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Fish Flying Fresh

Fish exporters in northern Japan are eyeing some icy technology to help heat up their sales. They're experimenting with a new way to ship their products. And they're now casting their sales net to markets abroad. NHK WORLD's Ryosuke Okazaki has the story.

This Japanese common squid is still alive 36 hours after it was caught. It's travelled 5000 kilometers by air from Japan to Bangkok, the capital of Thailand.

A local customer tried its taste at a Japanese restaurant.

"This squid is very different from ours. The texture is firm and it tastes great."

The port of Hakodate in the northern island of Hokkaido receives about 100 tons of fresh seafood every day. Everything from rockfish to yellowtail is caught here.

"Most fish sold here at a local market are still alive.
Keeping it fresh is very important and it's been difficult to ship fish for long distances. But now, a new method may bring a drastic change."
Ryosuke Okazaki / Hakodate, Hokkaido

The secret of the method is this smooth paste-like ice. It's a mixture of pure water and sea water. Officials from an organization that promotes Hokkaido products are experimenting with it.

The salt in the ice lowers the melting point. That keeps the sub-zero temperature much longer than ice made of pure water.

For the experimental shipping, wholesalers pick the freshest seafood available. Because the paste consists of very fine grains of ice, it sticks and covers the fish evenly.

"It's been a challenge for us to keep the freshness during transportation. We would like to keep the taste of the fish the same as it does in Hakodate."
Yuji Maeda / Sales, Sunfoods Ltd

The fish is air freighted from Hakodate through Tokyo and then on to Bangkok. And the boxes arrived at a Japanese restaurant.

The fish packed with cold packs, the temperature of the fish varied from 3 to 8 degrees Celsius. But with the ice-paste the fish was minus 0.5 degrees.

A Japanese chef cuts a chunk off and tastes it raw.

"The texture of the fish meat is very different. This one tastes delicious."

"The first experiment was good. We would like to do a few more trials to reach even better results."
Hiroshi Tanisawa / Promotion of Hokkaido Food Development and Distribution

As the economy of South East Asia grows, so does people's appetite for exotic fresh food.

These local fish are mainly consumed in Japan so far. But they could soon be packed up and shipped off to dinner tables far away.

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