Japan, as an island nation, is surrounded by sea: to her east, the vast Pacific Ocean, the west, the Japan Sea and to the north, the Sea of Okhotsk. Correspondingly, Japan is blessed with a great variety of fish and marine life, large quantities of which end up on the nation’s dinner tables. Japan is also fortunate in that her islands span several climate zones. The southern Ryūkyū Islands, including Okinawa, are tropical, and are home to many varieties of reef-dwelling fish and invertebrates; the northern island of Hokkaidō, on the other hand, has a temperate climate similar to a northern European country and is famous for trout, salmon and cod fishing. In between, one is entertained by a multitude of different climes and corresponding aquatic habitats, each with their local specialty produce: the warm, calm Seto Inland Sea provides nori seaweed, giant mudskippers can be caught on the mudflats of Ariake, cool mountain streams burst with rainbow trout in Nagano, the waters about Izu Peninsular are home to sardines and squid that are cured in saltwater and sun-dried by the locals right on the seaside or the famous deep-sea crabs of the Japan Sea, taken and brought to table so rapidly that they can be eaten raw.
In addition, Japan is lucky that the northward flowing, warm ‘Kuroshio Current’ runs parallel with and south of the main islands, bringing with it a huge range of large, migratory food fish such as skipjack, yellowtail and bluefin tuna. Kuroshio literally translates as ‘Black Current’ or ‘Black Tide’ and gains its name from its dark blue colour when viewed from afar; its waters originate in the Tropics and are very warm, allowing coral reefs to thrive further north from the Equator than any other reef system in the world. The volcanic Izu Islands, approximately seventy miles south of the mainland, lie directly in the flow of this current, and are a magnet for big game fishermen from all over Japan seeking that once-in-a-lifetime marlin, amberjack or grouper. There are also many marine and coastal habitats unique to Japan, such as Tokyo Bay and the Seto Inland Sea, which boast endemic species and are rich sources of foodstuffs to entertain the palates of the natives. The recent popularity of sushi and other Japanese-style foods in North America and Europe is testament not only to the great culinary traditions of the country, but also proves that almost anybody can enjoy fish when it is fresh, and prepared correctly.