June Seasonal Japanese Seafood


The waters are warming up around Japan and many of the fish coming to market now are lean like katsuo. Here is a sashimi platter at our home, Izakaya Sakamoto. The big fish in the back is Tokyo Bay aji, iwashi, lean katsuo, kisu, and shiriyake-ika.


This tsubugai sashimi was served at a izakaya specializing in shōchū, Bettako. One of the joys of eating sashimi in Japan is the wide variety of shellfish. Tsubugai has a rich texture. Here it is served with some grated daikon, julienned myōga, and green onions.

Taste of TohokuAt a recent class at Elizabeth Andoh’s A Taste of Culture, we made a full meal from her latest collection of recipes, Kibō Recipes and Stories from Japan’s Tohoku. The rice dish is made with tokijake (chum salmon) and ikura.


Young surumeika are just now coming into the market. They are very soft and tender. You can eat it as sashimi without peeling the skin. Here we had it barbecued. It is stuffed with its innards and legs and simply grilled.


This is a sashimi platter we made on June 1st. Shinji’s father went fishing that morning in Tokyo Bay and all of the seafood, except for the Hokkaido scallops in the middle, were caught in the waters near Tokyo. This sashimi is even fresher than what customers are eating at Tsukiji Market sushi shops. Here we have aji, kochi, madako, and kisu.DSCN6299

Also, from Tokyo Bay, is this beautiful saba. Pacific mackerel is often cured in vinegar and served as shime-saba. It’s not often seen like this, but was amazing. Not as fishy as we associate with mackerel. We served it with julienned pickled ginger, myōga, and shiso and dressed it with a citrusy ponzu.

Another fish in season right now is anago. There is a restaurant in Nihonbashi that specializes in anago. A visit to Tamai, which is just behind Nihonbashi Takashimaya, is a treat, especially this time of year.

Ainame  鮎魚女  Fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii)

Akagai 赤貝   Ark shell (Scapharca broughtonii)

Amaebi 甘海老 Pink shrimp (Pandalus eous)

Aoyagi   青柳   Surf clam (Mactra chinensis) 

Asari  浅利   Japanese littleneck clam (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Ayu      Ayu or sweet fish (Plecoglossus altivelis)

Chidai   血鯛   Crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Ginzake 銀鮭   Silver (Coho) salmon (Oncorhynchus kisuts)

Hamo 鱧 Pike conger  (Muraenesox cinereus)

Hiramasa 平政 Giant amberjack (Seriola lalandi)  

Hoya  ホヤ   Sea squirt (Ascidiacea) 

Isaki 伊佐木 Threeline grunt (Parapristipoma trilineatum)

Ishigarei 石鰈 Stone flounder (Kareius bicoloratus)

Katsuo      Skipjack tuna or oceanic bonito (Katsuwonus pelamis) 

Karauni   殻雲丹   Sea urchin (Anthocidaris crassispina)

Kinki 黄血魚   Thornyhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)

Kinmedai 金目鯛   Splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Kisu キス Sillago (Sillago japonica)

Kochi 鯒 Flathead (Platycephalus indicus)  

Ma-aji  真鯵   Horse mackerel (Trachurus japonicas)

Ma-anago 真穴子 Conger eel (Conger myriaster) is a salt-water eel

Madako真蛸   Octopus   (Octopus vulgaris)

Maiwashi 真鰯 Sardine (Sardinops melanostictus)

Makokarei   真子鰈  Marbled flounder (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Mebachi maguro  目鉢   Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

Mebaru 目張   rockfish (Sebastes inermis)

Minami maguro 南鮪 Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)

Mirugai  海松食   geoduck  (Tresus keenae) 

Mongouika紋甲烏賊   Kisslip cuttlefish (Sepia lycidas)

Okoze 虎魚   Scorpion fish (Inimicus japonicus)

Saruebi 猿海老  Southern rough shrimp  (Trachysalambria curvirostris)

Sazae   栄螺   Turban shell (Turbo cornutus)

Shako   蝦蛄   Mantis shrimp (Oratosquilla oratoria)

Shiiraシイラ Mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)

Shiroika 白烏賊 Swordtip squid (Photololigo edulis)

Shitabirame舌平目 Red tongue sole (Cynoglossus joyneri)

Surume ikaスルメイカ  Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Suzuki 鱸 Japanese seabass (Lateolabrax japonicus)

Tachiuo   太刀魚   Belt fish or Largehead hairtail (Trichiurus lepturus)

Tokisake   時鮭   Young chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

Torigai   鳥貝   Cockle (Fulvia mutica)

Tsubugai   螺貝   Whelk (Buccinum undatum)


April Seasonal Japanese Seafood 4月旬の鮮魚


uni pasta

uni pasta

spring sashimispring sashimi by Shinji Sakamoto

kinme sushi 

kinmedai sushi

Tai Carpaccio

madai carpaccio

Saikyo masu

Saikyo miso marinated honmasu

The cherry blossoms have peaked in Tokyo as the weather has warmed up. This time of year we are seeing the last of the creamy shirako (milt) that we love so much as well as many fish eggs. The nabé hot pot is put on the higher shelf in the kitchen as we are not using it a few times a week as we were just last month. Being married to a Japanese fishmonger we eat a lot of seafood, from our breakfasts, usually with a grilled fish like a salted salmon or a himono (salted and air-dried fish) and seasonal sashimi at dinner. Here are some of our favorite dishes this time of year followed by a list of Japanese seasonal seafood you’ll come across if visiting Japan in April.

