Highlighted Japanese IngredientYellowtail (Buri)/Young Yellowtail (Hamachi)

Fatty and Delicious Fish Species Unique to Japan

Yellowtail (Buri)/Young Yellowtail (Hamachi) is a type of edible fish that has been commonly consumed at the Japanese dining table for a long time. It is temperate migratory fish, belonging to the family “Carangidae” in the “Perciformes” group, which grows to over 1 meter in length and weighs about 8 kg. It inhabits the coastal sea area of the Japanese archipelago and the East China Sea and is considered an inherent species in Japan's neighboring oceans. There are various designations for the fish depending on the area and the size of the fish, but in general, "Yellowtail" is used as a collective term for both natural and farmed fish, while "young yellowtail" is used only for farmed fish. Production of both natural and farmed is stable and they are in season in the wintertime when they become fatty. Yellowtail available in the wintertime is called "Kan-Buri (winter yellowtail)" which is very popular and also used in the special seasonal cuisine to celebrate the New Year.

"Shusse-uo (Promotional Fish)," a Sign of Auspiciousness

Yellowtail is a prime example of 'Shusse-uo (Promotional Fish).' Shusse-uo means fish that are given different Japanese names according to their stages of growth. In the Kanto region, for example, Wakashi is the name given to the fish with a body length of 10-30 cm, Inada for those about 30-60 cm, and Warasa for those about 60-80 cm, and Buri for those 80 cm or longer. In the Kansai region, the fish is given names such as Tsubasu, Hamachi, Mejiro, and Buri as they grow bigger. Having unique names with variations in each region implies affection, particularity for yellowtail, among Japanese people.

“Shusse-uo (Promotional fish)” is considered auspicious in Japan and is one of the ingredients commonly used for dishes to celebrate a departure. In the Hokuriku region, a military commander of the Sengoku period, Toshiie Maeda (circa 1539-1599) is said to have sent yellowtail as a year-end gift. In some parts of this region, at the end of the year when a daughter gets married, there is a customary practice to send one piece of yellowtail each to her husband’s family and to the matchmaker. In the northern part of Kyushu, on the contrary, there is a custom of giving yellowtail from the husband’s family to the bride's parents.

Yellowtail Caught on Coasts across Japan

Natural yellowtails are caught in most coastal areas all over Japan, except in Okinawa. Traditional stationary nets used to be the mainstream fishing method, but in recent years, round haul net fishery has also been prevalent. According to the Fishery/Aquaculture Production Statistics by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the catch of natural yellowtail in 2016 was 104,800 tons. The catch of natural yellowtail used to be about half of the farmed yellowtail, but since 2010, it has constantly exceeded 100,000 tons, accounting for about 40% of the total production. By area, the Shimane Prefecture has the largest catch of yellowtail, followed by Ishikawa Prefecture, Hokkaido, and Nagasaki Prefecture. Each region has premium yellowtail brands, such as Himi Buri in Toyama Prefecture and Tenjo Buri in Hokkaido, which are traded at high prices.

Also, for those who fish as a hobby, yellowtail is a good target. You can change the bait and lure to enjoy different styles of fishing, depending on the seasons.

Stable Supply Thanks to Advanced Aqua Farming Technologies

The harvest amount of farmed fish in seas surrounding Japan (“Fishery/Aquaculture Production Statistics,” Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 2016) was 248,200 tons and yellowtail and other amberjacks account for more than half of the total, with a harvest of 141,000 tons. Yellowtail grow very fast and because they grow in a temperate marine area at a temperature of above 18 degrees Celsius, they are farmed in quantity across various places, such as Kagoshima Bay (Kagoshima Prefecture) and Bungo Channel (Ehime Prefecture, Oita Prefecture).

The cultivation of farmed yellowtail begins with capturing the fry called Mojako, born in the Kuroshio Current, and using it as seeds. The fry housed in the fish preserve is brought up with an abundance of food and is shipped in about one to three years. The fry which was about 5-10 cm in the spring grows to a length of 60 cm in the autumn, one and a half years later.

Yellowtail farming technology, which is said to have started about 90 years ago, has evolved throughout history. The increase in the size of the fish preserve, improvement of pellet feed, and disease control and prevention have enabled a stable supply of quality farmed yellowtail throughout the year. Some farmed yellowtails are traded at even higher prices than natural yellowtails in seasons other than the wintertime. Technological innovation is still progressing, as seen in the attempt of shipment of yellowtail before the red tide timing, thanks to the artificial seedlings using fry produced by early spawning of grown parent fish.

Abundant Fatty Acids such as DHA, IPA

Both natural and farmed yellowtails are rich in high quality proteins and fats. According to the Standard Tables of Food Composition in Japan -2015- (Seventh Revised Edition), 100 g of natural yellowtail contains 21.4 g of protein and 12.71 g of the total amount of fatty acid. Among fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acid is 3.72 g, which contains many components that humans cannot synthesize in the body.

For example, 100 g of yellowtail contains 1700 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is said to stimulate the brain, and 940 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (IPA or EPA), a component which is considered to improve blood flow. Vitamin E, which controls oxidations of these components, is also abundantly contained. In addition, a consumer can take various nutrients from yellowtail as it contains the vitamin B group, vitamin D, and taurine, one of the amino acids which is an umami ingredient.

Yellowtail is Tasty Both Raw and Cooked

Yellowtail with the flavor of grease is exceptional and can be enjoyed even with simple seasoning. Sashimi, sushi and carpaccio are delicious, but heating improves umami of the fat. The taste of yellowtails can be enjoyed in a broad range of recipes such as salt-grilling, teriyaki, miso-marinade and shabu-shabu. "Buri Daikon," in which various parts of yellowtail are stewed with Daikon radish, is very popular as a classic dish in the winter.

List of related links

List of exporters of Yellowtail(Buri)/Young Yellowtail(Hamachi)
JAFEX (Japan Agricultural & Foodstuff Exports)