Why don’t I notice the fishy smell in sushi restaurants?

Many overseas visitors who aren’t used to eating fish have an aversion to fishy smells. This is actually the smell of a substance called trimethylamine and is generated by the breakdown of the umami component called trimethylamine oxide found in large amounts in fish by bacterial growth. The smell also gets stronger with the generation of ammonia as more time passes.

Bacterial growth can be controlled with refrigeration so toppings at sushi restaurants are kept cold. Trimethylamine is an alkaline, so smells can be eliminated by washing with vinegar, which is acidic. It is also possible to kill bacteria on the surface of the fish by soaking it in vinegar, reducing the number of bacteria. Basically, sushi restaurants are constantly taking measures to prevent bacterial growth and avoid fishy smells.


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Revision date: February 19, 2018

Is sushi eaten with your hands? Or should you use chopsticks?

Sushi was originally a food eaten with your hands. Even, for example, if you are in a prestigious sushi restaurant in Ginza, you can still eat with your hands. You can actually use your hands to eat the ginger too. Restaurants that prefer you to eat with your hands will provide an extra, smaller towel for cleaning your hands between sushi, along with the normal hand towel. Even then, feel free to use chopsticks if you prefer.


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Revision date: February 12, 2018

Why is sushi with tuna topping so expensive?

A purchase of raw tuna costs at least JPY 30,000 per kilogram. Furthermore, good tuna is judged not only by taste, but appearance is also highly regarded.

The surface is gradually oxidized by letting it sleep (mature) and the sushi chef makes sure that parts are cut of as they change color, when the timing is perfect for both the taste and appearance. In other words, skin is taken from the freshly purchased tuna, the meat of the fish darkened by blood (the blackened area that can’t be used as sushi toppings) is removed, the parts that have changed color are shaved off and then only the remaining, best parts used as toppings are left.

This is why the price is high.


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Revision date: February 5, 2018

Prior to WWII, there were chefs whose only job was making vinegar rice

From the end of the Edo period through the Meiji period, rice was cooked using firewood and a pot. It is not easy to get the fire at the right temperature and the rice has to be cooked to the same texture regardless of where it came from or the size of the grains, so at the time the task required a skilled chef. Therefore, there were “Shari-ya” employed by sushi restaurants who specialized in cooking rice. “Shari-ya” focused on this single task and were not involved in the actual making of the sushi after the rice was passed on to the chefs.


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Revision date: January 29, 2018

10 pieces of sushi we recommend for February

Red seabream (Tai)

Blackthroat seaperch (Nodoguro)

Golden cuttlefish (Sumi ika)

Lean meat of tuna (Akami)

Medium Fatty Tuna (Chutoro)

Spear squid (Yari ika)

Pen-shell (Tairagi)

Ark shell (Akagai)

Rediated trough-shell (Kobashira)

Common orient clam (Nihamaguri)


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Revision date: January 22, 2018

Some notes on chopstick manners

There are manners in using chopsticks that tourists may be unaware of. I would like to introduce some of those here.

First of all, it is impolite to place chopsticks on your dish in the middle of a meal. Make sure to place them back on the chopstick stand when you aren’t using them.

It is also poor manners to stab food with chopsticks and or to use chopsticks to look through dishes. Please avoid breaking up the beautifully arranged dishes when you eat.


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Revision date: January 11, 2018

Tuna was not a premium fish during the Edo period

During the Edo period, tuna was not highly valued as a sushi topping and it was referred to as “Gezakana” meaning that it was inferior to normal fish. The reason was the big size of the tuna. At this time there was no ice, so tuna had to be salted. It was cut into blocks, salt was spread all over and in it, and that was it. At Uogashi (the market prior to Tsukiji) it was treated at shops that specialized in salting fish. The dark, discolored, salty chunks of flesh really were nothing but “Gezakana*”.

*Gezakana -Relatively low-cost sushi ingredients, such as gizzard shad and horse mackerel. Bluefin tuna used to be also called gezakana in the Edo period, for losing its freshness easily.


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Revision date: December 30, 2017

10 pieces of sushi we recommend for January

Longtooth grouper (Kue)

Red seabream (Tai)

Golden cuttlefish (Sumi ika)

Lean meat of tuna (Akami)

Medium Fatty Tuna (Chutoro)

Botan shrimp (Botan ebi)

Mirugai clam (Mirugai)

Ark shell (Akagai)

Sakhalin surf clam (Hokkigai)

Gaint pacific oyster (Kaki)


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Revision date: December 26, 2017

What makes a good sushi chef?

The balance between Shari (vinegar rice) and the topping is important in sushi. No matter how good the topping, the sushi won’t be good if the Shari isn’t right for it. More restaurants have been using red vinegar lately, but even if you use a Shari with a strong taste like red vinegar, the balance will be destroyed if the topping has a weaker flavor. Seasoning that goes well with various toppings that doesn’t stand out too much is ideal.

It works the other way, too. If the Shari is too weak, the sushi won’t be delicious no matter how good the topping. Even if the topping is not premium quality, if the Shari is matched perfectly, the sushi will be perfect. In other words, a good sushi chef is someone who can make sushi with perfectly matching toppings and Shari.


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Revision date: December 18, 2017

Why do some sushi toppings have ginger instead of wasabi?

Ginger is used for toppings with a strong, distinct taste and strong fishy smell such as bonito, horse mackerel and sardines.

Wasabi has a spicy taste and stimulates the senses of taste and smell and works to dull the senses so the fishy smell is not felt, but ginger is effective in actually extinguishing the fishy smell.


