Kusaya – Dried fish known as the stinkiest food in Japan

When it comes to impactful Japanese foods, “Kusaya (くさや)” is famous and known as the quintessential Japanese dried fish that gives us an unforgettable smell.

Kusaya : The stinkiest food in Japan, and The 5th stinkiest food in the world

Kusaya is the Japanese dried fish known as a specialty food of Izu Islands (伊豆諸島).It is said that the origin dates back to the Japan’s Edo period (1603 – 1868).

The dried fish is famous as one of representative Japanese delicacies, and horse mackerels and flying fishes are typically used to make Kusaya.The basic way to produce the dried fish is as follows.

The producing method of Kusaya

  1. Cut open fishes.
  2. The fishes are soaked in the salty fermented water called “Kusaya Eki (くさや液)” for 8 to 20 hours to have them fermented by the bacteria inhiving the water.By the way, Kusaya Eki has a peculiar smell and flavor.
  3. Wash out the Kusaya water from the fishes with fresh water.
  4. The fishes are dried in the sun.

The fishes soaked in Kusaya Eki

6Image : kikumago.com

The older Kusaya Eki (water) gets, the better it becomes.In fact, there exists old Kusaya water produced more than 200 yeas ago in Izu Islands.

If you grill Kusaya, a peculiar, bad odor spreads and fills the air.The smell similar to that of ginkgo nuts is said to be the 5th stinkiest in the world and the stinkiest in Japan.

However, Kusaya is delicious with plenty of umami.

Kusaya : A healthy food

Grilled flying fish Kusaya

kusaya-oshima-march1-2007Image : Wikipedia

Kusaya is a fermented food and contains no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.The salt concentration of general Japanese dried fish products is about 18-20%, while that of Kusaya is about 6-8%.

Moreover, the bacterium inhabiting Kusaya water is a type of lactic acid bacterium with alkalinity, and Kusaya is rich in nutrition.There’s twice the amount of protein, vitamins and minerals in Kusaya compared to general Japanese dried fish products.

Eating Kusaya has the preventing effect of drunken sickness and hangover because the vitamins, including Vitamin B1 niacin, boost alcohol decomposition.

This is why Kusaya is a healthy food and goes well with Japanese Sake.

Kusaya products

Even though Kusaya is commonly grilled and then enjoyed, the dried fish can be eaten without heating.Most Kusaya products are bottled or vacuum-packed because of its bad odor.

Kusaya products
Bottled Horse mackerel Kusaya made in Niijima (One of Izu Islands),60g Bottled Horse mackerel and flying fish Kusaya made in Izu Islands,118g
Amazon.co.jp Amazon.co.jp

Places where you can eat Kusaya in Tokyo

If you have a chance to visit Japan and are interested in Kusaya, you could eat the stinky fish at Japanese pubs called “Izakaya (居酒屋)” and so on.Finally, I want to introduce the following places where you can eat Kusaya in Tokyo.

Izakaya Fukube (ふくべ)

Address : 1-4-5 Yaesu Chuo-ku Tokyo (MAP)

Open : Monday – Friday : 16:30 – 22:15 (last call)  Saturday : 16:30 – 21:15 (last call)

Closed : Sundays, Second and Fourth Saturday of each month

Kokkome (こっこめ)

Address : 1-1-5 Kabuki-cho Shinjuku-ku Tokyo (MAP)

Open : Monday – Saturday : 19:00 – 3:00

Closed : Irregular holidays


I'm Japanese living in Niigata Prefecture,Japan.I want to introduce things about Japan,especially unique Japanese products,sightseeing places,my daily life and Japanese culture.

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