Brainteaser: How _____ Got to Japan

Tsingtao circa 1911 (Image source: Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH)

See if you can fill in the blank before you get to the end of the clues.

Clue #1: In 1897 the German government was able to coerce the Chinese givernment into giving them a 99-year lease to the city of Tsingtao, on Kiautschou Bay in East China. The bay and surrounding region soon became a German colony, and a large naval fort was built in its harbor.

Clue #2: In July 1914, World War I officially began. In August, the British -and their allies, the Japanese- attacked Tsingtao, and by November they had taken it from the Germans. The Japanese captured about 4,000 German prisoners in Tsingtao and transported them to POW camps in Japan.

Clue #3: In 1915 several hundred of those prisoners were transported to the newly-built Narashino camp, east of Tokyo. Among those prisoners was one Karl Jahn, an expert in a field that had been mastered by Germans centuries earlier.

Clue #4: In 1918 Jahn and a handful of other POWs taught the secrets of their skill to Yoshifusa Iida, a Japanese givernment official. Yoshifusa, who happened to be in the midst of experiments with the processing of a certain kind of food, was impressed.

Clue #5: Yoshifusa subsequently taught the process to manufacturers all across Japan, marking the beginning of a new industry in the country.

Clue #6: As the years passed, the story of how the Japanesse learned to produce this product was almost completely forgotten. Then, in 2008, a collection of photos of Narashino camp was discovered -including images of Yoshifusa Iisa, Karl Jahn, and the other prisoners making it.

What is the product? Continue reading to find out.

Highlight the paragraph below to see the answer.

The answer is ...sausage. Jahn and his fellow prisoners were sausage makers, and Yoshifusa was a government engineer experimenting with new ways to process meat. The photos show the prisoners slaughtering, butchering, and smoking pigs, and then stuffing the minced pork into pig intestines. Sausage making is an especially effective way of preserving meat without refrigeration, and Japanese meat processors eagerly adopted it -which is why there are still sausage and hot dog stands all over Japan today. We probably (we hope) fooled you, because Tsingtao is a fairly well-known brand of Chinese beer -and the Germans are, of course, expert beer makers. But beer had actually been in Japan since the 1870s, when Dutch traders first introduced it.


The article above was reprinted with permission from the Bathroom Institute's book Uncle John's Heavy Duty Bathroom Reader. Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute has published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!


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Hah, I should've known better than to guess the obvious, although Tsingtao never occurred to me. It seems like the correct answer should've arrived sooner, given Japan's 19th century obsession with all things German.
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