Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

Ikizukuri (Live sashimi)

IkizukuriWhen it comes to sashimi (raw fish), freshness is key, and no sashimi is fresher than ikezukuri, which is cut from a live fish and served quivering.

Often, the fish is quickly “reassembled” after it has been carved alive, and served as a gruesome parody of its former self. Vital organs are often left intact, so the fish may still be alive by the time the diner has finished eating it.

When restaurants in the West started serving it, ikezukuri experienced an inevitable backlash from animal rights groups. After a Japanese chef demonstrated the technique on a Los Angeles television station, he received hundreds of angry calls, including death threats.

Noone’s tried it with pigs or cows yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Hold still Daisy…

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41 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Terr

    I’ve heard through the grapevine that there is a restaurant in Shaanxi Province, within the limits of Xi’an (China) that serves beef sliced from a live cow. Apparently 4 years is long enough for humanity to become noticeably more uncivilized.

    And you know what they say about China. Where there’s one, there are hundreds more.

    Besides, they haven’t even mastered human rights, let alone animal ones.

  2. Moriah

    Ugh. This is so sick. If those freaks get food poisoning because of eating this, it’s no more than they deserve.

    I can’t believe this kind of barbarity is still legal. Meat is cruel (which is why I’m vegan), but this seriously pushes it to new depths of sickness. There truly is no limit to the horror human minds can invent.

  3. IGRAINE

    What sort of moron considered this a good idea? I don’t think I ever felt more disgusted by anything. I don’t know who is worse, the “chefs” willing to inflict this kind of torture, or the twisted perverts who think it is acceptable to pay money for this and than actually eat something alive.

    One can only hope that what goes around, comes around.

  4. Guess I'll take the other side.

    Guys it’s a long, long tradition. And when you’re raised in that kind of environment, it’s normal. When I go back to asia and tell people about orgies, sex parties, open relationships, etc. they generally have the same reactions you guys have now.

    “And you know what they say about China. Where there’s one, there are hundreds more.”

    Honestly, I can’t believe you just said that. Go ahead and follow the crowd.

  5. EB

    Grow up people

  6. Syd

    I agree that this is unnecessarily cruel and all, but there is no way that you’ll get food poisoning from fish this fresh-it’s impossible.

  7. Aji

    eewh………………..
    that’s just plain disgusting.
    there’s no way I would eat that thing

  8. Guy

    Orgies, sex parties, and open relationships don’t involve disemboweling an animal and eating it while it’s still alive.

  9. kay

    Orgies, sex parties, open relationships involve the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, psychological trauma, stress, depression, loss of self esteem, loss of trust and security in future relationships.

    “one man’s treasure is another man’s trash”

  10. John Donkey

    Who cares, they’re fish.

  11. Anonymous

    it doesn’t matter if it’s considered acceptable in that culture, it’s barbaric and inhumane. some cultures consider slavery to be acceptable still, that doesn’t make it okay.

  12. SushiFan

    I would definitely try that. I love sashimi. Also, fish are on par with rocks for intelligence… so I don’t really feel bad. Cows and such are a bit brighter, so I can understand revulsion at cruelty toward them.

    But fish? Are you serious?

    BTW I don’t eat vegetables or fungi, they’re living creatures. One time I saw a man violently on TV tear a mushroom out of the ground right in front of its spawn. It was awful, rhizomes and spores were everywhere. Then he deCAPitated it (come on), fried it in a burning hot pan, and ate it. If I ever find that guy’s name I’m going to kill him for being a sick, twisted pervert.

    Go away, bleeding hearts. Also shopped.

  13. mike

    “Orgies, sex parties, and open relationships don’t involve disemboweling an animal and eating it while it’s still alive.”

    Thank you.

    “Orgies, sex parties, open relationships involve the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, psychological trauma, stress, depression, loss of self esteem, loss of trust and security in future relationships.”

    Yes, but they don’t involve disemboweling an animal and eating it while it’s still alive. Wake up.

  14. Marupinku

    “Orgies, sex parties, and open relationships don’t involve disemboweling an animal and eating it while it’s still alive.”

