HOME About Japan Food

Ingredients of Japanese cooking (Fish & Meats)


Because Japan is a country surrounded by sea, fish are important ingredients.

Most Japanese know the names and tastes of various fish.
When we enjoy at a sushi restaurant, we must order by Japanese name of fish.

The words of most fish are short in Japanese language, so probably you are easy to learn.

As the cooking of fish, there are various methods such as Sashimi (raw fish), broiling, boiling in Japanese soup, tenpura and deep-frying.

Fish through all seasons

Sushi of Maguro
  • Maguro (Tuna) : It is the most popular fish for Sushi or Sashimi.
    In Japan, it has been eaten since ancient times.
  • Aji (Horse mackerel) : It is one of the fish that Japanese people have eaten.
    Mainly, it is used as broiled fish or deep-fried fish.
  • Sake (Salmon) : It is also called as "Shake" in Japanese.
    It is used for broiled fish or various dishes.
  • Tai (Red seabream) : It has having white flesh. It is mainly used for Sushi, Sashimi and broiled fish.
    It is attributed to auspicious fish in Japan.
  • Unagi (Eel) : It is a popular fish for Japanese people, but is expensive. The main method of cooking is "Kabayaki" that eel is broiled on a grill after being dipped in a sweet soy sauce-based sauce. broiled on a grill
  • Ika (Squid, Cuttlefish) : It is the popular fish for Sushi, Sashimi and the other various methods of cooking.
  • Tako (Octopus) : It is one of popular fish for Japanese people.
    After boiling in water, the part of legs are eaten mainly.
  • Ebi (Shrimp, Prawn) : It is also popular food. The price is not expensive.
    But "Ise-ebi" (Japanese spiny lobster) is the king of "Ebi" in Japan and is expensive.

Fish in spring

  • Sawara (Japanese Spanish mackerel) : It is a big fish, and the flesh is white and soft. It is mainly cooked by broiling.
  • Katsuo (Bonito) : It is used for making "Katsuobushi" to take Japanese soup stock.
    But Katsuo in spring is used for "Tataki of Katsuo". It is cooked by broiling the surface of the block of Katsuo flesh.
  • Nishin (Pacific herring) : Until early 20th century, a lot of Nishin were caught around Japan, but its catch has fallen now.
    It is used for various dishes.
  • Mebaru (Japanese rockfish) : It is a fish with white flesh. The main cooking is to boiling in the soup of dashi, shoyu and suger.

Fish in summer

  • Suzuki (Japanese sea bass) : It is a big fish with white flesh. It is cooked by broiling and the other various methods.
  • Anago (Whitespotted conger) : It is similar to eel, but has lower fat than eel.
    Broiled Anago with the sauce of shoyu and sugar is a popular cooking and is used for sushi. And it is used for tenpura.
  • Iwashi (Sardine) : It is the fish being eaten in the world. In Japan, it is eaten by broiling and various methods.
    And, fresh Iwashi is eaten as Sashimi.
  • Hamo (Dagger-tooth pike conger) : It is a fish like eel and have sharp teeth. It is mainly used the dish in Kyoto and Osaka.

