Fish Consumption in Japan

Fish Consumption in Japan

japanese culture

Last Updated November 12th, 2019

A discussion on the fish consumption rates in Japan. How much is too much & can our oceans recover?

“I wonder how much seafood Japan consumes?” A question I continually asked myself while visiting Tokyo, Japan in November 2018 (this was also my first visit to Asia).

Can the blame of certain fish species population depletions be placed solely on Japan?

Do the Japanese over consume seafood?

It’s said that one out of every ten fish is consumed in Japan. This rings true as the worldwide view of the Japanese diet is based around its affinity to create incredibly delicious sushi.

So with an amazingly popular dish and a unique culture that millions of visitors want to experience each year, why should we care if there may be an overconsumption of seafood in Japan?

It’s important to consider that

  1. Seafood is a top provider of protein for diets around the globe.  As more and more people turn away from the heart health problems of red meats, seafood is seen as a healthy conscious choice.
  2. The fishing industry provides jobs for millions of people around the world, as in over 200 million jobs. This means that almost 3% of the entire world’s population is affected by the fishing industry.

 

        For decades fishing seemed like an endless opportunity in our oceans, yet overconsumption and unregulated fishing practices have pushed many species to the brink of extinction.

        Most notably affected is the torpedo shaped bluefin tuna, which Japan is the largest consumer of. This specis of tuna is a highly sought after endangered species. Oddly enough, we shake our fingers at poachers of endangered rhino species and sign petitions to end dog meat trades, yet are comfortable ordering a plate of sushi that offers an endangered fish.

Please keep in mind, the first two examples are terrible, this statement is merely aiming at opening your perspective in a new way and in no way trying to place negative opinions on those who consumer fish or undervalue the atrocity of other species killings and abuse.

So, how much is too much fish consumption for Japan?

Japan is one of the dominant importers of seafood.  Japan’s fishing industry is focused on feeding Japan, with 90% of its caught seafood consumed domestically, and importing the remainder from the United States and South America.

Due to their high consumption of seafood, they are one of a few countries who look to sustainably source their fish, however it’s an uphill battle. It was only in 2017 that agreements were haphazardly agreed upon to structure the fishing of the most popular fish sold worldwide, the bluefin tuna.

 

The population of tuna has been depleted by about 97% due to overfishing and has become a billion dollar industry.  In fact, each year there is a New Years tuna auction in Tokyo. This year, 2019, the winning bidder won with a record high $3.1 million!  Talk about a supply and demand market that is a perfect example for economics professors to use in their lecture halls.

    Japan asked for an increase in their annual quotas for bluefin tuna, which was thankfully denied by the Pacific Fisheries committee (thanks to the United States opposition to the request).  Japan has had plans to rebuild the Pacific bluefin stocks, with a target to regain up to 20% of historic levels by 2034.  However their asked for expansion was not approved due to the population levels not improving enough.

    Their Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries has said that fish consumption is down from 2001’s high of 40.7kg to 24.6kg consumed per person each year.  (Considering part of this could be due to Japan’s younger generation now having access to other options such as beef and poultry.)

    With the help of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), fisheries now have access to evaluations and strategies to implement more sustainable tactics.  It is clear there is a need to conserve the ocean’s ecosystem and maintain a healthy balance from low lying plankton to large predators, and also preserve the jobs of millions.

    Greenpeace compares this all to ‘simple housekeeping’ that I feel needs quite a bit of regulation and accountability. Luckily there is the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership who has the T75 goal, where 75 % of all fishing will be done sustainably by the end of 2020 (fisheries must be certified by the MSC).

              For a typical consumer it feels overwhelming to consider the ramifications of the interests of business owners overpowering the needs of our environment.  You can help make a difference by using your money as your ‘vote’. Here’s how:

      • Only purchase sustainable seafood from brands who only sell seafood with a certified MSC blue label.  This is currently the most trustworthy and widely known label for sustainable seafood

       

      • Support restaurants that are MSC certified; even asking if they provide MSC certified sustainable seafood will help.  Think about it this way- if enough people ask a restaurant if they sell sustainably certified seafood then they will look into, and hopefully, transition to it.

