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Removing the Nerves from a Live Fish

Yamagata Prefecture

From the moment a fish is caught to when it is prepared in a kitchen, keeping the fish fresh is of critical importance.

When it comes to sushi and many Japanese dishes where fish is served raw, this freshness is especially necessary.

In Tsuruoka City, chefs and fishermen utilize a special preparation technique where they drain the blood of fish in seawater and remove its nerves while it is still alive.

In this way, the meat of the fish can kept fresh for significantly longer period of time than if it were prepared normally. Fish prepared this way can be enjoyed raw up to a week later and will still taste like they were fresh from the ocean!

This also helps enhance the taste and freshness of the fish when it is eaten immediately as well!

Master sushi chef, Takeshi Suda of Tsuruoka City recently demonstrated this technique to an international delegation of chefs from around the world and even taught one of the chefs how to do it themselves.

The first step in this process was to cut the spine and main arteries of the fish.

It was then placed in seawater for a few minutes to drain most of its blood.

The fish was then brought out of the water and had a wire run through its spine to remove the primary nervous system of the fish.

Keep in mind that the fish was still alive during these processes!

The combination of these two techniques significantly slows the degradation process of the fish and after this the fish was ready to be prepared.

Marin Vera, a decorated chef from Italy also tried his hand at this preparation and was able to successfully remove the nerves. He then learned how to prepare sashimi with Takeshi Suda.

This fish was then enjoyed as fresh sashimi in a wonderful group dinner in the restaurant at the Kamo Aquarium with the delegation of international culinary professionals and locals of Tsuruoka City.

And just as this technique had promised, the fish had incredibly rich flavors and a texture of freshness to it that I had never tasted before!

This is just one of the many ingenious food preparation techniques utilized in the Tsurupoka UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. Learn more about this here.

Picture of Derek Yamashita

Derek Yamashita

The Hidden Japan Creative Director. Following his passion to connect with his roots as a Japanese American, Derek started a life in Japan after college living in the deep countryside of Yamagata Prefecture. Falling in love with the trails, cycling courses, fishing and all that the countryside had to offer, Derek co-founded a travel company called The Hidden Japan in 2018. The Hidden Japan focuses on promoting the deeper sides of Japan beyond the big cities by working closely with rural communities to offer order-made boutique tours letting travelers experience Japan alongside the local people.


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