Fish-eating (and vegetarian statistics) in Japan

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Do you like eating fish? graph of japanese statisticsAlthough the topic of this survey from DIMSDRIVE Research Inc was fish, the most interesting figure for me was some data to allow me to estimate the number of vegetarians in Japan.

Demographics

Between the 1st and 16th of Octoer 2008 9,524 members of the DIMSDRIVE monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 50.5% of the sample were male, 1.3% in their teens, 13.7% in their twenties, 34.% in their thirties, 31.2% in their forties, 14.5% in their fifties, and 5.1% aged sixty or older.

The vegetarian numbers can be derived from first noticing that 0.7% don’t eat fish according to Q2, then 2.7% of these 0.7% say they don’t eat fish because they are vegetarians, meaning that a whole 8 people from the original 9,524, or 0.08% of the sample, which makes a mere 10,000 vegetarians in the whole of Japan! Of course, monks would inflate the figures, although note that the average local priest is not averse to even grilled beef!

Note that here fish refers to fish only, not other beasts of the sea like octopus, squid, prawns, shellfish, or indeed whale.

Research results

Q1: Do you like eating fish? (Sample size=9,524)

Love it 40.0%
Like it 44.6%
Can’t say either way 7.7%
Don’t really like it 6.2%
Hate it 1.5%

Q2: How often do you usually eat fish? (Sample size=9,524)

Almost every day 3.6%
Four or five days a week 11.6%
Two or three days a week 49.3%
One day a week 21.2%
Two or three days a month 9.0%
One day a month 2.3%
One day every two or three months 1.4%
One day every six months 0.4%
One day a year 0.0%
Less than that 0.5%
Don’t eat fish 0.7%

By age, older people were more likely to eat fish: over four in five over-sixties ate fish at least twice a week, whereas just over half of thise in their twenties did.

Q3: How often do you or your family members usually cook fish at home? (Sample size=9,524)

Almost every day 3.0%
Four or five days a week 8.9%
Two or three days a week 42.5%
One day a week 20.5%
Two or three days a month 9.1%
One day a month 3.3%
One day every two or three months 1.9%
One day every six months 0.8%
One day a year 0.2%
Less than that 1.4%
Don’t know 1.4%
Don’t cook fish at home 7.0%

Under two in five of those living alone cooked fish weekly or more, whereas nearly two-thirds of all other family sizes managed the same frequency.

Q4: What kinds of fish dishes do you often eat? (Sample size=9,229, those eating fish at least once a month, multiple answer)

Grilled 91.7%
Sashimi 76.8%
Boiled 54.5%
Sushi 51.8%
Dried 45.2%
Fried 36.1%
Tempura 30.0%
Hot-pot, shabu-shabu 22.6%
Minced 22.1%
Fish balls, fish paste 21.3%
Rice bowl 13.1%
Rice ball, stir-fry rice, other rice dish 12.7%
Miso soup, soup 12.2%
Salad, marinade 10.5%
Pasta 5.0%
Hamburger 3.7%
Other 0.9%
No particular dish 0.2%

Q5A: What kinds of fish do you like? (Sample size=9,229, those eating fish at least once a month, multiple answer, top fifteen)

Rank   Votes
1 Sanma 3,596
2 Tuna 3,322
3 Chum salmon 2,503
4 Mackerel 2,416
5 Horse mackerel 2,232
6 Japanese amberjack 1,157
7 Medaka ricefish, sea bream 1,143
8 Okhostk Atka mackerel 795
9 Pilchard 696
10 Skipjack tuna 683
11 Young Japanese amberjack 652
12 Righteye flounder 629
13 Flounder 531
14 Salmon 520
15 Pacific cod 284

You’ll notice salmon appears twice in the list; the more popular was the Japanese term さけ, 鮭, sake, the less popular was the English loan word salmon. I don’t know what the difference between the two is.

Q5B: What kinds of fish do you like? (Sample size=men eating fish at least once a month, multiple answer, top ten)

Rank   Votes
1 Tuna 1,923
2 Sanma 1,876
3 Mackerel 1,256
4 Horse mackerel 1,140
5 Chum salmon 970
6 Medaka ricefish, sea bream 586
7 Japanese amberjack 508
8 Skipjack tuna 410
9 Pilchard 406
10 Young Japanese amberjack 348

Q5C: What kinds of fish do you like? (Sample size=women eating fish at least once a month, multiple answer, top ten)

Rank   Votes
1 Sanma 1,720
2 Chum salmon 1,533
3 Tuna 1,399
4 Mackerel 1,160
5 Horse mackerel 1,092
6 Japanese amberjack 649
7 Medaka ricefish, sea bream 557
8 Okhostk Atka mackerel 454
9 Salmon 374
10 Righteye flounder 370

Q6: Why do you eat fish? (Sample size=9,229, those eating fish at least once a month, multiple answer)