      The MSC Blue Label

      Image credit: http://global-impacts-report-2016.msc.org/

      The question of whether Japan consumes too much fish is a difficult one to properly answer, especially because I don’t believe we fully understand the impacts of the oceans shifting biodiversity.

      The actions needed to be taken should be based on how we fish around the world, the retail and food services industries seafood choices and higher consumer standards.

        If you’re planning a trip to Japan, then be sure to check these posts about Japanese culture & my First Timers Guide to Tokyo

          Citations:

          IWC “The IWC is the global body charged with the conservation of whales and the management of whaling.  The IWC currently has 89 member governments from countries all over the world.

          The Commission’s role has expanded since its establishment in 1946.  In addition to regulation of whaling, today’s IWC works to address a wide range of conservation issues including bycatch and entanglement, ocean noise, pollution and debris, collision between whales and ships, and sustainable whale watching.”

           

          Organizations you can support to help with ocean conservation:

          -WWF

          -Greenpeace

          -Marine Stewardship Council

          -Sustainable Fishering Partnership

            Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

            Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

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            Japanese Culture

            Japanese Culture

            japanese culture

            Easy to remember & good to know information about Japanese Culture if you are visiting for the first time (or need a refresher!)

            Japanese culture is known around the world as a fascinating, unique and deeply historic culture. Tokyo, Japan’s capital city is where tradition meets innovation. You can be standing next to a thousand year old temple with a modern day skyscraper in front of you.  With the 2020 Olympics just around the corner, Japanese culture and traditions are being highlighted for the world to see. Yet, it was only a few hundred years ago that the country was isolated from the rest of the world.  This allowed the famous culture in Japan to become such a fascinating lifestyle to learn about and experience.

            I have only spent a few days in Tokyo, Japan (it was also my first time in Asia) and continue to cherish the beautiful and serene lifestyle. If you are visiting Tokyo, Japan, here are things to know about Tokyo culture to help you feel at home and be prepared for your travels there:

            [Traveling to Tokyo for the first time?  Check out my First Timers Guide to Tokyo, Japan]

            Basics of Japanese Culture

            Japanese Food Culture

            1) Japanese food is created with pride and excitement

            The Japanese take great pride and excitement in the food they prepare, with many things being made with the craftsmanship that modern day ‘hipsters’ seemingly adore (however, if we’re being honest, the Western view of local & craftsmanship has shifted away from the typically adored mass production of food in the last few years- maybe the Japanese are onto something…)

              2) The Japanese diet consists mainly of rice, fresh seafood and pickled vegetables

              This healthy diet is considered to be one of the reasons the Japanese live such long lives.

              3) Japanese food is so much more than sushi

              Sushi has become a Westernized speciality for celebratory nights out or a self indulgent treat. It is also the food that Japan has become most well known for. However, Japanese diets go beyond sushi.  While fresh seafood is a huge part of their typical diet, vegetarians (like myself) can find plenty of tofu, buckwheat noodles and seasonal vegetables to enjoy.

              4) Chopsticks are the equivalent to a fork and knife.

              And just like we have etiquette with utensils in the United States, there is etiquette for using chopsticks.

              Never point with your chopsticks

              Don’t place your chopsticks in a bowl of rice or pass food around with them

                5) Soy sauce should be used lightly

                Japanese cook with pride & dousing your rice in soy sauce translates to the chef and restaurant owner that you were served poorly made food

                6) No need to tip

                The Japanese are extremely kind (more on this below) and will provide excellent service regardless, so there is no cultural norm to tip. In fact, most will try to awkwardly give you back your tip if you leave one

                7) Don’t pour your own drinks

                Your host/ess or friend should make sure your glass is always full, and you should do the same for them- Kanpai! (cheers)

                8) Vending machines are everywhere and are filled with unique beverages

                Drinks on the go is a lifestyle here, however the use of plastic doesn’t make this a sustainable tactic

                9) Speaking of drinks, tea is the drink of choice in Japan

                Most restaurants will supply you with hot green tea, just like you would receive a glass of water in western culture. And there are many delicious teas to try besides green tea.

