The result? A ~3kg giant hornet nest full of larvae, and a large container with approximately 150 giant hornets slowly dying of alcohol poisoning/drowning. This is what hapenned next:
We brought the nest back to Tetsuo's house.
Once the table was adorned appropriately with newspaper, bowls, tweezers, cocktail sticks and beer (does anything else warrant this combination of necessary items?), we began the process of harvesting the hornets, one by one (left).
The nest is mostly covered in white caps, protecting the larvae as they undergo metamorphosis through larval to adult stages. First, we removed these with tweezers (or fingers). The creatures beneath are all alive, and (at least to a beginner) there is no way of telling what lies beneath the cap - a near-adult or a still-white larvae...
If it's a near adult, it should be killed immediately! As it is fully armed (~6mm stinger and exceptionally strong venom) and probably not in a particularly good mood.
Most, however, are either ghostly white wasp-shaped creatures with large black eyes, or michelin-man esque larvae with tiny heads (see photo, right). These can be plucked from the nest fairly easily with a pair of tweezers, though it's important not to squeeze too hard (as this will break their skin). Some of the larvae have full intestines. These can be removed with cocktail sticks, in one swift movement (which is fairly quick and simple once you get the hang of it!)
The preparation of the rest of the larvae took a lot longer - we simmered them in a combination of soy sauce, mirin, sugar and ginger for about 45 minutes.
First, we separated the near-adult individuals from the rest. These were quickly fried in hot oil and sprinkled with salt, for instant tsumami (drinking snacks).
As for the drink itself, that takes a little longer to prepare... As you'l recall, we begin with an enormous container of adult hornets drowned in white liquor (right).
This liquor contains not only the hornets but also the venom that each has released in the midst of its death throes. This venomous-alcohol is considered to be 'good for health', 'a drug that will keep you up all night', and even 'a cure for diabetes', depending on who you believe.
This liquor, and the hornets inside, are placed into multiple bottles. (I was told that a rough ratio of 40 hornets to 1litre was appropriate) These are then topped up with more liquor.
After 1 year, the whole bottle is infused with the taste of the hornets, and the colour of the liquor changes to a deep gold (there's probably less poetic ways to describe this colour, but I'm sticking with gold for now).
The photo on the left shows my homemade hornet liquor (right) and a premium bottle (aged 10yrs!).
[*I guess humans are really Japan's deadliest animal, strictly speaking. But, according to every source I can find, giant hornets are the most deadly venomous animal in Japan, causing between 20 and 40 deaths per year. They've also been in the news recently for causing a lot of deaths and injuries in China.]