasp stings immediately. I have been to several festivals. Each time I get up close to the nests and without wearing protective gear. I have never been stung. So don’t be too afraid.

How To Get There

Address

3150-1 Kushihara, Ena-shi, Gifu-ken 509-7831, Japan

By train

It takes around 4 hours to Akechi station from Tokyo station. From there, it’s a 15-minute drive to the festival.

By car

About a 4.5-hour drive from central Tokyo.

Where To Stay

Sasado Onsen Tofuya
  • Sasado-cho Nawate 7 Toyota-Shi, Aichi 444-2826
  • 7.4/10
  • 9.1 km
Powered by Booking.com
Guest House Yanagiya
  • Iwamuracho 305 Ena-Shi, Gifu 509-7403
  • 9/10
  • 12.0 km
Powered by Booking.com
Iwamura Sanso
  • Iwamuracho Tomita 569-1 Ena-Shi, Gifu 509-7402
  • 8/10
  • 12.1 km
Powered by Booking.com
Guest House Tomida
  • 1967-2 Iwamuracho, Tomida Ena-Shi, Gifu 509-7402
  • 9.4/10
  • 13.5 km
Powered by Booking.com