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It goes without saying that sushi is one the most popular meals in Japan and abroad. However, due to the lack of fresh ingredients overseas, traditional authentic Japanese sushi is hard to find in restaurants outside of Japan. For this reason, foreigners who come to Japan for the first time are often surprised when looking at a sushi menu. There are many different types of sushi, and it’s difficult to identify the names of fish and other toppings.

If you did not grow up in Japan, choosing the right item can be a challenge. This beginner’s guide will help you learn the Japanese names for various sushi toppings and avoid typical mistakes when ordering sushi at a restaurant.

Names of fish toppings

ichikawa sushi
Sushi ICHIKAWA (いちかわ) | Pocket Concierge

Choosing a sushi item at a restaurant often resembles the quiz game “Name That Fish”. There are fish that have multiple names; for example, there are more than five terms for the young yellowtail, depending on its age. Here are some names of fish that are popular sushi toppings:

Saba (鯖) – mackerel
Aji (鯵) – horse mackerel
Toro (とろ) – fatty tuna
Katsuo (鰹) – skipjack tuna  / bonito
Okoze (おこぜ) – stingfish
Iwashi (鰯) – sardine
Suzuki (鱸) – sea bass
Unagi (鰻) – freshwater eel
Anago (穴子) – seawater eel
Sake (鮭) – salmon

Names of shellfish and inkfish

Shirokane Taira (白金 鯛良)Shirokane Taira (白金 鯛良) | Pocket Concierge

The seas around Japan offer a rich array of shellfish and inkfish, which are popular sushi toppings. If you want a protein-rich, delicious meal, don’t hesitate to order items listed below:

Awabi (鮑) – abalone
Ebi (海老) – boiled or raw shrimp
Kaki (牡蠣) – oyster
Akagai (赤貝) – ark shell
Kani (蟹) – crab
Ika (烏賊) – squid

Names of other toppings

Sushi MASUDA
Sushi MASUDA (鮨 ます田) | Pocket Concierge

Here are some other popular sushi toppings:

Ikura (イクラ) – salmon roe
Kombu (昆布) – kelp
Tamago (玉子) – sweet egg omelet
Kappamaki (河童巻き) – rolled cucumber sushi

We hope this guide will help you navigate through the menu at sushi restaurants like a native Japanese. Get a firm grasp on what these sushi names mean and make the most out of your culinary experiences in Japan!

Check out our list of five exceptional sushi restaurants in Tokyo here. You can also make a reservation at other high-quality restaurants in Japan through Pocket Concierge.

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