Eating Fugu: Japan’s Poisonous Pufferfish

By Rika Hoffman
June 19, 2019
Updated: July 16, 2019

Recently, byFood teamed up with Sonny from the Best Ever Food Review Show, to show you the most incredible food experiences in Tokyo. This time, Sonny tackles the poisonous fugu pufferfish! In the video, he eats fugu prepared in three different ways: classic fugu sashimi, fried fugu, and fugu hotpot. 

In addition, the adventurous eater also tries fermented squid stomach and sea pineapple or “hoya,” alongside Japan’s national drink, sake. But it's no ordinary sake. Sonny tries hirezake, a type of hot sake in which a charred fugu fin is steeped for flavor, quite a smoky and theatrical beverage.

So how poisonous is fugu, really?

Actually, fugu is very deadly, containing tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin that is found in some marine life, in extremely high amounts. The poisonous parts of the fugu pufferfish are the organs, such as the liver, eyes, skin, and ovaries. This makes female fugu particularly dangerous, as their ovaries are more poisonous than male testes.

Symptoms of fugu poisoning include tingling and numbness of the tongue and mouth, then halting of motor functions and paralysis of respiratory muscles, and finally death. There is no antidote to tetrodotoxin. Thankfully, fatalities from eating fugu in Japan are rare, due to the strict regulation of preparation and sale of pufferfish. As Sonny says in the video, the few reported deaths have been the inexperienced fisherman who tried to prepare the fish themselves.

Experienced chefs have a thorough knowledge of fugu anatomy and undergo rigorous training to receive a license to serve pufferfish, so it's safe to say that you'll be in good hands if you ever decide to try fugu in Japan!

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan’s food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Rika Hoffman
Rika is a sourdough enthusiast, amateur film photographer, and pun-lover, born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. A carb-based lifeform, she is always on the lookout for tasty bakeries in Tokyo.
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