There is so much to love about Japanese seafood in spring. In particular, there is a a pink-fleshed kinmedai (splendid alfonsino) that has a supple texture which is spectacular as sashimi or sushi. If you are lucky the sushi chef will just sear it to bring out a unique texture and aroma. Kinmedai is also often served as nitsuké, simmered in a sweet soy broth until just cooked through. In Japan, look for kinmedai from the port of Choshi in Chiba as it is line-caught and harvested in shallow waters so it is rich with fat.

Uni on its own may be hard for some to swallow, but once it is cooked with garlic, olive oil, and tomato paste and topped over pasta it becomes a luxurious lunch. A very easy dish that anyone can whip up in minutes with this recipeKatsuo is in season in the spring and then again in autumn. This time of year it is lean, while in fall it is rich with fat. We love it this time of year as sashimi.

 Madai (sea bream) is available all-year long as it is a commonly farmed fish. But, this time of year we can get wild madai that has a better texture than the farmed fish which can be flabby. We love the wild madai for a simple carpaccio (above) topped with shiso, myōgabenitadé, and chives. Myōga is in the ginger family and adds a fresh pop to the dish, shiso adds a minty aroma, and the benitadé adds a bit of pepper. Shinji also loves the honmasu (cherry salmon) this time of year. Here he marinates it in a sweet Saikyō miso marinade overnight and then grills it.

Most of the Japanese fish names are linked to a photo of the fish.

Ainame  鮎魚女 fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii

 Akagai 赤貝 ark shell (Scapharca broughtonii)

 Aoyagi   青柳  surf clam (Mactra chinensis)

 Asari  浅利  Japanese littleneck clams (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Bora    flathead mullet or gray mullet (Mugil cephalus)

Chidai 血鯛  crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Chiayu 稚鮎  young ayu or sweet fish (Plecoglossus altivelis)

Honmasu 本鱒 cherry salmon (Oncorhynchus masou)

Hotaru Ika   蛍烏賊擬   firefly squid  (Enoploteuthis chunii)

Hotate 帆立貝 scallops (Patinopecten yessoensis)

Hoya 海鞘 sea squirt (Halocynthia roretzi)

Ishidai  石鯛  black seabream (Oplegnathus fasciatus)

Katsuo   鰹  skipjack tuna or oceanic bonito (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Kasago   笠子  scorpion fish (Sebastiscus marmoratus)

karauni  殻雲丹  sea urchin (Anthocidaris crassispina)

Kinki 黄血魚  thorny head (Sebastolobus macrochir)

Kinmedai 金目鯛 (sometimes called kinme) splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Kihada maguro  黄肌鮪   yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Kohada  小鰭  gizzard shad (Konosirus pumctatus)

Kurokarei 黒鰈   flounder or black plaice (Pleuronectes obscurus)

Kurodai 黒鯛   Japanese black porgy (Acanthopagrus schlegelii)

Maaji 真鯵 Japanese jack mackerel (Trachurus japonicus)

Magarei 真鰈 littlemouth flounder (Pleuronectes herzensteini)

Madai  真鯛  sea bream (Pagurus major)

Mategai   真手貝  razor clam (Solen strictus)

Mirugai  海松食   geoduck (Tresus keenae)

Mebaru 目張   rockfish (Sebastes inermis)

Nishin     Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Okoze 虎魚   scorpion fish (Inimicus japonicus)

Sakura ebi  桜蝦  sakura shrimp (Sergia lucens)

Sawara    Japanese Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Sayori   針魚  halfbeak (Hyporhamphus sajori)

Sazae   栄螺   turban shell (Turbo cornutus)

Shako  蝦蛄  mantis shrimp (Oratosquilla oratoria)

Shirauo 白魚  whitefish or ice goby (Salangichthys microdon)

Shira ebi 白海老 glass shrimp (Pasiphaea japonica)

Sumiika  墨烏賊  cuttlefish (Sepia (Platysepia) esculenta)

Tachiuo 太刀魚 cutlassfish (Trichiurus lepturus)

Tairagai 平貝  pen shell or fan shell (Atrina (Servatrina) pectinata)

Tobiuo 飛魚 Japanese flying fish (Cypselurus agoo agoo)

Tokisake 時鮭   young chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

Torigai 鳥貝 heart clam (Fulvia mutica)

Tsubugai  つぶ貝 whelk  (Buccinum undatum)

September Seasonal Japanese Seafood 9月旬の魚

September Seasonal Japanese Seafood



Perhaps no fish signals the arrival of autumn to me than sanma (Pacific saury), a silver skinned, long and skinny fish that for me is best when simply salted and grilled. This at night with a glass of nihonshu or shochu is heaven for me. What many Japanese especially appreciate is the bitter innards of the grilled sanma, a nice match for a hearty sake.

