A Brief History of Japanese Fish Sausage

*Not to be confused with Japanese Fish Cake (“kamaboko“)
Early attempts at manufacturing sausages from fish meat (employing cellophane or sheep innards as the outer wrapper/skin) have been traced back to the Taisho period (1912 – 1926). It is not clear why these early experiments failed but one might suspect the very concept of a “fish sausage” sounded pretty weird, even to the inventor’s own family. After all, fish was delicious even without encasing it in animal entrails and could be preserved, to an extent, with traditional methods such as salting and drying. In addition, the formula for creating fish sausages were not perfected before the idea was shelved.
In the years following the war, huge demand was seen for canned and preserved foodstuffs that could be easily manufactured, stored, and distributed, and a new development effort was started in the industry to revive the fish sausage project. By borrowing a technology used in the aforementioned kamaboko industry at the time – using rubber hydrochloride (!) to make transparent skins for the sausage – and fine-tuning the recipe, a feasible product was achieved and mass production of fish sausages began in 1951. The following year it was brought to market, and the rest, as they say, is history. The product was a huge hit and demand increased every year to the point where entire generations of Japanese were brought up eating fish sausages in their school lunch, at home, and everywhere in between.
The industry is definitely not at its peak these days, but there are still many companies producing varied and successful fish sausage products. Here is one site with good photos linked to an online store that will deliver to your door (in Japan). There was even a Japan Fish Sausage Association until a few years ago. It disbanded and joined up with the Japan Canners Association where they became – you guessed it – the Japan Fish Sausage Committee. The legacy lives on.
All the information used in this post was gleaned from various Japanese web sites. I can’t possibly be the ONLY PERSON in the ENTIRE ENGLISH-SPEAKING WORLD interested in the WONDERFUL HISTORY OF FISH SAUSAGE, right?… Actually, judging by the absence of research materials available on it, maybe I am. Which is strange, because I don’t like eating the stuff – it just seems wrong to stress my mouth, which is used to pork, beef, and other normal ingredients for sausage (I may have gotten used to corn on pizza, but fishy-tasting sausage? NEVER!)
Other fun stuff unearthed in my search for the elusive fish sausage:
– This is processed fish products nirvana: GYONIKUKAN (JP-only, go look anyway)
– In regard to sausage filling, some sausage academics use the term “farinaceous filler” instead of, simply, “starch”
– According to one account, the fish used in the first mass-produced fish sausages was Alaska Haddock. Over the years the industry preference changed to tuna (shockingly, these were called Tuna Sausages), then to whale (now I see why the fish sausage trend never caught on in the west), then to, well – everything with scales.
– Somehow, it’s easier for me to accept that the waste parts of fish (as Mandy said here, “lips and peckers,” are most probably used to make these sausages. Easier than thinking about “hooves and assholes” in an “all-beef” hot dog, that is. If you know what I mean.
– The Japan Canners Association has an inspirational theme song on its site. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the music files.
– The now-defunct Japan Fish Sausage Association was once located at:
Japan Fish Sausage Assn
Nihon Gyoniku Soseji Kyokai
Kusumoto 6 Bldg
1-3-9 Higashi Shimbashi
Minatoku Tokyo 105-0021
Tel 03 35735586 Fax 03 35735587

18 thoughts on “A Brief History of Japanese Fish Sausage

  1. Asia by Blog

    Asia by Blog is a twice weekly feature providing links to Asian blogs and their views on the news in this fascinating region. Previous editions can be found here. This edition contains collusive corporations, fake tsunamis, phoenix Shinto shrines, Nort…

