“Shall we go eat fugu (blowfish)?”
If your boss says so and invites you to dinner, and if it’s in Tokyo, you will expect a banquet of “fugu-sashi (fugu sashimi)” or “tetchiri (fugu nabe or hot pot)” while becoming a little nervous imagining what fancy restaurant you will be going to. Fugu has the image of being an expensive food item in Tokyo.
In Osaka, on the other hand, fugu is rather a popular food item that is eaten also at home.
Just go visit a fishmonger to see how popular fugu is in Osaka. Many of the fishmongers in Osaka are licensed to prepare fugu. They clean and cut up fugu by themselves and display them at the front of their shops. The people routinely buy fugu from these shops and enjoy them at home as nabe and other dishes. In fact, Osaka consumes approximately 60% of the fugu sold in Japan. It can be said that Osakans are indeed hardcore fugu fans.
In fugu-loving Osaka, this fish is called “teppo (gun)” or “tetsu” for short. That is, the people liken fugu’s deadly poison to a gun. It suggests that you can die after eating fugu from its poison just like being shot by a gun. The fugu nabe is called “tetchiri (tetsu-chiri; gun hot pot)” while fugu sashimi is called “tessa (tetsu-sa; gun sashimi).” These are frightful names for dishes.
How strong is the fugu poison that is the origin for the fish being called a gun? There are about 25 types of fugu living in the coastal waters around Japan. Among them, the most prestigious fugu is honfugu, which is also called torafugu (tiger blowfish) in Tokyo. Its taste is exceptional, but it is also the most poisonous.
The fugu’s poison is tetrodotoxin. It is a frightful poison that is approximately 13 times stronger than potassium cyanide. It is said that the intake of only around 0.5 to two milligrams of tetrodotoxin can be lethal for humans. In particular, the liver and ovaries contain large amounts of the poison. And because even the blood contains the poison, only specially licensed people can prepare and sell fugu. If by chance someone is hit by the fugu’s poison bullet, the person will have convulsive seizures or become totally paralyzed and even die in the worst case.
Fugu’s poison is thus high-powered. Therefore, please always remember to have professional fugu chefs prepare the fish or purchase it only from licensed fishmongers.