    You haven’t been going to the right orgies then, babe. ;333

  15. Hatchet

    You guys seriously need to take a look at the animal kingdom. Eating something before it’s completely dead isn’t some kind of sick human fetish.

    Granted, we like to consider ourselves morally above animals, but I would still maintain that this is fairly tame compared to the more uniquely human sicknesses that we force onto the world around us.

  16. Claire

    Don’t think eating anything while it’s still alive is right (although that’s what we do to vegetables – onions continue to grow in the fridge), but don’t think some of the comments on here are warranted either.

  17. Anonymous

    “it doesn’t matter if it’s considered acceptable in that culture, it’s barbaric and inhumane. some cultures consider slavery to be acceptable still, that doesn’t make it okay.”

    You’re hilarious! Both slavery and eating live fish are just as perfectly okay as orgies, sex parties, and open relationships.

  18. Liz

    I think I could eat something still alive if it was alive and unharmed until I bit down on it, but torturing an animal for entertainment is just wrong. Fish are capable of experiencing pain (according to studies carried out by Bristol uni) so torture really is the right word for it. This is just sadism.

  19. q335r49

    I seriously hate you people. You cultural relativists need to grow a pair of balls, right after you grow some brains (which is used for thinking and decision-making) and stand up for what you think is right. It’s not that 90% of the world is fucked up means it’s okay, that means that 90% of the world is fucked up.

    Say no to vivisecting fish for pleasure, and don’t go to orgies if u have AIDS and think you are exploiting young girls and boys. Don’t play with somebody’s feelings if you think they’re into you and you’re just fucking them for fun, and don’t eat dogs.

    You sick fucks.

  20. RedCherries

    SUSHIFAN

    “BTW I don’t eat vegetables or fungi, they’re living creatures. One time I saw a man violently on TV tear a mushroom out of the ground right in front of its spawn. It was awful, rhizomes and spores were everywhere. Then he deCAPitated it (come on), fried it in a burning hot pan, and ate it. If I ever find that guy’s name I’m going to kill him for being a sick, twisted pervert.

    Go away, bleeding hearts. Also shopped.”

    Yep, Sushifan pwned you all. Sushifan, you took the words right out of my mouth!

  21. Anonymous

    Q335R49 and to the rest of you: Go feck off. The worst thing that humans can do is kill something and waste its nutritional potential. Yes, ikizukuri IS controversial, but you know what?
    How does that compare to us humans? FOOD IS FOOD. For fucks sake, there are animals like lions, bears, piranhas, sharks and tigers that eat their prey alive.

    Another big thing that fits into all of this is the factor of cultural differences. Look you asshat westerners, just because you made a society where people are supposed to act like sterilized robots instead of actual mammals and are forced to accept ways of thinking that will inevitably lead you to racial genocide of anyone NOT like you doesn’t mean that you can force the rest of the world to eat beefsteak and potassium benzoate. I respect animal rights, but when I know I need to eat, I would like to eat what I want. It’s good for the environment, jerkasses.

  22. oglen

    dont judge others based on your own limited experience
    leave the japanese be

  23. Al

    I would eat it

  24. FKNGASIANS

    FUCKING SICK BASTARDS,
    SLICE YOUR ASS AND EAT IT RAW YOURSELF!!!

    FUCKING MOTHER FUCKERS

  25. HS

    I don’t think it’s right to serve live animals. If you’re going to let them die, let them die properly and without torturing and humiliating. It’s how most animals are slaughtered commercially anyway except that in this situation the diner gets to see the animal whole. But if the diner is willing to eat it, then let them be.

    Oh, and excuse me to the *first person that commented* :), you think the beef you eat hasn’t been tortured? “Serves beef sliced from a live cow” – ummmm that’s where the beef on the markets comes from. Have you ever seen how cattle are slaughtered? ” Is there anything humane about you eating it? At least get your facts (whoops i meant hearsay) right before you add extra countries into a article about japan. No such place called “shaanxi” exists, actually it’s not even a legal way to spell in Chinese. =O

  26. Queer Face

    I think we should serve human flesh in restaurants. On the menu would be a headshot of the man or woman you would have prepared, along with biographical information of their life achievements. You could walk into a restaurant and choose between 50 yr. old white man or pre-teen Indian girl, just to name a couple. Then you could all shut the hell up about the fish.

