Ikizukuri: Now that’s some fresh fish


One of the joys of living in Japan is the ability to eat super fresh fish. Samantha Lister from Tripbase.com shows us just how fresh it can get.

By Samantha Lister
Guest Contributor

We travel to experience different cultures and traditions, from unique and wonderful customs to weird and exciting foods. One such food that you might choose to enjoy literally alive on your plate when you visit Japan is ikizukuri.

Roughly translated as “prepared alive,” ikizukuri denotes the freshest fish you will ever find as the chef prepares sashimi by taking a fish straight from the tank without killing it. Forget sushi; this controversial food invites consumers to select which raw fish to devour and then watch as it stares back at them from the plate.

In addition to bite-sized chunks of fresh fish, ikizukuri menus also include squid and octopus that are nicely wrapped whole around a pair of chopsticks, heart still beating, ready to be consumed in one gulp. You can’t get fresher than that.

The preparation of ikizukuri is only done by the most skilled chefs who quickly gut the fish and remove all inedible parts before the dish can be served. Ikizukuri is traditionally served with pickled vegetables and mild sauces in order for its true taste to be appreciated.

Although ikizukuri can arguably be considered a slice of Japanese heritage, it’s not for everyone. There’s no doubt that the idea of a fish still staring and twitching as it’s about to be consumed is enough to turn some diners’ stomachs.


Particularly from Western diners, ikizukuri has received a lot of backlash. Some animal rights groups claim this is a cruel method of preparation, despite some claims by scientists that fish cannot feel pain.

Because of the high level of skill needed to prepare ikizukuri, restaurants serving such dishes are a lot harder to find than those offering sashimi or sushi. If you are keen to try this wriggling delicacy, some restaurants can be found in Osaka, including Hakata Batten and Takojaya, where you will find live octopus ready and waiting.

Is ikizukuri a step to far, or a guilty-pleasure everyone should try? It’ll be for you to decide if ever you happen to come face-to-face with a live fish on your plate.

Photo from Wikipedia.
Video from TravelJapanBlog.

About Tripbase:

Planning a trip in Japan or an Asian vacation? For plenty of travel tips and vacation inspiration, check out the Tripbase Travel Blog. Tripbase eliminates the time-consuming and frustrating online search process by providing travelers with personalized travel recommendations for their next trip. Tripbase was named Top Travel Website for Destination Ideas by Travel and Leisure magazine in November 2008.


  1. Ikizukuri: Now that’s some fresh fish…

    Think sushi is fresh fish? Why not try the freshest fish of. If you can handle it that is….

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