The shijimi (corbicula clams) are perfect in a bowl of miso soup and asari (Japanese littleneck clams) are great simply steamed in some sake or if you are craving a Western preparation, then steamed with white wine and garlic and served over pasta.

Many flounders are in season now. We like these meuniere style, sauteed in butter and then finished with a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Finally, a lot of these are great as sashimi. Shinji likes the fishy seafood like nishin (Pacific herring), sanma (Pacific saury), and iwashi (Japanse anchovy).

To make it easier for readers to understand what each seafood is I have linked to a photo of the seafood. Just click on the Japanese name.

Ainame 鮎並 fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii)

Aka garei 赤鰈 flathead flounder (Hippoglossoides dubius)

Akijake 秋鮭

Amaebi 甘海老 sweet shrimp (Pandalus borealis)

Asaba garei 浅羽鰈 dusky sole (Lepidopsetta bilineata)

Asahigani spanner crab (Ranina ranina)

Asari 浅蜊 Japanese little neck clam (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Awabi 鮑abalone (Haliotis sorenseni)

Ayu 鮎 sweetfish (Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis)

Baka gai 馬鹿貝 surf clam (Mactra chinensis)

Benizuwai gani 紅頭矮蟹 red snow crab (Chionoecetes japonicus)

Botan ebi ボタンエビ Botan shrimp  (Pandalus nipponesis)

Dojou 泥鰌 loach (Misgurnus Anguillicaudatus)

Ezo bafun uni 蝦夷馬糞海胆 short-spined sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus intermedius)

Ezobora 蝦夷法螺 whelk (Neptunea polycostata)

Hakkaku 八角 sailfin poacher (Podothecus sachi)

Also called tokubire

Hanasaki gani 花咲蟹  spiny king crab (Paralithodes brevipes)

Hata hata 鰰  sailfin sandfish (Arctoscopus japonicus)

Hime ezobora 姫蝦夷法螺  sea snail (Neptunea arthritica)

Hirame 鮃 olive halibut (Paralichthys olivaceus)

Hokke 𩸽 arabesque greenling (Pleurogrammus azonus)

Hokki gai  北寄貝 surf clam (Pseudocardium sachalinense)

Hokkoku aka ebi 北国赤蝦  Alaskan pink shrimp (Pandalus borealis)

Hon maguro (or kuromaguro) 黒鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)

Hotate gai 帆立貝 Japanese scallop (Mizuhopecten yessoensis)

Ibodai 疣鯛 butterfish (Psenopsis anomala)

Kaki  牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Katakuchi iwashi 片口鰯 Japanese anchovy (Engraulis japonicus)

Kawa yatsume 川八目 Japanese lamprey (Lampetra japonica)

Kawagarei or Numagarei 沼鰈 starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus)

Kegani 毛蟹 horsehair crab (Erimacrus isenbeckii)

Kinki or Kichiji 黄血魚 thornhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)

Kita murasaki uni 北紫海胆 Northern sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus nudus)

Kouika 甲烏賊 cuttlefish (Sepia (Platysepia) esculenta)

Kounago 小女子 Japanese sand lance (Ammodytes personatus)

Kuro gashira garei 黒頭鰈 cresthead flounder (Pleuronectes schrenki)

Kurokarei 黒鰈 black plaice (Pleuronectes obscurus)

Kuruma ebi 車海老 kuruma prawn (Penaeus (Melicertus) japonicus)

Ma anago 真穴子 conger eel (Conger myriaster)

Magarei 真鰈 littlemouth flounder (Pleuronectes herzensteini)

Mako garei 真子鰈 marbled flounder (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Managatsuo 真名鰹 silver pomfret (Pampus punctatissimus)

Masu 鱒 trout (there are many types of trout – see nijimasu, sakuramasu)

Mizudako 水蛸 North Pacific giant octopus (Octopus dofleini)

Namako 真海鼠 Japanese sea cucumber (Stichopus japonica)

Niji masu 虹鱒 rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Nishin 鰊 Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Sake 鮭 salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

Sakura masu 桜鱒 cherry salmon (Oncorhynchus masou maso)

Sanma 秋刀魚 Pacific saury (Cololabis saira)

Saragai 皿貝 Northern great tellin (Megangulus venulosa)

Shijimi 大和蜆 corbicula clam (Corbicula japonica)

Shirauo 白魚 icefish (Salangichthys microdon)

Souhachi 宗八鰈 pointhead flounder (Cleishenes pinetorum)

Suketou dara 鯳 Alaska pollack (Theragra chalcogramma)

Suna garei 砂鰈 sand flounder (Limanda punctatissima)

Surumeika 鯣烏賊 Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Tachiuo 太刀魚 cutlassfish (Trichiurus lepturus)

Tarabagani 鱈場蟹 Alaska king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)

Torigai 鳥貝 Japanese cockle (Fulvia mutica)

Unagi 鰻 Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica)

Wakasagi 若細魚 Japanese smelt (Hypomesus nipponensis)

Yanagi no mai 柳の舞 yellow rockfish (Sebastes steindachneri)