Is it poisonous?

Deadly Delicacies: Poisonous Fish Served in Japanese Cuisine



Japanese cuisine is known for its exquisite flavors and unique dishes. While many of these dishes are enjoyed by people all over the world, there are a few that can be deadly if not prepared correctly. In this article, we will explore some of the poisonous fish served in Japanese cuisine and the dangers associated with consuming them.

Pufferfish (Fugu)

One of the most notorious poisonous fish served in Japanese cuisine is the pufferfish, also known as fugu. Fugu contains a deadly neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin, which can cause paralysis and, in severe cases, lead to respiratory failure and death. Only licensed and trained chefs are allowed to prepare and serve fugu, as the toxin is found in the fish’s organs, especially the liver and ovaries. Despite the risks, fugu is considered a delicacy in Japan and is often enjoyed as sashimi or in hot pot dishes.


Another dangerous fish found in Japanese cuisine is the stonefish. Known for its ability to camouflage itself among rocks and coral, the stonefish has venomous spines on its back. Stepping on a stonefish can result in excruciating pain, swelling, and tissue damage. In severe cases, the venom can cause paralysis and even death. It is essential to be cautious when swimming or snorkeling in areas where stonefish are commonly found to avoid any accidental encounters.

Oilfish (Escolar)

Oilfish, also known as escolar, is a fish with a high oil content that is often served in sushi restaurants. While not inherently poisonous, oilfish contains a wax ester called gempylotoxin, which can cause severe gastrointestinal distress, including oily diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. Consuming more than a small portion of oilfish can result in a condition known as “keriorrhea.” Due to these potential side effects, some countries have banned the sale of oilfish, and it is important to consume it in moderation.


Japanese cuisine offers a wide variety of delicious dishes, but it is essential to be aware of the potential dangers associated with certain ingredients. Poisonous fish like pufferfish, stonefish, and oilfish can cause severe health complications if not prepared or consumed correctly. If you have the opportunity to try these delicacies, make sure to do so under the guidance of a reputable and licensed chef. Your safety should always be the top priority when exploring new and exotic foods.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you die from eating fugu?

Yes, consuming improperly prepared fugu can be lethal. The neurotoxin found in fugu, called tetrodotoxin, can cause paralysis and respiratory failure, leading to death in severe cases.

2. How is fugu prepared to be safe for consumption?

Only licensed and highly trained chefs are allowed to prepare fugu. They carefully remove the toxic organs, such as the liver and ovaries, ensuring that only the safe parts of the fish are served to customers.

3. Are there any alternative dishes for those who want to try Japanese cuisine without the risk?

Yes, there are plenty of delicious Japanese dishes that do not involve consuming potentially poisonous fish. Some popular alternatives include sushi rolls with cooked seafood, tempura, ramen, and udon noodles.

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