WHAT IS FUKU/FUGU?
Fugu/Fuku is a Japanese word for pufferfish and the dish is prepared from it in an integrated area of Yamaguchi Prefecture Shimonoseki. There are various theories involving the originality of the name Fugu/ Fuku. The origin of Fufu/Fugu is famous for having auspiciousness as good fortune, but it is also said that it is to avoid unlucky words such as “impaired” and “unlucky” associated with the sound of “fugu”. In Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, which boasts the largest amount of blowfish in Japan, you can eat high-quality blowfish that are plump and firm.
ORIGIN/HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF FUGU
The relationship between the Japanese and blowfish is considered to be ancient. It was said that the bones of the pufferfish family have been found along with much other fish including shellfish from the remains of the Jomon period, which is said to be 6,000 years ago. It was believed that the blowfish had already been eaten by those times. Fugu bones have also been excavated from the Yayoi period ruins in Shimonoseki and were believed to be 2,000 to 2,500 years old.
As the times went down from this era when seafood was actively eaten, the development of agricultural culture made it possible to obtain stable agricultural products which reduced the dependence on these foods and made the blowfish stand out. During the Azuchi-Momoyama period, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi sent troops to the Korean Peninsula, he set up a camp at Nagoya Castle in Kyushu (currently Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture), but before sending the troops to the war, many of the gathered samurai died when they ate blowfish, so the “Kawabuta Eating Ban Ordinance” was issued, and even after entering the Meiji era after the Edo period. Fugu food remained banned.
At the end of the 20th year of the Meiji era, when the first Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi stayed at the long-established Japanese-style inn “Shunpanro” in Shimonoseki, which is located on a hill overlooking the Kanmon Straits, the sea was so big that there was no fish. The ban was lifted when the proprietress “Michi” was prepared to take care of her and served Fugu as a hospitality dish to Hirobumi Ito. Under such circumstances, Hirobumi Ito, who ate the blowfish produced by the proprietress, praised its deliciousness and ordered the then governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture, Taro Hara, to forbid such delicious food in 1890. The ban on blowfish food was lifted only in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Due to this event, Shunhoro became the first official license of a blowfish restaurant, and Shimonoseki made a start to make its name known throughout the country as the home of blowfish. After that, from the Taisho era to the early Showa era, the Fugu food culture prospered greatly in Shimonoseki due to various geographical and cultural factors, and as this was transmitted to Tokyo, the fame of “Fugu wa Shimonoseki” spread and eventually became established.
HOW TO MADE?
Fuku or Fugu fishing uses a single fishing line called longline fishing, which has many needles. This amount method is called the longline fishing method, but in fact, the inventor of this longline fishing method was also a resident of Yamaguchi Prefecture. However, it was not Shimonoseki that devised this longline fishing, but a fisherman who lived in Sukumo Island, Shunan City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The distribution channel of blowfish is complicated. The pufferfish is directly transported by fishing boat from the pelagic oceans of the East China Sea, the Yellow Sea, and the Sea of Japan to the Shimonoseki area where pufferfish are accumulated, and from nearby waters such as the Seto Inland Sea.
If you want to enjoy the original taste of blowfish, “Fugu sashimi” is the most recommended dish. Fugu sashimi is, as the name suggests, blowfish sashimi. The whole meat of the fish is so beautiful and it has a light taste unique to white fish and is characterized by a crunchy texture. It is recommended to eat with ponzu instead of soy sauce. Chopped scallions and grated Japanese radish are the standard condiments, and if you wrap the green onions in blowfish and eat them, the taste will be even better.
In Yamaguchi Prefecture, a hot pot made by cooking blowfish meat and vegetables in kelp soup stock is called “tetchiri”. The umami of blowfish is condensed in the juice, and you can enjoy the deep taste to the end, so it is a popular way of eating that is recommended by locals. Add blowfish meat, white vegetables, raw shiitake mushrooms, white onions, garland chrysanthemum, tofu, scraps, etc. to the soup stock made with kelp and blowfish. One can add the boiled ingredients to the ponzu sauce with spices such as grated maple.
What is so unique about it?