Fish in autumn and winter

  • Sanma (Pacific saury) : It is a popular fish in autumn.
    The best cooking is broiling over an open fire and it one of autumn features in Japan.
  • Saba (Mackerel) : It is often served in a common Japanese meal.
    Broiling or boiling in miso sauce are the main methods of cooking.
  • Buri (Japanese amberjack) : It is the fatty fish and the best season for cooking is winter.
    Sashimi and broiling are the main cooking method.
    Young Buri is called as Hamachi, and is used for sashimi and sushi.
  • Hirame (Olive flounder) : It is a flat fish and both eyes are on the left side of the body.
    It has white flesh and the price is expensive.
  • Karei (Righteye flounder) : It is a flat fish and both eyes are on the right side of the body.
    Main kinds of Karei are caught in winter, but the other kinds are caught in spring and summer.
  • Tara (Cod) : It is a fish in winter. The flesh is white and soft .
    Mainly, it is used for broiling or a food of nabemono (foods cooked in a pot).
    The soft roe of Tara is also used as a delicacy.
  • Fugu (Pufferfish) : It is the fish like a balloon and has strong poison in some parts of the body. But the flesh is very taste.
    In Japan, only the Fugu cooks licensed by the nation can cook the fish.
    Therefore, you can eat the dish safely in the Fugu restaurant.
  • Ankou (Goosefish) : It is a deepā€sea fish with a big mouth.
    The body is grotesque, but most parts of the fish are tasty. It is cooked in a pot.
    It is said that the liver of Ankou is similar to "foie gras".

Freshwater fish

  • Ayu : It is a fish living in the stream of clear river. It is living in the east Asia only around Japan, so the English name of the fish is "Ayu". (Sometimes, it is called as "Sweetfish")
    It is caught in summer, and is cooked by broiling. The taste is mild and light.
  • Iwana (Charr) : It is a fish living in the upper reaches of clear river.
    Like Ayu, it is cooked by broiling. The best season is early summer.
  • Koi (Carp) : Carp is a freshwater fish with very strong life force. Wild carp are living even in dirty river.
    Edible carp are cultured in the pond in the inland area.
  • Wakasagi (Japanese smelt) : It is a small fish living in the cold lake in the northern Japan. And, the main season is winter.
    Mainly, it is cooked by deep-frying.


  • Asari (Japanese littleneck clam) : It is a common shellfish in Japan. It is used for miso-soup, clear soup and some dishes.
    In early spring, clam digging is held at many sandy beach in Japan.
  • Shijimi (Basket clam) : It is a small black shellfish.
    It is mainly used for miso-soup.
    It is said that miso-soup of Shijimi is good for a hangover.
  • Hamaguri (Common orient clam) : It is a tasty shellfish, and is mainly used for clear soup and a few dishes.
    The best season is early spring.
  • Hotate-gai (Japanese scallop) : It is a shellfish living in cold sea around Hokkaido and northern Tohoku regions.
    The adductor muscle is soft and tasty.
  • Kaki (Oyster) : It is a popular shellfish in the world.
    Hiroshima and Miyagi prefectures are the main production center.
  • Aka-gai (Bloody clam) : It is a shellfish with orange-colored flesh.
    It is used for sashimi and sushi.
  • Awabi (Abalone) : It is an expensive shellfish.
    It is used for sashimi or broiled stake. The sashimi has hard texture.
  • Sazae (Horned turban) : It is a kind of snail.
    Mainly, it is cooked by brioling over an open fire.


  • Tarabagani (Red king crab) : It is a big crab living in Okhotsk Sea and the north part of Sea of Japan.
    Most crabs are imported from Russia.
    The best seasons are late spring and winter.
  • Zuwaigani (Snow crab) : It is caught in the Sea of Japan in winter.
    The crabs caught in the popular area has a brand name.
    Fukui area = Echizen-gani
    Around Tottori area = Matsuba-gani
  • Kegani (Horsehair crab) : It is a thorn crab living in the north part area of Japan.
    We can eat this crab throughout the year.

Other fishery products

  • Uni (Sea urchin) : Several kinds of sea urchins are edible and the gonads are eaten.
    In Japan, it is mainly eaten raw and is one of sushi toppings.
  • Shirasu (Whitebait) : It is small young fish in the sea.
    A large amount of Shirasu are caught, and are boiled.
    They are white and soft, and are used as the topping of various dish.
  • Sakura-ebi (Sakura shrimp) : It is a small shrimp living in the deep sea. In Japan, it is caught only in Suruga Bay near Shizuoka city.
    A large amount of Sakura-ebi are dried in the sun.
    Mainly they are mixed in tenpura and okonomiyaki.