                Japanese People & Mannerisms

                10) Japanese people are very friendly and kind. They will notice if you are a visitor and are helpful if you become lost or confused. You will be in awe with how polite, well mannered and quiet the Japanese are

                Some say that this mentality stems from the strong history of the samurai (discipline, respect honor), which transcended through time to modern society

                11) PDA is a no-no

                It’s improper to show public displays of affection

                12) Instead of pointing with your finger, show with your hand, palm facing up

                13) Greet with a bow

                A bow is the equivalent to a handshake. You don’t need to bow to everyone who bows to you (otherwise you would bow to every restaurant employee you come across and spend your entire day bent over), you can instead do a polite head nod. However, many Japanese are becoming accustomed to shaking hands

                Bows are silent ways of saying thank you, greeting or saying farewell and for apologizing

                  Overall Japanese Culture

                  14) Public spaces are quite quiet. You won’t see many loud or rambunctious Japanese in public spaces, however the nightlife can be a completely different story

                  15) Overall, the city of Tokyo is very safe.

                  We never felt uncomfortable or that there were pickpockets

                  16) Try not to stare

                  I’m not sure if it’s the sales person in me, but I found myself giving direct eye contact to way too many people when visiting Japan. I noticed I was doing it because they do not do the same. I came to find out that this a cultural norm.  Which can be quite convenient since Tokyo is…

                    17) The maps for public transportation can be quite confusing to a visitor.  Don’t let it frighten you, because if you look lost someone will most likely stop to help you.  At one point during our trip, a gentleman stopped on his way to work to help walk us outside of the metro station and take us to the correct station (did I mention the Japanese are some of the kindest people?)

                    Great piece of advice: don’t just stop inside of a train station if you are lost or confused. Move to the side, out of the way, as there are so many people filtering through them

                    I put together an awesome guide for how to use Tokyo’s Public Transportation, check it out here!

                      18) The city of Tokyo is spotlessly clean

                      There aren’t many public trash cans, yet the streets are all immaculate (I once saw a man shining a fire hydrant… that’s cleanliness level that Monica Gellar would be proud of). This means that the cities cleanliness is partly self maintained by its people. Respect the country and its people by not littering.

                        Interesting Cultural facts about Japan

                        19) There’s a difference between a shrine and temple

                        A shrine is for the Shinto religion, whereas a temple is for the Buddhist religion.  You can tell the difference upon your entrance as a shrine will have water for those entering to wash their hands and mouth in order to cleanse the soul before entering, and a temple will most likely require shoes to be removed prior to entering.

                        20) You will see evidence of the country’s religious heritage everywhere you look.  The Japanese are very proud of it, although for each person religion is typically a private affair

                        21) In fact, many Japanese gardens are based on Buddhism, but the two religions mutually exist together

                          Laura of Blue Eyed Compass, a Sustainable Travel Blog

                          Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger, as well as freelancing web designer & photographer. I share real & honest information about traveling, how to do so sustainably, and ways to earn an income while working remote.

                          Follow Along!

                          Start your own blog today!

                          Set up your blog today by using my discount code for Bluehost – Click the image to get started.

                          Get $15 OFF your AirBnb!

                          As with any country there are different cultural segments among the people – for Japan it would be Shinto, Buddhism, Ryukyukan and Ainu – yet the overall sense of respect and honor transcend throughout its entirety. Japan is a country where traditions that go back for thousands of years are respected, and fast paced evolution with fashion trends, architecture and technology are sought after simultaneously. There is debate among which stands to support Japan moving forward – the traditions or advancements – but that’s a discussion for another time, maybe one we can have during or after the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.

                            [If you’re planning a trip to Japan, then don’t miss this Weekend Itinerary for Tokyo, Japan.  No trip to Japan is complete without experiencing this incredible city]

                            Things Japan is known for:

                            -sushi

                            -geishas

                            -samurais

                            -iekbana (flower arranging)

                            -origami

                            -kabuki (theatre)

                            -sumo wrestling

                            -anime

                            -tea ceremonies

                            -capsule hotels

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