How to buy quality fish with language guide

If you’re in your home country, it’s easier to find the fish that you want to eat because you know the fish names and how to ask the shop staff for help in cleaning and filleting etc. Also you know the best fish market in your hometown – or it’s easy to find out. But in Japanese, it’s a different story. Here’s a guide to help you out.

Japan's food safety

Japan’s food safety is high especially when it comes to fresh fish – when you consume so much raw fish, you can’t mess around. According to the processing standards of raw fresh fish and shellfish of the Food Hygiene Management System:

(1) Water used for processing shall use portable water, sterilized seawater or artificial seawater using portable water.

(2) Fresh fish and shellfish for raw use should be of high freshness.

(3) If fresh seafood for raw use is frozen, thawing should be performed in a hygienic place or in a clean water tank. It should be carried out using appropriate water, sterilized seawater or artificial seawater using potable water, with sufficient replacement.

(4) Fresh fish and shellfish for raw materials are thoroughly washed with portable water, sterilized seawater or artificial seawater using portable water, and if the product is contaminated it must be disposed of.

(5) The processing of fresh fish and shellfish subjected to the treatment of (4) must be performed at a hygienic place other than the place where the fishery was processed. Also, Do not use chemically synthesized additives (except sodium hypochlorite) in their processing. 

(6) The equipment used for processing should be easy to clean and disinfect.


fish names in Japanese



備長鮪/ びんちょうまぐろ/ Bincho Maguro

めばちまぐろ/ Mebachi Maguro

鰹/かつお/ Katsuo

かじき/ Kajiki

本鮪/ ほんまぐろ/ Hon Maguro

南鮪/ みなみまぐろ/ Minami Maguro

きはだまぐろ/ Kihada Maguro

Tuna tips


Cuts of tuna

When you go to a fish market – or even supermarket – in Japan, you’ll see three different parts of the tuna being sold.

    Fatty tuna – 大トロ/おおとろ/Ootoro

    Medium fatty tuna – 中トロ/ちゅうとろ/Chutoro

    Red tuna – 赤身/あかみ/Akami

Usually whole tuna is cut into three sections across the body: 

    The head part – かみ/Kami

    The head part – なか/Naka

    The fin part – しも/Shimo 

Each of the three parts include a section of the back and the stomach. 

    The back part – 背/せ/Se

    The stomach part – 腹/はら/Hara

So, for example:

   The middle stomach –  腹なか/はらなか/Haranaka

   The back head –  背かみ/せかみ/Sekami 


Fatty tuna – 大トロ/おおとろ/Otoro 

This can be taken from the stomach part of the head section (腹かみ/はらかみ/Harakami) to the middle part of stomach (腹なか/はらなか/Haranaka). Otoro is taken only 1 out of 5 in the fatty part that is called Toro, that’s why it’s expensive because it’s rare. But the taste of the Otoro is so rich and once you put the Otoro into your mouth, you don’t need chewing, it just melt in your mouth, the texture is just like heaven. Otoro included many DHA that activate your brain, EPA that improve your blood flow. Also it’s included vitamin A, D and E 5 times as much as red tuna (赤身/あかみ/Akami) so Otoro is not only delicious, but very nutritious.  


Medium fatty tuna  – 中トロ/ちゅうとろ/Chutoro

This can be taken from the back part of the head/Sekami/ せかみ/ 背かみ, the back part of the fin/ Seshimo/ せしも/ 背しも, the stomach part of the middle/ Haranaka/ 腹なか, the stomach part of the fin/ Harashimo/ 腹しも. It’s less fatty than Otoro and less sour than Akami.


Red tuna – 赤身/あかみ/Akami

This is all of other parts of Otoro and Chutoro. You can taste tuna-derived component and slightly sour flavor. It’s more containing protein than Toro, and Akami has only 5% of fat of Toro has. So if you want to reduce to take fat, Akami is very good. The quality of Akami is very important. If you could get very good quality of Akami, the taste is like the good soft red meat. But the quality is not so good, sometimes the meat is watery