  27. Me

    To the people who complain about eating something alive and say what goes around comes around; it certainly does – in the rest of the animal kingdom. Why not try it yourself?

  28. me2

    It’s funny – all these complaints about humanely killing etc.. Yeah we breed animals and farm it for the sole purpose of eating it… that’s really much better. Chickens mature in about 35 days now – they are bred, kept in small areas, modified to increase their breast meat yield, and killed in a month… That seems pretty sick to me but I’ve eaten live fish and farmed animals so I’m not going to criticize others.

    So fine, argue that it’s cruel.. But for the most part, I’ve seen Asians use most parts of the animals – from organs to bones.
    Western cuisine tend to “throw out” anything that isn’t meat not to mention eat more than they need to. Look at all those fatties. I find it more disrespectful to be killing and eating for the sole purpose of “getting fat.”

    It’s like hunting – you want to hunt for food – fine!. Do it for enjoyment – that’s barbaric. At least with this they are eating the animal.

  29. Wastenothing

    Makes me think of the wasted meat on death row. We should carve those murderers up live and eat their flesh raw too. At least they’d end up doing something good for the community. Hannibal, eat your heart out.

  30. A person

    I myself wouldn’t eat this because that’s not really my thing. I love sashimi and Japanese food but still living? I’ll pass. But really, it’s not like it’s some weird cruel human thing. Every other carniverous creature on this planet does this. Ever see a crocodile go up and slash a water buffaloes throat before eating it to be humane? No. It thrashes the loving hell out of it and eats regardless of if the heart is still beating. And last time I checked humans are part of the Animal kingdom. So it’s not like it’s not normal.

  31. Anonymous

    I was at a restaurant in Japan and along with the other sashimi they served us there was this big prawn/lobster type thing and as we started eating it’s tail it’s fucking head part started crawing around the plate. We were all screaming and shouting for a while. But then we finished eating it. It was delicious! I would avoid ordering this if I’m ever there again as it seems unnecessarily cruel, but then again, it’s only a fish.

  32. Snake

    I wouldn’t say “only a fish”…
    It’s proven and generally accepted that even the smallest fish (e.g goldfish) have a brain too, and a more efficient one than we think. For example, you can train a goldfish to find its way out of a maze…
    And every other fish has a nervous system and a brain, and can be quite smart by animal standards. If they weren’t, how do you think many fish like pike, perch, bass, zander and most other fish like carp, etc.. could manage to elude us anglers, unless they we spend much time, effort and money to find ways to outsmart then ? 🙂

    So, granted, fish is food. Man being at the top of the food chain, it’s only natural for him to eat other living beings -but not necessarily alive. That seems like unnecessary cruelty to me. Killing it right before slicing it up would achieve exactly the same purpose, and spare it excruciating pain (would you like your own ribs to be cut off from you and eaten in front of you, while you’re left writhing on the plate ? picture that for a second)..

    It’s bad enough those stupid japanese are slaughtering the last whales, bluefins and dolphins roaming our seas.. 🙁

  33. YUMMY FISH

    Well, I actually had it once…. We didn’t notice it was alive until we ate it up… Or may be it was just very polite and didn’t want to disturb the meal by flopping around…… Was one of the most delicious sashimi I ever had!

    And one other thing- how comes no one mentioned oysters here???

  34. Hangpabodo

    Hear hear! Now all the fishes in the japanese sea are feasting on the bodies of those ikezukuri lovers. Believe you me, it’s those fishes whales and dolphins who prayed for the earthquake and tsunami, and now the volcanic eruption!

  35. anon

    “…Orgies, sex parties, and open relationships don’t involve disemboweling an animal and eating it while it’s still alive…”

    Speak for yourself :-p

  36. Does anyone know how common this is? I’m moving to Tokyo in a couple of months, how easy is it to find a restaurant that serves ikizukuri?

