How often does a person in Japan eat raw fish?
June 9, 2010 5:16 PM   Subscribe

Typically, how often does a person in Japan eat raw fish?

Just out of curiosity - I'm surprised that my Google-fu fails me. Does the average person in Japan eat raw fish (sashimi... nigirizushi... whatever) every day?

I know it's eaten quite often, but recently someone told me that sushi isn't as everyday as rice. Which made me realize that I assumed raw fish is eaten every day, or just about every other day. I don't know if by "sushi", this person meant to include all raw fish, or just nigirizushi. Never mind what he meant ... how often is it, on average?
posted by Xere to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well... I've got only anecdata for you, but speaking for our household, which consists of three people who all love sashimi in all forms, maybe once a week or so at the most? Sashimi is pretty expensive compared to other types of fish (intended to be cooked), so it's not something people eat everyday. But there are seasons for certain types of fish, like right now it's the season for hatsu-gatsuo (bonito), which makes them reasonably priced in most supermarkets. Mmm. Now I know what I'm having for dinner tonight!

Now sushi, as in nigiri, is much less often than that. Even if it's the stuff revolving around on a merry-go-round. Once a month, maybe? Not even that much, really. Sushi is "party food," it's something people eat on a special occasion, or when they feel like splurging.

FWIW, I'd say we're firmly middle class in terms of income.
posted by misozaki at 5:37 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wait, I take that back. The revolving type of sushi is pretty accessible, so people who are out working might hop in for a quick lunch or dinner on a semi-regular basis.
posted by misozaki at 5:41 PM on June 9, 2010

the once a week number is what i heard get thrown around during the absurd jeremy piven/mercury poisoning debacle.

(people were saying he was full of shit because japanese people aren't all suffering from mercury poisoning and other people were saying that typically japanese families eat raw fish once a week - so if piven was eating it every single day, it was a different matter. i can't believe i remember all that)
posted by nadawi at 5:42 PM on June 9, 2010

once or twice a week, in my experience

i had cooked fish almost everyday (and it's pretty common in japan to have fish everyday or almost every other day) because it's so cheap, fresh, and good. raw fish once or twice (if i was feeling decadent!) a week.
posted by raw sugar at 5:44 PM on June 9, 2010

I searched in Japanese about this. On the Japanese equivalent of askmefi there were a few relevant questions. It seems that many people eat raw fish at home once a week or less. Even if people have access to fish that is suitable for eating raw in my experience they do not have the skills necessary to prepare it. Prepared sashimi and sushi is available in supermarkets and restaurants. Most Japanese people do not eat raw fish everyday let alone every other day.

posted by Infernarl at 5:45 PM on June 9, 2010

Also, good sushi in Japan isn't any cheaper than good sushi in the US as far as I can tell. Eating it every day would get very expensive.
posted by twblalock at 6:36 PM on June 9, 2010

At home, almost never. Restaurants have access to much higher quality fish than consumers in the supermarket, and the stuff in the supermarket that's marked as sashimi/sushi ready is expensive. On the other hand, if my wife and I go to an izakaya (Japanese style pub restaurant with alcohol and good food), we usually order at least one plate of sashimi. Sushi, or going to a sushi restaurant, that's a special night out, or for snazzy dinners for guests (when we dropped by to visit my wife's incredibly proper aunt, just to say hello, she immediately had us come inside, sit down, and ordered delivery sushi for lunch). Think about steak. How often do people eat steak? Or, say, foie gras? Sushi is somewhere between steak and foie gras on the how-often-we-eat-it scale. (Seriously, moderate/decent sushi restaurant, 2 people, roughly $70-$100)

People might well eat fish nearly every day, but not sushi. Too expensive, and doesn't keep as well as cooked fish (in, say, a bento/lunch box).
posted by Ghidorah at 8:13 PM on June 9, 2010

My Japanese language teacher told me that most Japanese eat sushi/sashimi for special occasions.
posted by spec80 at 8:29 PM on June 9, 2010

Via a straw poll of random people around my office (all Japanese but 3 of us), the number ranges from once a week to almost never. The most frequent response was "Maybe once every couple months" for sushi and "Maybe once every couple weeks/once a month" for sashimi. Sounds most people tend to only get sushi for special occasions, and sashimi is mostly only eaten when people are eating out, and most people don't seem to go out to eat that often. Single guys are at the high end of the eating-out scale, families and women on the low end of the eating-out scale.

Fish is eaten relatively often, and the semi-salt-preserved Salmon and Saba (mackerel) seem to be the most popular options around here, mostly for breakfasts and lunches, because they're easy and quick to prepare.
posted by that girl at 9:41 PM on June 9, 2010

Nthing what pretty much everybody else said - based on what I've seen and heard from my few dozen Japanese friends, and the habits of some Japanese people living in Japan who let me stay with them for a couple weeks, I'd say less than once per week. Probably even less often for most people. You can probably compare it to how often the average American eats a steak - certainly not rarely, but not everyday. And some people not at all.
posted by Vorteks at 8:05 AM on June 10, 2010

oh and for an additional data point this was mostly in the summer/warm weather that once a week / twice a week raw fish was going on! winter is cold in japan and damned if people are going to be regularly eating anything cold. if sushi/sashimi is eaten in the winter it's for some fancy event like the end of year company party or something.
posted by raw sugar at 12:47 PM on June 10, 2010

In the summer (when I lived in Japan) we would eat o-tsukuri (sliced, uncooked fish) at least two times a week, and we usually would eat katsu-tataki (bonito tartar), aji (a small, silver near-shore, sustainably-harvested fish distantly related to tuna), and squid.

However, it should be said that I lived in rural Japan in a fishing town (where, as we speak, I am writing this AskMe answer!), where there is lots of fish.

We usually avoided more expensive, trucked in fish like tai (sea bream) and maguro (bluefin tuna) because the local fish are so much more fresh and taste better.

A surprising number of fish cannot be eaten raw. Mackerel must be cooked (and Japan does not have a meaningful mackerel fishery any more, so most of these fish are shipped in from Norway), while salmon *should be cooked* (and most salmon sold in Japan is farmed, either in Norway or Miyagi). Sardines *should* be cooked, although you can buy o-tsukuri in the supermarket.

So, delicious as it is, eating bonito every day could get monotonous, and there are so many other delicious local fish: sawara (Spanish Mackerel, delicious when roasted), flounder (kare), tasty when grilled or stewed, plus all the different varieties of squid, which can be stuffed and stewed, or broiled.

Yellowtail (buri) is a great winter fish (also sustainable) that can be eaten as o-tsukuri, but it is so wonderful that you can do most anything with it. It arrives in late November and early December, and since it is so big and since so much of it can be eaten, it's kind of like a turkey. You can stew it with Daikon, broil it, bake it...

In short, there are so many varieties of fish available in Japan that there's not need to eat raw fish every day, although I like to at least two or three times a week.

As other more knowledgeable folks have said, sushi really only is party food.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:41 PM on June 14, 2010

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