Home > The Food of Japan > Traveling and seeking Japanese food [Vol.3]


text

The Food of Japan Culinary Delights for the Body and Soul

Traveling and seeking Japanese food

Food journalist, Christopher K. Loew's report on Japanese food from his participation in a foreign media tour in Japan.

Yellowtail -- a fish with plenty of names

The English terms for Hamachi and Kanpachi are “yellowtail” and “amberjack”, respectively, but because yellowtail can also be called “Japanese amberjack”, overseas sushi diners sometimes think they’re the same fish.

Though they’re both members of the “jack” family, “yellowtail”, “Buri” or “Hamachi” are names for the species Seriola quinqueradiata. “Amberjack” or “Kanpachi” is the species Seriola dumerili, which is less fatty and not as much exported.

Kanpachi literally means “eight in the center” and it is so named because it has a mark resembling the Japanese Kanji character for eight, “hachi” (八) (also pronounced “pachi”), between the eyes. Its body is rounder than yellowtail with a reddish hue to the skin on the upper body.

Most aquaculture operations in Japan that raise yellowtail also raise amberjack and sea bream. Yet, of the three, yellowtail makes up about 90 percent of exports.

Yellowtail or Hamachi

Aquaculture-raised Kanpachi (left) is springier, less fatty, and somewhat more flavorful than Hamachi. Two types of Hamachi are shown in the photo at right. Wild caught Hamachi on the left is smaller, darker and firmer. Farmed Hamachi at right has a fattier texture, melts in your mouth.
(Photos: Chris Loew)

The names “Hamachi” and “Buri” can also be confusing. Traditionally, there were different names for wild yellowtail, according to size and age. There were also differences between Tokyo and Osaka terminology, as below:

Tokyo Osaka Age Length
Wakashi Tsubasu 6months 10cm
Inada Hamachi 1year 30cm
Warasa Mejiro 3years 60cm
Buri Buri 4+years 90cm

kanpachi,hamachi

Aquaculture-raised Kanpachi (left) is springier, less fatty, and somewhat more flavorful than Hamachi. Two types of Hamachi are shown in the photo at right. Wild caught Hamachi on the left is smaller, darker and firmer. Farmed Hamachi at right has a fattier texture, melts in your mouth. (Photos: Chris Loew)

Nowadays, most Japanese would tell you that Hamachi is farmed and small, and “Buri” is wild and large.

However it’s not really that simple, as wild “Hamachi” is still available. Since the farmed Hamachi are raised in nets immersed in the sea, they do not get as much exercise as wild yellowtail, and become fatty, with soft muscles and lighter colored flesh. Wild Hamachi is smaller and darker, with firmer flesh. Some Japanese prefer the firmer texture of wild Hamachi, while others like the fattier farmed product.

Despite being called “Hamachi” on the menu of sushi shops and at the fish counter in retails stores, the packages of farmed yellowtail are labeled “Buri” in Japanese (ぶり).

Buri-Oh

The label on this Buri-Oh brand Yellowtail fillet from Kagoshima reads “Aquaculture Raised Buri” in Japanese, and “Aquaculture Raised Hamachi” in English.

Usually, what Japanese are referring to by the name “Buri” is larger older wild yellowtail that migrate up the Japan Sea coast, and are caught in the fall as they return southward. Fall Buri, called “Kanburi” is very oily and flavorful and is often grilled with teriyaki sauce. When wild Buri is served as sushi, it is often seasoned with ponzu, a citrus-flavored sauce, rather than soy sauce, as the oil of the Buri can actually repel the soy sauce, or leave an “oil slick” in the soy sauce container. Wild Buri are caught at about four or five years old and are 90 cm or larger.

Farmed Hamachi, on the other hand, comes from warm sheltered waters around Kyushu and in the Seto Inland Sea. It is available year-round, and is thus more suitable as an export item. The yellowtail used for sushi and sashimi, in the US and Japan, is farmed, while the wild Kanburi is mainly a seasonal domestic item.

In 2004, the capture-based fishery took over 66,000 metric tons of yellowtail, and the farmed volume was over 150,000 MT. The wild harvest remains roughly stable, while by 2006, farmed yellowtail production had risen to 155,000 MT.

Chris Loew
Chris Loew
Profile

Chris Loew is an editor for SeafoodSource.com and Global Investing, a stock investing newsletter. Based in Osaka, Japan, he was born and raised in the USA, and has worked in a Japanese meat importing company, and as an export director for Seattle food companies.

Top of Page