Delicious 82.1%
Good for health 53.4%
Like fish 50.5%
Goes well with rice, Japanese food 47.8%
Can obtain DHA, other nutrients that fish are rich in 33.3%
Light and refreshing 22.1%
Low in fat 15.3%
Other family members like fish 14.6%
Cheap to buy 13.8%
Suits my age 9.4%
Just because it’s put on the table 2.9%
Other 1.3%
No particular reason, just because 2.5%

Q7: Where do you buy fish? (Sample size=9,229, those eating fish at least once a month, multiple answer)

Supermarket 91.0%
Fishmonger 19.5%
Department store 12.4%
Market 5.6%
Shop other than fishmonger 4.7%
Internet, TV shopping, etc 3.5%
Harbour, fisherman 2.5%
Home centre, discount store 1.0%
Mobile shop 0.8%
Other 3.8%
Don’t buy fresh fish 4.1%

Q8: What do you check (what is important) when buying fish? (Sample size=8,852, those buying fish, multiple answer)

Freshness 83.4%
Price 77.8%
Type of fish 48.4%
Place of origin 38.9%
Colour, sheen 37.3%
Whether in season 36.3%
Dampness of the eyeball 34.0%
Sashimi-ready, raw-ready, cooking use, etc 33.8%
Sell-by date 31.4%
Number, weight of fish in pack 27.6%
Whether it’s leaking water 23.8%
Size of each fish 23.1%
Preparation (if the guts are removed, etc) 16.8%
Whether it’s sliced 14.3%
Whether it’s grated 9.2%
How it’s displayed 3.0%
Other 0.7%
Nothing in particular 2.0%

Q9: Why don’t you eat fish? (Sample size=295, those never eating fish or eating less than once a month, multiple answer)

Dislike fish 37.6%
Bothersome to cook 27.8%
Worried about smelly hands, room, rubbish 23.1%
Don’t like the smell 22.7%
Bothersome to eat 19.3%
Can’t cook 17.6%
Fish is expensive 15.6%
Don’t have the chance to eat it 13.2%
Other family member hates fish 8.1%
Can get enough nutrients from other sources 4.4%
Allergic 4.1%
Vegetarian 2.7%
Got food poisoning, etc from it before 1.0%
Other 4.1%
No particular reason 11.2%

Q10: Why don’t you cook fish at home? (Sample size=559, those never cooking fish or cooking less than once a month, multiple answer)

Don’t cook at all at home 31.7%
Cooking is bothersome, difficult 30.6%
Can’t cook fish 28.3%
Quicker, tastier to buy ready-cooked 22.2%
Worried about smelly hands, room, rubbish 21.8%
Difficult to cook it well 19.0%
Gets kitchen, cooking implements dirty; washing up is difficult 15.6%
Don’t have good cooking implements 6.1%
Can’t buy 5.5%
Family member hates, is allergic to fish 2.0%
Haven’t many recipies 2.0%
Other 6.4%
Don’t know 1.8%
No particular reason 11.4%

Q11: In your everyday life, do you think you eat sufficient fish? (Sample size=9,524)

Sufficient 11.0%
Sufficient to some degree 30.0%
Can’t say either way 20.1%
Insufficient to some degree 28.6%
Insufficient 10.3%

Only for those over fifty was there a clear majority who felt they were eating sufficient fish. People living alone significantly felt they weren’t getting enough.

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5 comments »

  1. Janne said,
    January 8, 2009 @ 23:06

    さば、鯖 is mackerel, not salmon. Salmon is さけ、鮭。I know the difference well as my wife likes salmon and hates mackerel and she’d probably club me to death with it if I came home with the wrong thing.

  2. Ken Y-N said,
    January 8, 2009 @ 23:52

    Janne, you are indeed correct, and it was my mistake in my footnote – the more popular salmon, number 3 in the list, was the Japanese sake. 4 was saba. My confusion at the difference between 鮭 and サーモン still stands though!

  3. Kristen said,
    January 9, 2009 @ 11:57

    Your reasoning on the vegetarian calculations might not be fully sound. Vegetarianism in Japan is commonly understood to include fish, which confuses and upsets many Western vegetarians. So your 10,000 vegetarians may only count those who subscribe to the Western world’s vegetarian scheme.

    It seems odd, but not too surprising for a country that decided to apply the counter word used with birds to rabbits, too, so that they could eat them in an era when only poultry was acceptable.

  4. Ken Y-N said,
    January 9, 2009 @ 23:10

    Kristen, the Japanese for vegetarian used here was 菜食主義, saishokushugi, which I think carried a definite “vegetables only”, although I have noticed when I use the katakana vegetarian it usually gets understood as “no identifiable meat chunks”, so even offal is OK!

    Also, considering that the survey was about fish, and the people who said they were vegetarian answered that in reply to being asked why they didn’t eat fish, and of course I am a Western vegetarian, and most of my readers are Western, so I think using no dead animal products as a definition is appropriate.

  5. mike said,
    January 11, 2009 @ 04:23

    I like tuna and salmon fish.

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