14 Types of Japanese Fish To Try!

by Erika Shinomoto
types of japanese fish

Japanese seafood is world-famous. If you’re in Japan, here are 14 types of Japanese fish varieties you cannot miss out on. Check it out!

Fish is one of the most common seafood that you will find in a number of Japanese dishes. I have never been a huge fan of fish, but ever since I found out about the various fish dishes of Japan, I could not resist myself. 

Fish really has become one of my favorites after trying out the various types of Japanese dishes. If you are planning to visit Japan and want to know more about Japanese cuisines that basically involve fish then you must know about these types of fish. 

Types of Japanese Fish

Unagi

fish in japan

Unagi is one of the most commonly eaten fish in Japan and it has been the same for a very long time. Unagi is nothing but eel and it is really enjoyed in Japan. It is basically enjoyed with rice after being cooked, grilled, and sliced. 

This fish has a meaty texture which is loved by most people and if you are somebody who wants to start eating fish then go for this one. Unagi is preferred in summer because of its ability to beat off the heat.

Shishamo

types of fish japanese eat

Well, want to enjoy your drinks with some fishy snacks? Get some grilled and fried shishamo for an amazing experience. It is a small and salty fish that is cooked completely with its roe intact. 

Whenever you take a bite, there will always be a surprise! The taste is not at all strong and it is quite crispy. Not many of you will like it after seeing it because of its terrible look but trust me the taste is perfect. I love eating shishamo with a glass of chilled beer. Trust me, there is no better combination. 

Maguro

maguro dish

This is something you must give a try! When talking about sushi dishes in Japan, you will most probably find bluefin tuna in various forms. 

This fish is tasty and versatile as you get lean and fatty layers from all of its sides. This fish is one of the most popular ones in Japan and anybody can try this. It is a bit expensive because of its versatile nature but it is worth a try!

Fugu

fugu japanese fish

This one is a Japanese pufferfish that you must try at a certified restaurant in Japan because not everybody is able to cook this poisonous delicacy! Yes, this fish is poisonous in nature and requires perfection while cooking as a small mistake can cost your death. 

They are generally eaten in their original form and have a very mild taste in them. If you want to try one, then do visit Japan when it is all about fugu there that is winters!

Ikura

ikura japanese fish

How can Ikura be skipped from the list of Japanese fish? Ikura is one of the most eaten and loved fish of all. It is also known as salmon roe and comes in the category of luxurious food so you must give this a try! 

Orange in color, this fish tastes something that would make you feel fresh with a hint of saltiness to it, which makes the overall taste absolutely perfect and delicious.  You must have this fish with a bowl of rice and enjoy it!

Buri

japanese fish varieties

Here is another variant of the fish type that you must give a try as it comes in the top-known list of delicious types of Japanese fish. Buri, which is also known as Japanese yellowtail, is eaten after being cooked properly in different sauces. 

In the winter season, if you haven’t eaten Buri then you have missed out on something very delicious on the streets of Japan. It is cooked in soy sauce and mirin and is served hot to have a wonderful experience.

Tai

best japanese fish

Tai is a silver fish that you will definitely find at parties and celebrations in Japan. Even if you do not have any occasion coming up, don’t wait and just get yourself some grilled Tai. There are different ways to eat this fish and trust me it is perfect in all forms. 

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You can try having it raw or can cook it just to make it a little tender. It is mostly eaten in winter and so you should do it too if you are in Japan during the winter months!

Katsuo

different types of japanese fish

You must not miss this one in any condition! Katsuo fish is served after slight cooking of the outer skin while keeping the inside raw and original to make it taste more exotic and delicious. 

When you get a plate ready, you will have thick slices of this fish with a bowl of rice and vegetables. The aroma of the dish will just give you a heavenly feel and you can satisfy your stomach really well.

Saba

types of fish in japanese cuisine

Here is another Japanese delicacy in terms of seafood. If you love seafood then you will just love this fish in your dish! In Japan, it is eaten in a different way where the fish is pickled in vinegar and is served with vinegar rice and other ingredients. 

In terms of taste, you will have a rich and oily flavor. Some people consider it heavy and some light, it just depends on how you like it.

Sanma

types of japanese grilled fish

This fish can be found in every small restaurant that you visit in Japan as it doesn’t require any special technique to cook. It is just grilled completely and eaten mostly in autumn. 