Even if Fugu has been banned in Yamaguchi Prefecture in the past, you can find high-quality blowfish gather there. In the present, the ban on blowfish fishing was lifted ahead of the rest of the country. Tiger blowfish, which has a particularly large catch, is said to be by far the most delicious of all types of blowfish and is characterized by its unique umami and moderate elasticity. Also known as the King of Winter Fish, it is a representative of high-class white fish. Fugu in Yamaguchi Prefecture boasts high quality, and you can enjoy its deliciousness with a wide variety of cooking methods including sashimi.
RECOMMENDED FUKU/FUGU RESTAURANTS
For those who crave seafood dishes, Yamaguchi Prefecture is one of the perfect places you should visit because the Seto Inland Sea is just near. Here are some of the recommended Fugu restaurants:
Speaking of Fugu cuisine in Yamaguchi Prefecture, this is Shunhoro. The reason is that the restaurant was loved by the first Prime Minister, Hirobumi Ito. This restaurant is known as the first Japanese Fugu cuisine license restaurant. It was visited by many important people including His Majesty the Emperor. It is a luxurious shop to eat authentic blowfish in a historic place. So, if you want to eat blowfish in Yamaguchi, this is the place to start. While preserving the traditional taste, some customers are always eager to search for new menus, and the satisfaction of visitors is exceptionally high. There are several courses you can enjoy here.
Address: 4-2 Amidaijicho, Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Phone Number: 083-223-7181
Hours Open: 9: 00-22: 00 daily
This shop is a 5 minutes walk from Shimonoseki station and excellent access. There are 6 private rooms so that you can have a relaxing meal, and there is also a banquet hall that can accommodate a large number of people. Only the finest blowfish is used, and the course meal is popular for its volume. In particular, Tessa (sashimi) is thick so it has a firm texture and you can fully enjoy the deep taste of tiger blowfish. As you can see by comparing it with the sashimi of other restaurants, the sashimi lined up is white rather than transparent.
Address: 7-9 Imaura-cho, Shimonoseki-shi, Yamaguchi
Phone Number: 083-222-5267
Hours Open: 12: 00-15: 00, 17: 30-22: 00 Regular Holiday: Tuesday
Yabure Kabure is a restaurant where you can eat the iron-grilled blowfish, a specialty of Shimonoseki. It’s amazing from the name. Speaking of how to eat blowfish, it’s Tessa (sashimi), fried chicken, and it’s perfect. However, you can eat iron grilled at this shop. It feels like yakiniku. Lightly boil the blowfish on an iron plate and dip it in a yakiniku-style sauce to eat. It is chewy and delicious. The skin has a hormone-like texture.
Address: 2-2-5 Buzenda-cho, Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Phone Number: 083-234-3711
Hours Open: (noon) 11: 00-14: 00 (night) 17: 00-21: 00 Sundays and holidays 20:30 Regular Holiday: Wednesday
Fugu shops are much more concentrated in Shimonoseki City, but Sakae Fugu, which is located in Shunan City, is also famous. In fact, it is a famous store that Nao Matsushita has also visited. This shop is directly managed by Aoki Fugu Shoten, a long-established Fugu wholesaler. The fried blowfish is famous. Well big! And the amount is full! The sashimi and hot pot are delicious, but the fried milt is also excellent. You are free to bring in alcohol at this shop, they allowed it.
Address: 242-30 Kushigahama Higashiura, Shunan City, Yamaguchi Prefecture 745-0805
Phone Number: 0834-26-0727
Hours Open: 12: 00-22: 00; Open all year round
The fifth recommended Fugu restaurant in Shimonoseki is the Mimosusogawa Annex. It is a culinary inn where you can enjoy a superb view overlooking the Kanmon Straits, but you can also use it only for meals.
You can choose your favorite style in the restaurant for those who want to enjoy it reasonably, and in the private room (additional service fee is required) for those who want to enjoy it slowly. In addition to the Fugu course, there is a wide variety of dishes such as the Kanmon seafood course. The time to enjoy Shimonoseki’s proud seafood at a long-established inn will be an unforgettable memory.
Address: 23-15 Mimosusogawa Town, Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture Mimosusogawa Annex
Phone Number: 083-222-3357
Hours Open: 11:00-14:00, 17:00-20:00 ; Irregular Holidays