10 Weird Japanese Foods
Here you will find a top list of 10 weird Japanese foods including bizarre morsels of Japanese culinary strangeness such as raw horse meat, nattō, grasshoppers, fugu and more.
1. Shirako 「白子」(Fish Sperm)
Shirako is the male genitalia of fish, a sack that contains its seminal fluid. A popular dish at most izakaya (Japanese pubs) and sushi bars. A few years back I had my own encounter with fish ejaculate that didn’t end too well.
2. Inago no Tsukudani 「いなごの佃煮」 (Grasshoppers)
“Inago no Tsukudani” is a traditional Japanese insect cuisine popular in the inland rural communities of Yamagata, Nagano and Gunma prefectures.
“Inago” is Japanese for “grasshopper” and when you stew your mouth-watering locust with “tsukudani”, a sweetened soy sauce simmered with mirin, you get the delectable bug banquet – “Inago no Tsukudani”.
3. Basashi 「馬刺し」(Raw Horse Meat)
Due to its deep pink color raw horse meat is called “sakura” or “sakuraniku”. “Sakura” means cherry blossom, “niku” means meat. However, when your equine is ponied up raw in thin sashimi slices it is called “basashi”. The prefectures of Kumamoto, Nagano and Ōita are famous for basashi, and it is common in the Tohoku region as well. Nice with some ranch dressing.
Straight from the horses mouth, there is also a dessert made from horse meat called basashi ice cream. Check out weird Japanese ice cream flavours for more of the craziness.
4. Nattō 「納豆」(Fermented Soybeans)
Nattō is a powerful smelling, strong flavoured, sticky web of fermented soybeans typically served with a Japanese breakfast.
5. Fugu 「河豚」(Poisonous Fish)
Or maybe try some deliciously deadly poisonous “Fugu no ransou” (Puffer Fish Roe) that apparently, if cooked correctly, has all of the deadly poison removed.
6. Hachinoko 「蜂の子」(Bee Larvae)
When your local pub runs out of beer nuts and you need a hit of protein there is nothing like some crunchy, maggotty bee larvae to do the job.
Apparently one of the late Emperor Hirohito’s favorite foods was fried wasps with boiled rice seasoned with sugar and soy sauce.
7. Zazamushi 「ざざ虫」(Aquatic Insects)
Another widely available product in Japan, both canned and in restaurants, is zazamushi, the name for aquatic insects inhabiting gravel beds in rivers. Zazamushi is not a single variety of insect, but is a catch-all name applied to the larvae of insects that live at the bottom of rivers. The name “zazamushi” means insects (mushi) that live in a place where the river makes the sound “zaazaa” as it flows.
8. Kujira & Iruca 「くじら & いるか」(Whales & Dolphins)
Scientific evidence collected by Japan’s Whale Research Program can be consumed throughout Japan, even as a Whale Burger. The image below shows some whale sashimi.
Even the cute “iruca” (dolphin) ends up on the shelves.
Check out Whale Safe Beer, a controversial campaign against Japanese whaling fleets using a graphic advertisement that depicted a harpooned Japanese diner.
9. Shiokara 「塩辛」(Fermented Seafood)
Shiokara is Japanese fermented seafoods with a fishy and salty taste.
10. Shirouo no Odorigui 「シロウオの踊り食い」(Dancing Icefish)
Shirouo are very small transparent fish that are eaten alive. They dance in your mouth whilst being eaten (“odorigui”).
Want more weird Japanese food?
If you enjoyed this article then check out other cool Japanese foods. A top list of cool Japanese foods bringing you 10 tasty morsels of Japanese culinary goodness such as yakitori, sukiyaki, ramen, yakiniku, kushikatsu and more. Or another list of cool Japanese foods bringing you yet another 10 awesome Japanese foods such as edamame, shabu-shabu, soba, tonkatsu, karaage and more.