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Mar 27, 2013 08:23 AM

And the most popular sushi neta in Japan is?....

So in February this year, Asahi Group Holdings, a large Japanese food and beverage holdings company, conducted an internet survey in Japan asking 830 people what their favorite sushi item was. I posted below the top 5 responses for each category. Here is the news release link- .

Which sushi “neta” do you like best?
1. Maguro chu-toro
2. Salmon
3. Maguro akami
4. Maguro o-toro
5. Uni

1. Maguro chu-toro
2. Maguro o-toro
3. Maguro akami
4. Salmon
5. Hamachi

1. Salmon
2. Maguro chu-toro
3. Maguro akami
4. Uni
5. Maguro o-toro

Which sushi “neta” do you order FIRST?
1. Maguro akami
2. Salmon
3. Maguro chu-toro
4. Ika
5. Hamachi

Which sushi “neta” do you order LAST?
1. Tamago
2. Tekka maki
3. Maguro chu-toro
4. Salmon
5. Maguro akami

Most popular sushi “neta” by region
Tohoku- Hokkaido: Maguro o-toro
Kanto (includes Tokyo): Maguro chu-toro
Kinki (includes Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe): Maguro chu-toro
Chubu (includes Nagoya): Maguro chu-toro
Chugoku/ Shikoku (includes Hiroshima): Salmon/ Hamachi/ Uni
Kyushu (included Fukuoka): Uni

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  1. A few thoughts:
    First, this is kind of a puny survey. 830 people in a country of roughly 120 million. Second, wow, I would have never thought that salmon would rate that highly. Just from experience and observation, I don't see it ordered that often. Third, I don't see hamachi at sushi restaurants that often either. Fourth, only maguro chu-toro managed to gather more than 15% of the votes. Most items were below 10%, which I think speaks to a more diversified opinion than perhaps the survey really reveals. Fifth, if you or your loved one happen to be a giant bluefin tuna, you are very likely, soon to be a goner.

    1. Thanks for translating this article!

      In observing several Japanese youtube clips, it would appear that salmon is getting to be a popular sushi item at the conveyor belt restaurants/kaitenzushi even in Japan.

      Part of it could be a result of its western influence on sushi (e.g. those who have traveled abroad and enjoy eating grilled/baked/smoked salmon overseas), the proliferation of sushi academies in Japan that train foreigners so they can become better sushi chefs in their countries of origin and using "familiar" ingredients, and the other theory I had was its popularity as a substitute ingredient...or business people "discovered" they can make money by importing Norwegian farmed salmon that is more cost effective of using local fish, since the prices of Japanese fish have not come down at all. In speaking with a chef at a local restaurant I go to, the price of importing fresh sea eel (anago) is now equivalent to that of a half decent farmed Bluefin toro by weight (it didn't used to be like that). Importing a Japanese unagi (live) is even more ridiculous, and I shudder to know what the price would be.

      I think that if Hokkaido salmon would be good year round, there might be more people interested in eating it, but even that and other fish like it (e.g Cherry Trout, Sakura Masu) is only in season around this time of year for a brief period.

      Probably many of these surveyed are into casual cheaper neighborhood sushi restaurants, and don't get around to eating high end sushi much (nor do they want to). There's also the misconception that every person from Japan likes to eat raw fish or is knowledgeable about all things fish (one coworker who is native Japanese got made fun of after the others in her group learned that she dislikes the taste of raw fish, some thought she was not Japanese by birthright haha).

      About 95% of Asian female customers at many sushi bars I've been to locally go nuts over uni (especially those from Hong Kong). Even Bourdain cracked a joke about it in the Taipei episode of Layover (to be fair the uni in that video looked pretty hideous). Also in observing several Japanese restaurants and they way they operate in Hong Kong during a recent visit....yes salmon is very very popular there amongst locals (some equate salmon sashimi = Japanese food unfortunately)...with toro being another popular ingredient, followed by wagyu in terms of name recognition (a few of the top nigiri restaurants in Hong Kong try to stock A4 or A5 beef for appetizer or sushi).

      11 Replies
      1. re: K K

        I don't think there is any Western influence on sushi in Japan- or if there is, it is minimal. But salmon is already part of Japanese cuisine and Japan is a big source for salmon, plus it is a fish that can be farmed and can be imported from various global sources. So I think these factors help with availability and cost. You're probably right though, this survey reflects more pedestrian sushi places and not the temples of sushi that people come to the Japan board wringing their hands over because they couldn't snag a reservation. Considering this, I don't think the seasonality of salmon is an issue. It's not considered a seasonal exclusive item, like say, buri.

