Oct 29, 2018

First Impressions of Fugu

I was in Shimonoseki (Yamaguchi Prefecture) last week, and it’s a place known for its Fugu (pufferfish).  

Most people know about less for its culinary characteristics than its deadly poison, which still claims upwards of 50 people a year in spite of the clear warnings and strict government regulations.

I first learned about Fugu as a child watching The Simpsons, in an episode where Homer eats Fugu prepared by a junior chef and everyone wonders if he’ll make it through the night.  That didn’t really instill a desire to try it myself.

Still, as the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” so I figured I might as well do as the Shimonosekians...Shimonosekis...Shimono...thepeople of Shimonoseki do and try Fugu.

My wife and I headed to Karato Ichiba, the Tsukiji of Shimonoseki.  Right off the bat you can tell that Fugu is the specialty there, seeing as there’s a giant Fugu statue in the middle of the loading bay (it’s a wholesale market, so there’s quite a bit of hustle and bustle).


We headed over to the Fugu senmonten (speciality shops) and started talking to one of the fishmongers who had Fugu sashimi for sale. Again, keep in mind that I’m still a bit wary of Fugu given the whole “eat this and you could die” possibility, so I tried to strike up a conversation with the bloke to gain confidence in his Fugu filleting skills.

I asked how long he’s been doing it.

”Since before the market opened.”

How long had the market been open, I asked.

”I don’t know. A few decades, maybe.”

Have you always specialized in a Fugu?


By now, I guess you can tell that he was quite the talkative fellow.  In a way, his terse nature was reassuring—he was all business, and I guess I could appreciate that with someone who cut up poisonous fish for a living, no frills focus was a good thing.

So I took the leap.  

1000 yen bought me this plate:

First Impressions of Fugu photo

It was Fugu sashimi along with chopped up Fugu skin.

I said farewell to my wife and took my first piece...

First Impressions of Fugu photo

In many ways, it reminded me of Tai sashimi—very light, slightly chewy, with mild flavor.  That is to say, I enjoyed it.

Next was the skin...

First Impressions of Fugu photo

This was not as good.  Honestly, it reminded me of octopus or mirugai (clam foot), neither of which thrill me much.

Overall, I’m really glad I tried it—check that off the bucket list.  Would I have it again?  Maybe if I’m back down in Shimonoseki hanging with the Shimonosekites (man, Japanese makes it so much easier just to call them 市民).



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).