There is nothing fancy about this one but its simplicity makes it one of the most popular ones among the rest. One of the things that you must keep in mind before eating it is to tolerate the smell for the next few days.

Chum Salmon

types of japanese fish dishes

I believe you must have tried salmon many times in your life and must have been satisfied with the taste too but have you ever heard of this Japanese Chum Salmon? Well, don’t worry if you haven’t as here is what you must know about this delicacy. 

Firstly, this is also known as dog salmon and it is preferred to be eaten for breakfast. It is lean and the taste is not at all heavy. You can find this fish mixed in rice bowls as a perfect lunch meal to enjoy. Do enjoy some green tea with it to make it a perfect combination.

Uni

types of japanese fish cakes

Uni is the edible gonads of a sea urchin and it is one of the most delectable delicacies of Japan. The way to enjoy Uni in Japan is in its raw form, either as sashimi or as a sushi topping. If you want to enjoy the flavor of Uni, be sure to pair it with soy sauce and wasabi. It has a certain amount of creaminess to it, and sometimes, you may taste a briny texture. 

For many, it might be difficult to get used to the taste of Uni. It is an acquired taste. You will be able to find Uni in most Japanese seafood and sushi restaurant. It is also believed that the best Uni is available in Hokkaido. 

Ika and Tako

Ika means squid and Tako means octopus. These delicacies are quite popular in Japan and are loved by foreigners quite a lot. Ika is generally eaten raw as sushi and sashimi. In Ika, it is the mantle part that is generally eaten. The transparent part of the squid has a very mild flavor and firm texture. 

japanese seafood list

And that is not the only way to eat squid. A very popular variant of this is available in almost every convenience store. Do you know that that is? It is dried squid, which is considered to be extremely healthy.

japanese freshwater fish

Tako, on the other hand, is not generally eaten raw. It is usually steamed and is used to make sushi, sashimi, as well as several other Japanese seafood dishes. You also find grilled octopus in several restaurants. 

Hotate

Hotate is a kind of shellfish that is fairly common all across the planet. Hotate means scallops and I am sure many of you must have heard of it or even tried it. In Japan, hotate is eaten in sushi or sashimi. 

Types of japanese fish

Hotate is also grilled and enjoyed, especially in table grill restaurants. I love the soft and sweet flavor of hotate. If you are not very sure about trying seafood, you should try out this fish. It is a safe option for first-timers.

Aji 

Aji is a type of Japanese fish that has a fusiform body and lateral line scales. They’re quite oily types of fish that the Japanese eat. Aji is known as Horse Mackerel in English and is usually 15-20 cm long. 

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There are various ways of eating this fish like roasted, charred, boiled, grilled, etc. It’s a popular Japanese fish that you’ll find easily in Japan.

Types of Japanese Fish: FAQs

What are the most popular fish in Japan?

Some of the popular Japanese fishes are Salmon, Unagi, horse mackerel etc. They’re easily available in the country and used for several dishes.

What is the common Japanese white fish?

The common Japanese white fish is typically referred to as “shiromi” (白身) in Japanese, which translates to “white flesh.” Shiromi encompasses various species of white-fleshed fish that are commonly consumed in Japan and are known for their mild flavor and versatile culinary uses. 

Some of the most common types of shiromi include:

  • Suzuki (sea bass) is a mild-tasting, white fleshed fish with a delicious flavor. The meat on the back of the fish is firm and delicious, while the meat from the belly is more fatty and soft. Suzuki is often used in sushi, sashimi, and other Japanese dishes.
  • Tai (sea bream) is another popular white fish in Japanese cuisine. It has a mild, subtle flavor and a firm, flaky texture. Tai is often served grilled, steamed, or poached.
  • Hamachi (yellowtail) is a fatty, flavorful fish that is often used in sushi and sashimi. It has a mild, buttery taste and a firm, slightly oily texture.
  • Sanma (Pacific saury) is a small, oily fish that is in season during the fall. It has a strong, smoky flavor and a firm, flaky texture. Sanma is often grilled or broiled.
  • Aji (horse mackerel) is a small, oily fish that is in season during the summer. It has a strong, salty flavor and a firm, flaky texture. Aji is often grilled or sashimi.

