Fish-eating (and vegetarian statistics) in Japan


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.


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 it40.0%
Like it44.6%
Can’t say either way7.7%
Don’t really like it6.2%
Hate it1.5%

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

Almost every day3.6%
Four or five days a week11.6%
Two or three days a week49.3%
One day a week21.2%
Two or three days a month9.0%
One day a month2.3%
One day every two or three months1.4%
One day every six months0.4%
One day a year0.0%
Less than that0.5%
Don’t eat fish0.7%

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 day3.0%
Four or five days a week8.9%
Two or three days a week42.5%
One day a week20.5%
Two or three days a month9.1%
One day a month3.3%
One day every two or three months1.9%
One day every six months0.8%
One day a year0.2%
Less than that1.4%
Don’t know1.4%
Don’t cook fish at home7.0%

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)

Hot-pot, shabu-shabu22.6%
Fish balls, fish paste21.3%
Rice bowl13.1%
Rice ball, stir-fry rice, other rice dish12.7%
Miso soup, soup12.2%
Salad, marinade10.5%
No particular dish0.2%

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
3Chum salmon2,503
5Horse mackerel2,232
6Japanese amberjack1,157
7Medaka ricefish, sea bream1,143
8Okhostk Atka mackerel795
10Skipjack tuna683
11Young Japanese amberjack652
12Righteye flounder629
15Pacific cod284

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
4Horse mackerel1,140
5Chum salmon970
6Medaka ricefish, sea bream586
7Japanese amberjack508
8Skipjack tuna410
10Young Japanese amberjack348

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

Rank Votes
2Chum salmon1,533
5Horse mackerel1,092
6Japanese amberjack649
7Medaka ricefish, sea bream557
8Okhostk Atka mackerel454
10Righteye flounder370

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

Good for health53.4%
Like fish50.5%
Goes well with rice, Japanese food47.8%
Can obtain DHA, other nutrients that fish are rich in33.3%
Light and refreshing22.1%
Low in fat15.3%
Other family members like fish14.6%
Cheap to buy13.8%
Suits my age9.4%
Just because it’s put on the table2.9%
No particular reason, just because2.5%

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

Department store12.4%
Shop other than fishmonger4.7%
Internet, TV shopping, etc3.5%
Harbour, fisherman2.5%
Home centre, discount store1.0%
Mobile shop0.8%
Don’t buy fresh fish4.1%

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

Type of fish48.4%
Place of origin38.9%
Colour, sheen37.3%
Whether in season36.3%
Dampness of the eyeball34.0%
Sashimi-ready, raw-ready, cooking use, etc33.8%
Sell-by date31.4%
Number, weight of fish in pack27.6%
Whether it’s leaking water23.8%
Size of each fish23.1%
Preparation (if the guts are removed, etc)16.8%
Whether it’s sliced14.3%
Whether it’s grated9.2%
How it’s displayed3.0%
Nothing in particular2.0%

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

Dislike fish37.6%
Bothersome to cook27.8%
Worried about smelly hands, room, rubbish23.1%
Don’t like the smell22.7%
Bothersome to eat19.3%
Can’t cook17.6%
Fish is expensive15.6%
Don’t have the chance to eat it13.2%
Other family member hates fish8.1%
Can get enough nutrients from other sources4.4%
Got food poisoning, etc from it before1.0%
No particular reason11.2%

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 home31.7%
Cooking is bothersome, difficult30.6%
Can’t cook fish28.3%
Quicker, tastier to buy ready-cooked22.2%
Worried about smelly hands, room, rubbish21.8%
Difficult to cook it well19.0%
Gets kitchen, cooking implements dirty; washing up is difficult15.6%
Don’t have good cooking implements6.1%
Can’t buy5.5%
Family member hates, is allergic to fish2.0%
Haven’t many recipies2.0%
Don’t know1.8%
No particular reason11.4%

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

Sufficient to some degree30.0%
Can’t say either way20.1%
Insufficient to some degree28.6%

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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  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.

  6. Afro said,
    June 7, 2015 @ 09:14

    Dude your stats are out of 101%which makes them seem bogus because(45+40+6+2+8=101) but I could be wrong dont take my word for it☺but then again errors happen

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