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The culinary culture of fish sauce: Starting with Tobishima fish sauce

Associate Professor, Institute of Arts and Sciences(Archaeology)


Have you heard of Tobishima fish sauce (salted squid fermented in its viscera)? Tobishima, a remote island in Yamagata Prefecture, has a culinary culture of making a fish sauce using large quantities of squid, facilitated by abundant squid fishing from the Edo period to today. However, the rising sea water temperature due to global warming and overfishing have led to poor squid catches. As a result of that and the aging of the islanders, the production of fish sauce is about to cease. Therefore, Professor Matsumoto (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences) and Professor Okuno (Faculty of Science) began to preserve Tobishima fish sauce by focusing on the three pillars of material culture, humans and their culture, and biochemistry. In addition, our team includes not only researchers but also photographers, editors, and chefs. This is because we are mindful of connecting with several researchers and the general public through fish sauce. Based on this effort, the research team plans to continue researching the culture of fish sauce in Japan and abroad.

This research was selected first for a grant from the Lotte Foundation’s 9th Program to Promote Research (B) in 2022 for Exploring the origins of fish sauce: When did the Japanese start eating fish sauce? (Chair: Tetsuya Shiroishi) And then for an Akita Geopark Research Grant in 2023 for The culinary history of Tobishima fish sauce (Chair: Tetsuya Shiroishi). This research was also featured in an article in the Kahoku Shimpo on August 4, 2023. A book (from Bungaku Report) is also scheduled for publication (March 2024).

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