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Chicago Shimpo
Tuna Cutting and Talk Show at CJC Gathering

• The members of the Chicago Japanese Club enjoyed learning about bluefin tuna and eating platefuls of sashimi at the Schaumburg STP Tennis Club Lounge on November 19.
• Yoshiyuki Kawamura, owner of the Sakanaya (fish store) Boston, brought a bluefin tuna and demonstrated filleting it. While he was working on the fish, his vivid talks entertained the audience.

• Kawamura usually deals with naturally caught tuna; however, he brought a 120 pound-farmed bluefin tuna from Java, Mexico. Why was it farmed tuna instead bringing a natural catch?

• He explained the reason. All tuna sold in fish markets are headless except if farmed in Mexico or Turkey. He believes that bringing headless tuna would be a bad luck for his audience. He also said that farmed tuna was tasty because red meat contained a good amount of fat.

Types and Characteristics of Tuna

• There are mainly three types of tuna, Pacific bluefin tuna, Northern bluefin tuna, and Southern bluefin tuna. Southern tuna is the fattiest, with double the fat of the other types of tuna.

• Pacific bluefin tuna has strong flavor of umami, and its toro (fatty part) is white, so it has a white-meat part and a red-meat part.
• Northern bluefin tuna has strong melanin pigment, so its entire meat is red with a good amount of fat. When the fish is caught, its meat is very dark, but when it is cooled for hours, the color turns red, which is familiar with everyone.

• Tuna’s tail fin is cut when the fish is sold at a market, and dealers watch the kerf and presume the amount of fat in it. The kerf is a key factor to decide tuna’s grade.

Farmed Tuna

• The Kindai University has succeeded in raising tuna from fries, and provided adult tuna to the fish markets and foot-long juvenile fish to other fish farms. They are called “Kindai tuna” and legally imported to the U.S. if the tuna are raised from fries.
• Farms foster foot-long juvenile fish to 90-pound tuna during a period of five to six years. Those half-farmed tuna are not allowed to export to the U.S. Generally, Kindai tuna turns its color faster than others, Kawamura said.
• Farmed tuna have been produced in Wakayama Prefecture, Seto Inland Sea areas, and Okinawa Prefecture. Those tuna don’t change meat color soon and are imported in the U.S. About 90% of tuna in the U.S. are imported from Japan, Spain, and island of Malta.

Seasons of Tuna

• Opening day of Southern tuna is May first, and Boston tuna is June first. Natural catches are well fattened, so they are popular among Americans. That’s a reason why Kawamura mainly deals with natural catches.
• When a volume of catches reaches its limit, fishermen are informed about it, and catches come to an end. Boston catches were ended on October 19, but fisheries in Canada are still open.
• When longline fishing boats return to a harbor, fishermen sometimes find a half body of tuna, which was bitten by a shark. These are called “shark bit”, and the meat quality is usually very good, but American buyers don’t want to buy them.

The First Tuna Auction of the Year

• In 2013 at the first auction of the year in Japan, the first tuna was sold to the owner of a sushi restaurant chain “Sushizanmai” at a closing bid price of $1.37 million. The 100-pound tuna was caught by a fisherman with a fishing rod. Kawamura said that the tuna meat was little dry because the fish fought hard with the fisherman to escape.
• A little before 2000, tuna catching scenes were televised, then auction prices were escalated to $1.37 million, so that became an issue in the market in Japan. Since then, the auction prices have returned to a reasonable level.

• When sashimi, slices of tuna meat, was ready, Kawamura gave some advice to the audience on how to enjoy tuna sashimi. “Don’t eat toro first. You’ll feel full stomach with three or five slices and can’t eat more. So eat red meat first.”


• Yoshiyuki Kawamura graduated from the graduate school of Waseda University in 1998 and came to Boston to get an MBA. During his study in Waseda, he had part-time jobs in fish markets, and the experience finally brought him in the tuna industry.

Yoshiyuki Kawamura, owner of the Sakanaya in Boston demonstrates tuna cutting.

The members of Chicago Japanese Club enjoy eating tuna sashimi.