        Several years ago I saw a documentary on Japanese television about "maguro laundering" practices by Taiwanese companies. I've mentioned this doc before. Anyway, the broader topic was the rising popularity of sushi in Chinese countries, which drives the demand, and therefore the practice of illegal fishing. Anyway, the documentary makers had done a survey and found both tuna and salmon to be the most popular fish in those Chinese countries.

        1. re: Silverjay

          What I meant to say was the western approach to sushi, having some sort of influence, I don't know I suppose that's just a stab in the dark. I don't know what goes on in those American sushi restaurants that were reported in Roppongi at one point, and whether they use salmon in their big stupid name "wackadoodle" rolls :-).

          I was under the impression Hokkaido chum or blue salmon was only in season for a certain time (like Cherry Trout/Sakura Masu), and transporting it across the country was a challenge to maintain freshness, hence the popularity of salt cured (benizake) version, but rarely fresh JP NE salmon found outside Hokkaido....but there are high end restaurants in Taipei willing to import this salmon and have served it no problem. Unless the country is using foreign salmon (Norway or Northern Taiwan being a closer source) for grilling.

          All I was told is that some Taiwanese fishermen who catch the migrating Bluefin tunas that swim downward during the latter part of the year along the SW coast of TW (Pintung), have a practice of not bleeding the tuna after it has been caught, thus local restaurants doing Bluefin themed set meals (cooked and raw), often serve dorsal fin cuts that have a bitter taste of iron (from the blood), that is missing from bluefins caught by JP fishermen, whether the fish is sold within Japan or outside. Then there's also the question of whether the sushi chefs in the Chinese speaking countries know how to properly process the tuna to draw out its flavors...with the exception of those classically trained in Japan, there are otherwise not many of those willing to age the tuna in ice compartments between blocks of ice. Or they just procure a slab of toro and just slice it.

          The other ironic thing is that those who are willing to spend $$$ on wagyu, uni, toro at their local high end Japanese dining restaurants, almost always love a variety of textures, like Chinese/Cantonese dried seafood delicacies...shark fin, abalone (dried Japanese abalone of a certain variety can fetch even more than wagyu, Bluefin, fugu), fish maw, sea cucumber....yet they all fall for toro, salmon, that have a more predictable texture. Some of these folks love fresh seafood equivalent to a kinmedai nitsuke (steamed fish) but more a steamed humpback grouper, or fresh shellfish scooped up from the ocean (e.g. boiled baigai on the shell, what they call babylons), yet not a consideration when it comes to JP seafood at the sushi bar. Boggles the mind.

          1. re: K K

            There was a place in Azabu-juban, which is near Roppongi, called Rainbow Sushi or something and they featured Americanized sushi rolls. Pretty sure they closed down. Kaiten sushi places in Japan tend to be the real framebreakers when it comes to wackiness, but again, I don't think American influence plays much a part...For salmon, I'm sure there are seasonal, pricey species. They just don't seem to be a big part of the gourmet vernacular... I googled around to try to find other sushi surveys in Japanese and came across comments on salmon as being tasty, fatty, doesn't smell, and cheap. Also, people really like it "aburi"- seared with a small blowtorch. That is quite good actually.

            Maguro laundering is the under-reporting of tuna catches to avoid fishing quotas. The Japanese fishing alliance or whatever the organization is referred to, had filed formal complaints in international courts or some such. Part of the documentary focused on Japanese maritime defense forces dealing with Taiwanese vessels. Quite dramatic.

            Small correction- "nitsuke" is actually a simmered prep, not steamed.

            What's your top 10 KK?

            1. re: Silverjay

              Actually yes, if a chef takes an Edo approach to salmon...blow torches it a bit, chooses a great fatty cut, applies good knifework, does some treatment to the skin (akin to chefs treating skin on sea bream sushi by hot water scalding, then immerse in ice to enable some separation), some condiments, a great quality ponzu (or if fusion...maybe some balsamic) can taste quite fab. Just like how one would dress up katsuo/bonito and a little garlic makes that taste quite killer.