  37. A

    Comparing something that has no nervous system (a mushroom) to something that does when it comes to the subject of torture is pretty dumb. Like shoe-size IQ dumb.

  38. A

    “I agree that this is unnecessarily cruel and all, but there is no way that you’ll get food poisoning from fish this fresh-it’s impossible.”

    Thankfully, they’ll get flukes and other nasty parasites instead.

  39. John

    Hello everyone, Its kind of funny conversation around here. Hey you animal activists and human rights activists, this is for you: does anyone went fishing? how about stick the hook to a live bait, ha? have you ever thought of that? and what happenes to the fish you just cought? looks like it starts suffocating … how about do some basic cardiac life support and first aid to that fish, ha? oh, no you let it suffer in your bucket, so you can torchure it later. Wake up people and educate yourselves. Please leave the people around the world alone, if you dont like it dont eat it, but who gives you the right to critisize other nations?

  40. Daphney

    I hate all animals – I want to see them chopped up and then not even eaten, and just strewn their, carcasses spasming as they get skinned alive.
    Long live vegetables!

  41. Jasper

    “Hello everyone, Its kind of funny conversation around here. Hey you animal activists and human rights activists, this is for you: does anyone went fishing? how about stick the hook to a live bait, ha? have you ever thought of that? and what happenes to the fish you just cought? looks like it starts suffocating … how about do some basic cardiac life support and first aid to that fish, ha? oh, no you let it suffer in your bucket, so you can torchure it later. Wake up people and educate yourselves. Please leave the people around the world alone, if you dont like it dont eat it, but who gives you the right to critisize other nations?”

    – Who said that I go fishing? I’m not a hypocrite and I assure you – you won’t be onto me that way. I don’t even eat meat, but that is not the matter.

    Anyway, I somewhat understand (well, I guess) eating animals, so I’ll try to answer you flush with it. So – there is a slight difference between catching the fish, where the purpose is to catch it (while in the process die by suffocating) and slicing it alive to actually MAKE it feel pain and also “humiliate” it with sophisticated techniques (so the purpose is pure cruelty – not only to kill animal in barbaric way, but also to make somewhat a parody of itself and to emphasise its inefficacy in the face of omnipotent human). It is nothing but having fun by torturing a living creature. It is super gnarly to have a frog looking at its internal organs while you eat them. What a sick fetish.

    Secondly I would like to think out an issue of “what’s a living creature and what is not”. Well, mushroom is cetrailny not an individual being, so it is the silliest argument I have ever heard. Must have come from a man who has no clue about philosophy, biology, psychology etc. Quoting Ayn Rand: “Existence is identity, consciousness is identification” – it’s the easiest way to educate you on the fact, that it is the brain that implicates counsciousness, therefore no brain = no individual, conscious being, but uncoscious, existing object. It is quite improper to say that breaking your pencil is as barbaric as breaking your dog’s paw, isn’t it? And well, yeah, fish has a brain. It can feel. And even If it couldn’t feel the pain (you know there is that kind of disorder where people don’t feel pain and anything at all, right?) it is still improper and inhumane, so to speak.

    Comparing sex parties, orgies and open relationships to this is also stupid. Those do not include activities that hurt other beings, well not If they don’t want it, at least ;P And If we speak about those “orgies”, where bunch of people kidnap and abuse some innocent girls – well, it is, by all means, wrong, of course.

    And finally, I have to mention that – I LOVE JAPAN. Really. I’m from Poland and I’m going to study japanese language, culture and literature on one of our humble universities 🙂 So, as you can see, I’m not discouraged by Ikizukuri, I don’t call Japanese idiots (it is very wrong to generalize and pigeonhole people), but I call this phenomena BARBARIC, for barbaric it certainly is.

    I know it is a part of tradition. But tradition don’t always mean something good. My country is also very traditional, in quite a catholic way, which I also disapprove as an atheist. But to eliminate subjective moral viewpoints – healthy relativism ends, where cruelty begins.

    Don’t be mad, don’t call people names, just be polite in your argument, please 🙂

    Cheers 😉

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