  • Ikura (Salmon roe) : It is roe of salmon.
    Each roe is like a clear and orange-colored bead. It is used for the topping of sushi and donburi dish (rice in a bowl).
  • Tarako (Salted cod roe) : Very small roes are wrapped with a thin skin. Original color is pink, but it is often colored with red food coloring.
    It is used for the topping of boiled rice.
    Mentaiko is the product that tarako is dipped in the sauce of red pepper.
  • Kazunoko (Salted herring roe) : Very small yellow roes come together in a cluster. The texture is a little hard.
    It is used for one of of New Year dishes.


Japanese people have been eating meats from very early times.

But, since 6th century, meat eating became a taboo in accordance with the teachings of Buddhism.
Nevertheless, it is a public stance and it appears to be true that people ate the meat of various animals such as boar, deer, bear, hare, raccoon and so on.

On the other hand, it would appear that cattle or hen were not eaten by reason that they were beneficial labor power.

In 1871 in Meiji period, the government lifted a ban on meat eating.
Because, Japan had to learn the advanced Western society to establish a modern nation.

Since this, Japanese people began to eat beef, pork and chicken.
Therefore, The Japanese dishes using meats has been invented after this time.


Kobe beef for SukiyakiKobe beef for Sukiyaki

Beef is commonly used by thin slicing in Japanese dish.
Because, knives and forks basically aren't used in Japanese meal.

And Japanese people like soft and fatty beef.
Such beef is used for the famous Japanese dishes, Sukiyaki or Shabu-shabu.

In Japan, there are very tasty and famous beef.

The four major Wagyu (Japanese beef) brands are Matsusaka beef, Kobe beef, Yonezawa beef and Ohmi beef.
The name means the producing city or area.

Additionally, there are the other several nice beef such as "Tajima beef", "Hida beef", "Maesawa beef" and so on.

But Wagyu is very expensive and imported beef is cheap.
60% of beef in Japan are imported mainly from Australia and USA.
Imported beef include lower fat than Wagyu, so the texture is a little harder than Wagyu.

Therefore, Japanese people think that Wagyu is a luxury food and imported beef is a daily food.



In Japanese cuisine, pork is not so much used as beef.

But, Japanese people also like Chinese cuisine or the dishes arranged in Chinese taste.
Pork is often used in such dish.

Famous Japanese dish using pork is Tonkatsu (Japanese pork cutlet).
And main ingredient of Okinawa dishes is pork.

In the Japanese home, pork is mainly used for Chinese dish or Western dish and shabu-shabu is sometimes used thin sliced pork instead of expensive beef.



Chicken is light meat and makes tasty soup.
It fits into Japanese taste.

It is used for various Japanese dishes.
Yakitori is the famous skewered grilled chicken.
Like this dish, chicken is used by cutting small in Japanese cooking.

And, minced chicken is often used for Japanese cuisine.


Rice with raw eggRice with raw egg

Egg is one of the important foods in Japan.
Of course, it is chicken egg.
In a few dishes, quail egg is used.

In Japanese cuisine, simple dish of only egg is Dashi-maki Tamago (Rolled Omelet including Japanese Dashi soup).
It is used as a topping of sushi.

And there are many dishes made by adding beaten egg.

Chawan-mushi is made by steaming the soup including beaten eggs

In addition, Japanese people like to eat raw egg.
I hear many foreigners are surprised at such custom.

The producers of egg in Japan are performing a sanitary control sufficiently and all Japanese people take it for granted that raw egg is a safe food.

When you eat Sukiyaki, raw egg is served as the dip sauce.

After beating the egg, you dip the boiled beef into the egg sauce and eat it.

Boiled rice with raw egg is also a favorite dish of Japanese people.

After beating an egg with a small amount of shoyu (soy sauce), you pour it into the boiled rice and mix them.
When you stay in Japanese ryokan, it may be served as the breakfast.

Return to Food