Night of the living red (snapper)

You may have heard that Japanese people eat a lot of fish.  It’s a staple of the diet, which quite makes sense when you live on a chain of islands.  You can probably imagine, then, that Japanese people are quite particular when it comes to eating sea life, and they’re particularly particular about how fresh it is.

How fresh does it need to impress Japanese people?  How about the remains of a mostly-filleted fish, literally gasping its last next to the sashimi it’s less-than-willingly just provided to you?  Warning, the following movie is not for the squeamish or animal lovers, though mercifully, the insides of the fish are obscured by some kind of garnish.

I have added some subdued background music to hide the actual soundtrack of my girlish screaming at the horror of it all.  Due to said horror, I didn’t partake in eating the fish itself – though strangely, I was somewhat okay about eating the other varieties of sashimi that belonged to other fish we couldn’t see.

The brain is a wonderful organ when it comes to making flimsy justifications and overlooking conflicts in values.  I consider myself someone who would be unable to hurt an animal, yet I eat meat almost daily.  The reason I can eat animals is that they’re presented abstractly, placed on a white foam tray, rather than looking anything like the recently deceased former owner.

I have a theory that Japanese people are far more at ease with knowing exactly where their food comes from than I am, at least.  I showed the movie above to multiple Japanese people, and none even slightly recoiled.  “Wow, that’s pretty fresh.  Looks good.”

Becoming vegetarian is one option to avoid my conundrum.  However, the nominally Buddhist country of Japan is a surprisingly challenging place to go vegetarian.  Although meat portions are in far lower volume than in Western cuisine, they are pervasive in lots and lots of dishes.

Anyone who lives in Japan, don’t argue with me on this.  My not going vegetarian is hinging on my flimsy, poorly researched rationalisation that it would be a difficult thing to do.  Don’t ruin this for me.


6 thoughts on “Night of the living red (snapper)

  1. woah. I’m pretty good with eating pretty much anything, and I like my fish as fresh as possible, but i think that might be taking it a little far!

  2. Wow… I had read about that in a great/horrifying book called Extreme Cuisine but have not actually see it myself… quite an experience I am sure!

    It does raise all of the interesting moral questions you pose above… I mean, I have eaten oysters and scallops fresh from the shell and I guess they would have been live at the time but something with a “face” might just be a step too far… I guess, depending on fish awareness, that there is a reasonable chance that the it is suffering a prolonged horrible experience by being eaten alive and I am not sure why I would want that compared to him being swiftly dispatched. I can’t imagine it tastes any different.

    • I have been told that fish don’t feel pain. After this episode, I had a look when I went home, and yep, they do – perhaps in a different way to humans, but they feel something, at least. What you can’t see so well in the video is that the living half-a-fish left there is also skewered, probably to avoid it actually jumping off the plate.

      Most of the times when you go into a sushi bar here, the chefs will reach for pre-cut chilled fillets behind the counter. In a country where fresh fish is very common, I guess they figure this is what sets you apart from the crowd.

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