How to make sure raw fish in Japan: 3 ways to avoid a stomachache.
Have you ever eaten sashimi? It’s a Japanese dish that consists of raw fish thinly sliced, usually eaten with soy sauce and wasabi.
If eating fish isn’t against your beliefs or lifestyle, then I recommend you try it at least once while in Japan.
After having lived for 30 years in Japan, I had my first ever problem with sashimi. I got a very bad stomachache after eating some raw tuna. It was the first time in my life that I’ve ever had a problem after eating raw fish which shows how uncommon it is in Japan.
Here are some tips to make sure you eat the best quality raw fish and avoid stomachaches.
Today, I’ll introduce ways to check the quality of sliced raw fish, sashimi (刺身).
Check the expiration date
Check the color of the fish and if it is dry or not
Check for any parasites
What to look for when choosing sashimi
1. Check the expiration date
? As most know, the freshness of a fish is very important but how many of you have actually looked at the expiration date of the fish when buying it?
消費期限 (Sho-hi-kigen) is “expiration date” in Japanese.
Please check the expiration date to make sure anything you buy is still good.
2. Check the color of the fish and the dryness of it
It is a good idea to look carefully and check the freshness of a piece of fish before putting it into your shopping cart.
I would recommend looking to see if the fish looks shiny or dark and checking how dry it is. Fish starts to dry out from when it is first cut up. The more time that passes the darker the fish gets, similar to how meat progressively gets darker over time.
When buying fish please choose the one that has the brightest color and is the least dry.
3. Check for parasites
Sometimes food poisoning is caused by roundworm which is a parasite that sometimes lives inside a fish. It’s can be seen with the naked eye so it’s easy to check for. It’s a natural thing that some fish have so you shouldn’t worry too much, just keep an eye out. In most cases roundworms are usually found and removed before packing a fish for delivery but sometimes it can be missed. If you find a piece of fish with roundworm in it, please inform the staff of the store to deal with it.
What to do if you get food poisoning or a bad stomachache after eating sashimi
If you have get a stomachache accompanied with diarrhea, please do not take any anti-diarrhea medication. Having diarrhea is a part of your body’s defense against pathogens and helps with pathogen clearance. Be sure to drink lots of water to replenish any fluids lost by having diarrhea.
If your condition doesn't improve, worsens, or you develop a fever please seek medical attention. Go to a hospital and tell the staff what you ate and when the diarrhea started. Unlike most hospitals in places like the US, hospitals in Japan have hours and do close so be sure to check when it is open or which hospital is designated as an emergency hospital with night services.
In my case, I tried to recover on my own at home. I stayed home for 5 days eating simple foods like sliced radish, egg soup, and drinking green tea. However, in addition to having diarrhea, I developed a fever so I decided to go to a doctor. I was prescribed medicine and after four days of the medicine I was cured.
Here are some Japanese words which you can use to explain your symptoms to a doctor.
食あたり(Shoku-atari) This can mean that you got food poisoning or got a bad stomachache. It means you were hit by something because of food.
食中毒 (Shoku-chudoku) Food Poisoning
下痢 (Geri) Diarrhea
お腹が痛い (Onaka ga itai) Stomachache/ My stomach hurts
食事(Shokuji) A meal
(Shokuji wo shita ato, onaka ga itaku narimashita.)
After eating a meal, my stomach started hurting.
刺身を食べました。(Sashimi wo tabe mashita.)
I ate sashimi (sliced raw fish).
3日間ずっと下痢をしています。(Mikka kan, zutto geri wo shite imasu.)
I’ve had diarrhea for 3 days.
How was today’s tip?
I loving eating fish but I’ve realized that it makes sense that there’d be a chance that I’d get sick from eating raw fish. I still strongly recommend that visitors to Japan try fresh and tasty sashimi. There are many different seaside communities in Japan and each area has unique and different fish that are caught. Having sashimi is a great way to enjoy local flavors in these areas. It is important to be careful when selecting fish to eat because it can affect your health.
Please enjoy your time in Japan and stay happy and healthy.
See you soon!