  2. I’m from Greenman Foods Co.,ltd China.Greenman is a professional company specialized in aquatic products who has over ten years? experience on aquatic product processing. Through continuous effort for years , we have finally made great breakthrough in aquatic product processing technology , researched and developed pure fish sausage and ham, and registered over ten domestic and international patents for this technology.
    Patented Technology
    Sausage and western-style ham of aquatic product series: through years of research ,the inventor and R&D staffs found the bonding point of modern aquatic product processing and traditional meat product processing, which preferably overcome the defect of tractability for aquatic product due to short flesh fibrin and large moisture content . The processing technology has comprehensive application value in that it can be widely applied in different fields of aquatic product processing, and combined with traditional meat product processing. According to the customers need , hundreds of new products can be made which fit for different tastes of people in eastern or western countries , thus it has inexhaustible market potential.
    The invention and manufacture method of Greenman pure fish product series have altogether applied for 16 Chinese patents ,and obtained 16 international PCT Patents , Currently it has applied or registered patents respectively in USA, Europe , Japan as well as Taiwan Region and Hong Kong Region, This invention is a revolution of modern aquatic product processing and traditional meat product processing.
    Product Description
    Aquatic products enjoy good reputation among customers of different countries for their rich nutrition , delicious taste , less pollution and salubrity. ?Less livestock& poultry meat, more aquatic product ? is gradually becoming the trend of catering consumption , Especially in recent years when the spread of Zoonosises like Mad Cow Disease , Food and Mouth Disease and Avian Influenza have caused panic in customers mind ;customers have the peculiarity of not easy to process and cook. The product series developed by our company , which take aquatic products as main raw material and are healthy food with high protein , low sebum and low cholesterol compared with meat products , have exactly met the enormous demand of domestic and international market .
    Firstly, With unique processing technology and scientific formula, the problem of poor cohesiveness of fish itself is solved .Meanwhile , the defect of tractability for aquatic product due to short flesh fibrin and large moisture content is overcome , and the bonding point of modern aquatic product processing is found , In this way ,100% pure fish sausage with decent taste are produced, which is convenient and delicious , good looking and nutritious , Since it has large field of application and numerous source of raw material. It has opened a new way for aquatic product processing .
    Secondly, the traditional technology of making seafood sausage in high temperature is cast off. While techniques of low-temperature steaming boiling is adopted, by which the inherent nntrient and taste of aquatic product are kept. So the seafood sausage is more fragrant and delicious than the exiting sausage with minced fillet as main raw material. Fish sausage become palatable 100%pure fish sausage , in which whole pieces of fish can be seen.
    In respect that these series of patented products belong to healthy food , while products with different taste can be confected according to the need of customers in defferent counties ,they are worldwide products with flexible and comprehensive market location .they are suitable for consumption group of different ages ,and can be positioned as health food for the elderly or children ,healthy food for the younger ,or common consumer goods in daily life.
    ProductFeatures These series of patented product is a revolution of modern aquatic product processing and traditional meat product processing, ,These series of patented products have distinguished characters as follows :
    1.Finish machining is proceeded with aquatic products by particular technology so that the problem of poor cohesiveness due to large moisture content is overcome and series of sausage and ham with pure fish are made。
    2 .The inherent taste and nutrient of aquatic products are kept ,while the shape of whole piece of fish is kept successfully。In this way it has become palatale healthy food in which whole pieces of fish can be seen。(the existing sausage are made of minced fillet)
    3、The products adopt 100%pure deep-sea fish without any livestock or poultry meat as binding element。
    4、Without additive farina
    5、Without any food preservative
    6、High protein, low cholesterol (protein content is 1.5times of common meat products ,fat content is 1/3-1/5 of common meat products。)
    7、According to different kinds of fish ,different taste that is needs in different countries ,which fit for people of different ages and consumption group and is 100%o pure healthy food。
    We now searching for coordinate partners to develop the project together.Could someone tell me which companies in Japan or other countries manufacture fish sausage?How to contact?Thank you very much!
    Greenman Foods Co.,ltd

  3. iam PhD. student in Malysia, Unversity Putra Malasia. iam looking for much cited information to support litreature review in fish sausage, (chem- physical characteristics and sensory evaluation. please could you help me?
    thank you so much

  4. I too have been on a quest to find the elusive fish sausage, this article was very helpful, thanks! 🙂 now if I could only find some to actually try… I live in Trinidad, which is pretty much half-way around the world from Japan, so I guess that’s why it’s not a usual ramen ingredient here… unless I figure out how to make it (without causing hospitalization, lol), my quest continues! 🙂

  5. i am looking for some one who can help me. how to make orgenic fish feed that can floating in water like other other fallet.thank you.

  6. Hi All
    I came across this info while researching on how to make fish sausage.
    I will be making the product today at a friend who has a butchery and all the sausage making equipment.
    I have 20 kg Norweigian salmon mince, some spice recepie from a sausage spice supplier and some casings.
    I was given all this for free so the willingness for factories / suppliers to develop this product seem positive
    I would be interested to hear from all and sundry about market acceptability,fresh or frozen, recepies, pitfalls and related info.
    Should I cook the sausage before marketing and what about smoking?

  7. dear friends
    thanks a lot for your information.i need some article about fish sausage.we want produce sausage by an iranian fish and need to this information.
    Dr. M.marhamati

  8. hi all
    i read about fish sausage technology n find it very interesting. can i get more information regarding this technology

  9. Very interesting. I just got back from the little Japanese market here (Columbus, OH) where they had fish sausage. I bought a pack, although I’d never seen it before. I found your history of the stuff while looking for ideas on how to prepare it. I’ve yet to try it, but I like pretty much all seafood, so I’m sure I’ll like it.

  10. Dear member of list. I have an interest in all kinds of references about fish sausage technology. I am an student of Estonian Maritime Academy and my degree theme is ” Fish Sausages”. If you can help me to search these references I´ll be very happy.

  11. I am from the Maldives and we get lots of fish from the tuna family like skipjacks. Can someone tell me whether skipjacks make fish sausages? Thank you.

  12. There’s no reason why skipjack cannot work for sausages, although junk fish or bland fish is usually used for fish sausages. Japanese skipjack (katsuo) is favored for other uses in Japan such as dried fish flakes for making soup stock, roasted whole, or even as sashimi – it provides one of the fundamental flavors for Japanese cooking.

  13. Hi Everyone,
    I am very interested to invest in manufacturing of salmon sausage in the USA. California. please contact me. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SELL ME GOOD RECEPIE, or any equipment or even any good knowlege, welcome to contact me.

  14. I am from Lakshadweep, looking for equipments and technolgy for making fish (tuna, skipjack) sausages.If nay one know some thing, pls do contact me

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