White fish & Others


真鯛/ まだい/ Madai

鰈/ かれい/ Karei


鮃/ ひらめ/ Hirame

かんぱち/ Kanpachi

鰤/ ぶり/ Buri 


鰤/ はまち/ Hamachi

すずき/ Suzuki

かさご/ Kasago

太刀魚/ たちうお/ Tachiuo

飛魚/とびうお/ Tobiuo

しいら/ Shiira

梭子魚/ かます/ Kamasu

鰆/ さわら/ Sawara

鰊/ にしん/ Nishin

金目鯛/ きんめだい/ Kinme dai

舌平目/ したびらめ/ Shita birame

河豚/ ふぐ/ Fugu

鱈/ たら/ Tara

鮟鱇/ あんこう/ Ankou

鱚/ きす/ Kisu

鮭/ さけ/ Sake

穴子/ あなご/ Anago

蝦蛄/ しゃこ/ Shako

いくら/ Ikura

数の子/ かずのこ/ Kazunoko

Blue skin fish


鯵/ あじ/ Aji

鯖/ さば/ Saba

鰯/ いわし/ Iwashi

秋刀魚/ さんま/ Sanma

こはだ/ Kohada

Octopus & Squid


蛸/ たこ/ Tako

烏賊/ いか/ Ika

するめいか/ Surume ika

やりいか/ Yari ika

あおりいか/ Aori ika

紋甲烏賊/ もんごういか/ Mongou ika

墨烏賊/ すみいか/ Sumi ika

Shrimp & Crab


小海老/ こえび/ Koebi

伊勢海老/ いせえび/ Iseebi

甘海老/ あまえび/ Amaebi

車海老/ くるまえび/ Kurumaebi

ぼたんえび/ Botanebi

蟹/ かに/ Kani

たらばがに/ Tarabagani

ずわいがに/ Zuwaigani

けがに/ Kegani

渡蟹/ わたりがに/ Watarigani



浅蜊/ あさり/ Asari

蛤/ はまぐり/ Hamaguri

蜆/ しじみ/ Shijimi

鮑/ あわび/ Awabi

栄螺/ さざえ/ Sazae

牡蠣/ かき/ Kaki

帆立/ ほたて/  Hotate

北寄貝/ ほっきがい/  Hokkigai 

みるがい/ MIrugai

赤貝/ あかがい/ Akagai

青柳/ あおやぎ/ Aoyagi

つぶがい/ Tsubugai

Useful phrases




Uroko to naizou o totte moraemasuka?

3枚に/ 2枚におろしてもらえますか?

さんまいに/ にまいにおろしてもらえますか?

Sanmaini/ Nimaini oroshite moraemasuka?



Kawa o hiite moraemasuka?

Good quality fresh fish markets in Tokyo

「練馬・魚市場 旬」Nerima Uoichiba

Uoichiba Shun has not only basic fish but also rarer fish like rockfish / Nodoguro/ ノドグロ, red gurnard/ Houbou/ ホウボウ. They have black seabream/ Kurodai/ 黒鯛, Japanese stingfish/ Mebaru/ メバル etc. These fish freshness falls very easily so it’s trustworthy their product freshness maintenance system. The prices are quite cheap as well.


Uotatsu has been running for 75 years. Many locals come to the shop to buy fresh fish. Even if you go to the shop every day, you can find different types of fish because they lay out a stock of fish from Tsukiji/築地 fish market every morning. Also they try to buy wild and seasonal fish. It’s in Oyaadai Ichiba/尾山台いちば near Oyamadai station/尾山台駅 on the Tokyu-Toyoko line/東急東横線 so it's very easy to access.

kakujo gyorui

「角上魚類・小平店」Kakujo Gyorui Kodairaten

Kakujo Gyorui Kodairaten is quite big compared to normal Japanese fish shops. The selling floor space is nearly 1000 square metres. They stock fish from as far afield as Hokkaido/ 北海道 and Kyushu/九州 which means you can get fish from all over Japan. It’s a bit hard to access from the middle of Tokyo but it’s worth a trip.


Yoshiike has lots of different kinds of fish. When you go to a supermarket, you can usually see cut fish but Yoshiike have many whole fish and rare fish. Of course these fish are very fresh. They have crabs and scallops too. There are some staff who were working at Tsukiji/築地 so you can ask them to clean a fish, fillet in 3 pieces, peel off the skin etc. You're able to check out the staff’s skills through a glass window.

「錦糸町・魚寅」Kinshicho Uotora

Uotora’s famous point is the price. Diced tuna and octopus are especially cheap and there's always a long queue in front of this shop to get them. If you don’t like the lingering smell of fish grilling in your house, you can get already grilled fish from them, and you can always eat in for lunch. Suzuki Suisan/鈴木水産 runs this shop. Suzuki Suisan has a huge chilled storage container near Misaki port/三崎港 in Kanagawa prefecture so they can keep a large amount of stock directly from fishing boats. That’s why they are able to provide super fresh tuna for such a cheap price.

so says

If you like seafood, I would recommend to go some of the shops in this blog article. I’ll upload the fish market information sequentially.



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