Do you consider yourself to be an adventurous eater? If that’s the case, Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture is a place you should definitely visit during your time in Japan. The city is famous for their fugu, or pufferfish – potentially one of the most dangerous foods you can eat here. You’ll see symbols of fugu everywhere throughout the city, even on their manhole covers!
What is it that makes fugu so dangerous to eat?
Fugu is a food that can literally kill you if it’s not prepared correctly. The fish contains tetrodotoxin, a type of neurotoxin, and the parts of the fish that contain this need to be carefully removed to ensure it’s safe for eating.
Because of the intricacy involved in serving fugu, those that prepare it must go through several years of rigorous training before being allowed to dish it up to the public. There are even laws in place here in Japan that control restaurant preparation of the fish.
Where to try it
If you’re in Shimonoseki, one of the best places to get your hands on some fugu is at the Karato Market (唐戸市場). Not only is the fish at the market fresher than fresh, but it’s also significantly cheaper than what you’ll find in other parts of Japan. At the market here, we paid ¥1,000 (about US$9) for a small plate of fugu sashimi, when it regularly would set you back anywhere from ¥2,000 to ¥5,000 at restaurants.
The taste verdict
The flavor was very mild and the sashimi was slightly chewy – a little reminiscent of tai sashimi – but overall it’s something that I surprisingly enjoyed! Perhaps the best part of all was that I lived to tell the tale! The shopkeeper that we made our purchase from said that he’d been preparing fugu here at the market ever since it opened, which reassured us that he knew what he was doing.
If you want to live on the edge a little during your travels in Japan, head to the Karato Market in Shimonoseki and give some fugu a try – you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.
Karato Market information
Shin Shimonoseki Station is one of the stops on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line. From Shin Shimonoseki, simply catch the local Sanyo Line train, two stops to Shimonoseki Station.
The market is approximately half an hour on foot from Shimonoseki Station, or alternatively under 10 minutes by taxi. Taxis are plentiful at the front of the station.
5-50 Karatochō, Shimonoseki-shi, Yamaguchi Prefecture 750-0005
From Tuesdays until Saturdays, the market is open from 5 a.m. until 3 p.m.
On Sundays and Mondays, hours are from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Some stores within the market, but not all, accept major credit cards. For that reason, it’s wise to carry some yen on you if you plan on making purchases.
Do bear in mind that this market is still a workplace, and be conscious of not getting in people’s way.