Kusaya: Japan’s Stinkiest Food (Dried Fish)

When I think of stinky Japanese food, what comes to mind first is Kusaya (くさや), a dried fish infamous for emitting an unforgettable stench.

Kusaya (くさや)

Kusaya Dried Fish

Kusaya is a Himono or a dried fish that is a specialty of the Izu Islands whose origin can be traced back to the Edo period, about 400 years ago.

Today it has become one of the delicacies that represent Japan, known for its awful smell and delicious taste.


Typical fish prepared for making Kusaya includes mackerel scad, flying fish, and dolphinfish, and the outline of its production is like this.

  1. Cut open fish.
  2. Soak the fish in the fermented brine called Kusaya Eki (くさや液) for 8 to 20 hours to get it fermented by the bacteria inhabiting the liquid.
  3. Then, wash and rinse the fish with fresh water.
  4. Finally, dry the fish in the sun for one day or two.

Kusaya Eki

6Image: kikumago.com

Kusaya Eki is a weak alkaline (about pH 8) fermented brine. It has a dark brown color and is thick with a distinctive smell and flavor.

As the liquid gets old, it becomes better. And some have been used for over 200 years.


Grilling Kusaya

When grilling Kusaya, a terrible smell, similar to ginkgo nuts, wafts out and fills the room. The fish boasts the 5th stinkiest in the world and is Japan’s No.1 in terms of odor.

Nonetheless, grilled Kusaya is good, packed with plenty of umami, and has been a favorite among gourmets.


Grilled Kusaya

Kusaya is a wholesome, nutritious food with no artificial flavorings, colors, or preservatives. 

The dried fish only contains 6 to 8 percent salt and is a rich source of protein, calcium, and amino acids.


Kusaya is edible as is, but we usually enjoy it after grilling.

The fish typically comes in a bottle or vacuum-packed because of its stench.

Bottled Kusaya Products
Niijima Island Mackerel Scad Kusaya Izu Islands Mackerel Scad and Flying Fish Kusaya
Amazon.co.jp Amazon.co.jp

Where to Eat

Some Izakaya (居酒屋) pub restaurants in Tokyo offer Kusaya, and Izakaya Fukube and Kokkome are among them.

Izakaya Fukube (ふくべ)

  • Address: 1-4-5 Yaesu, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Open: (Monday to Friday) 16:30 to 22:15 (last call)  (Saturday) 16:30 to 21:15 (last call)
  • Closed: Sundays, Second and Fourth Saturdays

Kokkome (こっこめ)

  • Address: 1-1-5 Kabuki-Cho, Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo (Google Map)
  • Open: (Monday to Saturday) 19:00 to 3:00
  • Closed: Irregularly 

(Reference Page: Wikipedia くさや )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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