              Top 10...that's such a difficult one. Given the lack of choices in the area, it's pretty much at the mercy of whatever is in season, and whatever my favorite local chef(s) can afford to import and sell. But at the moment:

              1. Kanburi
              2. Kawahagi (with raw liver on top)
              3. Uni (had some recently from Nemuro, Hokkaido that blew me away. And with that quality, I prefer not to have any nori with it. Otherwise I also enjoy Santa Barbara and Maine specimens)
              4. Japanese saba (goma saba, masaba, or any saba from Kyushu, and of course the gourmet Seki saba) - extra points if cured in Japanese red vinegar/aka-su. If no JP saba available, a well treated Norwegian specimen can be acceptable, but in that case I would prefer it aburi or made into battera or bou sushi.
              5. Tairagai or akagai (whatever is available)
              6. kohada
              7. aji or iwashi (whatever is in season)
              8. Bluefin chutoro or chutoro zuke (one of my personal goals is to try Oma and Amami Oshima bluefin before I croak)
              9. madai (or a good piece of whitefish) marinated in kelp/konbu jime.
              10. whatever else is in season...for spring right now I'd say: sayori, tobuio (flying fish) with some sour plum paste, inada. Very hard to nail down one, sorry. Then some new favorites will crop up in summer I'm sure!

              To start: shiromi...good piece of well treated pristine seasonal white fish

              To end: tamagoyaki (if the spongecake version is available I'll get it instead) or anago. Sometimes ume shiso yamaimo hosomaki (if they have the right quality ingredients). Saw a huge box of imported Hokkaido yamaimo at Nijiya the other day...didn't know vegetables were ok to be exported to the US, and sold in supermarkets.

              1. re: K K

                haha, well I don't know how many blowtorches they had back in old Edo, but your description sounds nice. Most of the time it's prepared a lot more workman-like than craftsman-like. It's usually finished with salt, maybe a squeeze of lemon, or with a small dollop of oroshi with some ponzu. Some people like it with onion. They wouldn't use garlic.

                I happened to have had some Oma single line caught maguro nigiri in December while in Japan. Before preparing, the chef held up the entire 2kg portion of maguro that he had procured. You could actually see the gaffe wound from when it was snagged onto the boat. It was of course, divine. Several days later I had what was probably Indian Ocean caught chu-toro at a cheap chain sushi restaurant and well, I rather enjoyed that as well.

                1. re: Silverjay

                  Whoops haha... yes no blowtorches in Edo period :-o.

                  A similar approach can be done to fattier cuts of albacore to make it taste a lot better. Do they have binaaga/bincho/albacore at the kaitzensushi's in Japan? Maybe that might be the next trend once salmon prices go through the roof.

                  I think I'll switch my #8 to any marinated Bluefin, akami or chutoro.

                  The only place near where I work that reportedly has offered Oma Bluefin before, can only be had by paying a fairly high sum for a super multi course in mostly sashimi. The biggest downer is the apparent butsugiri style cuts and (over)sauces to appeal to a Michelin uninitiated crowd... but the "gourmets", shillers, and bloggers love the place to death for their own reasons. I guess I'll save up and head to Aomori prefecture for the seafood, apples, and other good stuff, when the time is right...

              2. re: Silverjay

                Mayonnaise lent its hand to many a kaitenzushi concoction, and that sure isn't originally 和風.

                1. re: BuildingMyBento

                  As noted in March of 2013- "Kaiten sushi places in Japan tend to be the real framebreakers when it comes to wackiness".

                  1. re: BuildingMyBento

                    ...also, just a heads up, the term 和風 doesn't actually describe Japanese food like sushi. It's usually meant to distinguish a dish that has been appropriated and Japanized.

              3. re: Silverjay

                I don't think salmon as a sushi item has been historically popular in Japan. Most of my family members who grew up in Japan always thought it was weird to eat salmon as sushi.

                1. re: calumin

                  Yeah there is also that whole thing in Oishinbo where Kaibara flips out (admittedly being a little overdramatic) when Yamaoka serves raw salmon. The weirdness, I think, is connected to the historical difficulty of getting parasite free salmon raw.


            2. I've decided to do my personal Top 10 ranking. Very tough of course, but if someone were to raise a katana above my neck, I would go with:

              10. Kohada or sayori
              9. Akami or zuke
              8. Shirako
              7. Kani
              6. Hotate
              5. Uni
              4. Akagai
              3. Chu-toro
              2. (kan) Buri
              1. (aburi) Kinmedai

              First order: I like to start with hikari mono or ika.
              Last order: Tamago of course. But sometimes anago.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Silverjay

                haha i almost always end with tamago too