What fish is commonly eaten in Japan?

Salmon is considered to be the most common fish in Japan followed by tuna. These fishes are highly enjoyed in different kinds of dishes like sushi, sashimi etc. and are also eaten raw.

What are the tiny white fish in Japan?

The tiny white fish in Japan are called shirasu. They are less than 2 centimeters in length and are typically sardines, but can also be the fry of herring, sweetfish, conger eel, or others. Shirasu are a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine and can be eaten raw, boiled, or dried.

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Here are some of the tiny white fish that can be found in Japan:

  • Katakuchi-iwashi (Japanese anchovy) is the most common type of shirasu. They have a mild, salty flavor and a soft, delicate texture
  • Ma-iwashi (Japanese sardine) are larger than katakuchi-iwashi and have a stronger, more oily flavor.
  • Urume-iwashi (round herring) are smaller than ma-iwashi and have a milder, sweeter flavor.
  • Ayu (sweetfish) are a type of freshwater fish that are in season during the spring. They have a mild, sweet flavor and a firm, flaky texture.
  • Conger eel fry are a delicacy in Japan. They have a rich, savory flavor and a firm, chewy texture.

What types of fish are in sushi?

There are various types fishes in sushi like saba, kurodai, Japanese amberjack etc. However, the most popular ones are salmon and tuna for their commendable taste.

Do Japanese eat cooked fish?

Japanese eat raw as well as cooked fish. It highly depends on what kind of cuisine or food item they’re eating, for example, sushi and sashimi require raw fish while nitsuke requires the fish to be cooked

What is the long thin Japanese fish?

“Aji” (Japanese horse mackerel) or “Sanma” (Pacific saury) are both common long thin Japanese fish. Both of these fish are commonly enjoyed in Japan and are known for their slender, elongated shape. Here’s a bit more information about each of them:

  • Aji (Japanese Horse Mackerel): Aji is a small, elongated fish with a silver-colored body and a distinct line of dark dots along its lateral line. It’s a popular fish in Japanese cuisine and is often served grilled or as sashimi. Aji has a rich, flavorful taste and is enjoyed throughout the year.
  • Sanma (Pacific Saury): Sanma is another long, thin fish with a silver body and distinctive blue-green iridescence. It’s commonly found in Japanese cuisine during the autumn months when it’s in season. Sanma is often grilled and served whole, and its oily flesh is prized for its rich flavor.

What is the Japanese fish that looks like an eel?

The Japanese fish that looks like an eel is most likely “Unagi.” Unagi is a type of freshwater eel that is commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It has a long, snake-like appearance and is known for its rich and flavorful meat. 

Unagi is a popular ingredient in traditional dishes such as “Unadon” (grilled eel over rice) and “Unagi Sushi” (sushi with grilled eel). 

It’s often prepared by grilling and basting with a sweet soy-based sauce, giving it a delicious caramelized flavor.

Unagi is enjoyed for its tender texture and unique taste, making it a sought-after delicacy in Japanese culinary culture.

What is Japanese sweet fish?

Japanese sweetfish, known as “Ayu” in Japanese, is a small freshwater fish that is popular in Japanese cuisine. 

Ayu is characterized by its distinctive appearance, including a slender body, shiny skin, and a relatively large head. The fish is named “sweetfish” because of its slightly sweet taste.

Ayu is often enjoyed grilled, especially during the summer months when it is in season. Grilling enhances its natural flavors and gives the skin a crispy texture. 

It’s a traditional dish that’s often served at festivals, outdoor gatherings, and in traditional Japanese restaurants.

In addition to grilling, Ayu can also be prepared through various other cooking methods such as frying, simmering, and steaming. The fish is particularly well-known for its unique flavor profile, which combines a hint of sweetness with a delicate and mild taste.

For all Japanese seafood lovers!

These were some of the best fishes of Japan that are unique, delicious, and healthy too! I tried almost all of them in the various Japanese restaurants that I haunted during my stay in Japan. 

Believe me, trying out these different types of Japanese fish in various dishes turned me into a seafood lover. If you are not yet comfortable with seafood or are skeptical of trying something out of your comfort zone, you really should give these a try. I am sure they will completely change your mind. Do give them a try when you next visit Japan!

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