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  • Writer's pictureJason Capp

Unexpected Seafood You Can Eat in Japan

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

It is common for countries to have their own specific delicacies, but some countries go beyond specific and dive into the shocking and unexpected. Here are five surprising seafood-based dishes you can happen upon while visiting Japan.

1) Fugu (Puffer fish)

Fugu is a dish served in Japan that is prepared in a wild variety of ways, but one thing to be mindful of as a chef is that fugu is dangerously poisonous. This is why fugu chefs are required to spend years preparing in order to become a professional chef that is allowed to serve this dish. They must pass a series of rigorous tests to be fully certified, and it is believed that only one-third of applicants pass.

To many westerners, this dish was made quite popular by The Simpsons in the episode "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish", where Homer consumes a poisonous fugu and is given 22 hours to live.

It brought real attention to the dangers of the dish, but despite the real repercussions, fugu is still commonly eaten throughout Japan, especially in Yamaguchi prefecture.

2) Shirauo no Odorigui (Dancing Ice Fish)

Shirauo no Odorigui is a regional dish found in Fukuoka prefecture. It consists of tiny, transparent fish that are meant to be eaten alive. The word odorigui refers to the feeling of eating live sea creatures, and it is meant to feel like they are dancing inside of you as they ultimately dance to their death.

In Fukuoka, it is even common to down these fish at a diner of sorts with shot glasses.

One theory for eating these fish while they are still alive is that the fish, shirauo, also known as ice gobies, decay rapidly once they are killed, so eating them while they are alive is as safe of a process as possible.

3) Kujira (Whale meat)

While technically not a fish, this controversial dish continues to be quite popular in many areas of Japan. It is even believed that eating whale meat can combat the development of dementia.

While commercial whaling is frowned upon by most countries, it is still a common practice in Japan, and many Japanese people are not opposed to the consumption of whale meat.

The way whale meat in Japan is prepared is quite varied, from hot pot dishes to sashimi, and it is not uncommon to use some of the less desirable parts like the belly or even the tail.

Although it is not as popular these days, kujira can still be found all throughout Japan at restaurants specializing in the dish.

4) Shirako (Cod Milt)

Shirako is a creamy delicacy in Japan, but the surprising side of it is that it consists of male cod genitalia and semen. It is a wildly popular dish, and it can be found all throughout Japan, especially at Japanese drinking establishments and sushi bars. It is served on top of rice, fried in tempura batter, or even on top of custard.

Shirako is often referred to as Japan's strangest dish, but milt (fish semen) is a lot more common around the world than most people are aware. Countries like the US and Italy also enjoy some dishes that contain milt.

Although it can seem unpleasant, shirako's taste is quite delicious, and it is regarded by most as a delicacy in Japan.

4) Funazushi

Many Japanese consider funazushi to be a top-tier, luxury dish in the country. One of the things that is most appreciated about the dish is the amount of preparation that goes into it.

Funazaushi is essentially a fermented goldfish native to Shiga prefecture, and it takes more than a year to fully prepare the fish. It is even said that funazushi was the catalyst for modern day sushi.

Its history is connected to food preservation by farmers so that they would have a sufficient amount of food throughout the difficult seasons. It is a heavily salted, and then it is compressed with steamed rice to seal out all air and begin the process of fermentation.

Funazaushi is enjoyed by many Japanese people and has become a staple in the seafood delicacies of the country.

5) Uni

Uni is the Japanese word for sea urchin, but that would not be specific enough for the reality of the dish. Uni is a sea urchin's gonads, and upon first glance, many visitors to Japan find the dish to be visually disgusting.

However, uni is considered one of the best types of sushi, and it has since made its way to other areas of the food world including inside sandwiches and even topping some pasta around the country due to its growing popularity.

Uni has even gained worldwide recognition due to its unique flavor, texture, and appearance. Foodies around the world are in a constant debate over whether uni is a good or a bad tasting dish, but one thing is for certain. The Japanese are in love with it, and who knows? We may be finding it in other foods sooner rather than later. Uni pizza, anyone?

Although the diets of the world have changed dramatically over the years, Japan is one of the most unique countries when it comes to preserving their food traditions and finding distinctive ways to upgrade these dishes for the modern age.

These were only five of Japan's strangest seafood dishes, but this is honestly just scratching the surface.

Japan is a wonderful country full of amazing things to do and try out, so why not take a trip out to this amazing country and experience these strange dishes for yourself. At best, you may love them, but even if you do not, they will be amazing stories to tell your family and friends for years to come.

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