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Revision date: December 11, 2017

Where should I grab the sushi when eating with chopsticks?

Laying the chopsticks sideways as if scooping up the sushi distributes the strength and the sushi won’t break easily. If you grab it in the middle then there will be too much force on that part and it will break in two pieces. Make sure to eat this beautifully formed piece of sushi in one bite.


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Revision date: December 4, 2017

10 pieces of sushi we recommend for December

Red seabream (Tai)

Red gurnard (Houbou)

Golden cuttlefish (Sumi ika)

Lean meat of tuna (Akami)

Medium Fatty Tuna (Chutoro)

Japanese pufferfish (Fugu)

Japanese spanish mackerel (Sawara)

Ark shell (Akagai)

Sakhalin surf clam (Hokkigai)

Splendid alfonsino (Kinmedai)


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Revision date: November 27, 2017

You know fatty tuna, medium-fatty tuna and lean tuna, but have you heard of the more rare parts of the fish?

A single bite of the same bluefin tuna differs greatly depending on the part of the fish it came from.

The body of the fish is broadly categorized into the dorsal (back) and the ventral (belly) sides, which taste completely different. Of course the meat near the head tastes completely different from the meat near the tail. If you dig even deeper, there are parts that aren’t as well-known as the Ohtoro (fatty), Chutoro (medium-fatty) and Akami (lean) tuna meats. I’d like to explain those now.

Hachinomi” is the meat from the crown of the head. It is fatty and rich and also called “Head Toro”. Only about 1kg of this precious meat can be taken from even a very large fish, and it is only shared with regular, loyal customers.

Hohoniku” or cheek meat is taken from below the eye, seasoned, grilled and made into gun-kan rolls. The taste is enhanced in this part by grilling.

Kamatoro” is taken from behind the jaw. It is known as “shimofuri” or marbled meat. There are no veins in this part so the meat is soft and the marbling is more detailed than Ohtoro, so it is sticky and melts in your mouth. The balance of fat and sweetness in this part is unparalleled.

Chiai” is the part with the most veins, so it is a dark red color. It has a strong odor of blood and has multiple times the acidity of the lean meat, so it is not used as a sushi topping.

Chiai Gishi” is near the Chutoro and some say that it is the most delicious lean meat there is.

Wakaremi” is a precious part with very little meat found on the next to the dorsal fin. The part especially close to the dorsal fin is popular and called “Setoro” or back toro. The light taste is a combination of the deliciousness of both the lean meat and that won’t fill you up. However, this part is hard to get, even in high-quality tuna and is not available except to regular customers in almost all sushi restaurants.

If you are fortunate enough to get an opportunity to taste these , you can take it as proof that you have been accepted as a regular and loyal customer. It is difficult to distinguish these parts by appearance alone, so make sure you try them at a sushi restaurant you can trust. Just for your reference.


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Revision date: November 20, 2017

We will explain fishing methods which could affect the quality of caught tuna.

There are mainly five methods for tuna fishing. “Ipponzuri” (catching fish with fishing poles) in Oma, Aomori prefecture, you see a lot through the media, is well known. However, the fact is that Long line fishing method and Purse seine fishing method are the ones catching the most tuna. The rest is Fixed net fishing method and Hikiami (Seine fishing method).

<Long line fishing method>

To hang a long line (Mikinawa) in the sea, covered with about 3000 fishhooks attached to branch lines (Edanawa), aiming at a path of schooling tuna.

<Purse seine fishing method>

A large-scale method of fishing by encircling a school of tuna with a net. Although it is efficient, there is a demerit of lowering the quality of fish because they struggle while getting caught. In addition, other kinds of fish and immature fish can be caught without distinction and that leads to overfishing.

<Fixed net fishing method>

Tuna have a habit of migrating to the same ocean area in the same period of time. Acoastal fishing method called Fixed net fishing is to place a net in the sea and wait for a school. The merit is to be able to capture the fish alive without causing any damage.

<Ipponzuri (catching fish with fishing poles)>

This method has the longest history and uses a pole of 4 – 6 meters to fish from a boat. Using a machine that winds up lines automatically and also using human hands, pull up tuna that weighs more than 100kg and lastly catch it by piercing gills with a harpoon.

<Hikiami (Seine fishing method)>

To catch fish by towing a bag-shaped net from a boat.


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Revision date: November 11, 2017

Today you will learn how to easily identify artificial salmon roe!

The natural salmon roe season is the autumn. Does this mean that most of the roe eaten during the off-season is artificial Salmon roe. Not necessarily. As stated in his biography, even at the famous sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, frozen roe is thawed as necessary.

Long ago this was an extremely expensive topping that ordinary people couldn’t afford, so artificial roe was used. There was a time when this was the case. But nowadays salmon roe is regularly imported from overseas and can be obtained cheaper, eliminating the need to use artificial roe instead.

However, we cannot overlook the commercial law for passing off artificial roe as natural roe. In Japan, the non-perishable properties of artificial salmon roe made from chemical substances (mainly sodium alginate) is utilized and used mainly in hospitals, but not sold to the general public. I’ll also tell you that it is very rare to find a sushi restaurant that serves artificial roe. Cheap roe is generally made from eggs of trout, other related species, or imported from Canada and other countries.

Unfortunately I’m not familiar with the state of things outside of Japan, but I can tell you how to tell the difference. All it takes is hot water and a moment of observation. Artificial salmon roe will show no changes in hot water, but natural roe will start to turn white on the surface. This is due to the protein reacting and changing with the heat. That said, this is not an experience you can just set up at the sushi restaurant. Just for your own information.


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Revision date: November 6, 2017