Tokyo Olympic in the kitchen of Fukudokoro Sakai, a restaurant opposite a seafood market at the southern tip of the main island of Japan, the chef casually detaches the head of a live pufferfish. He strips and empties it while his heart is still beating, skillfully removing the toxic parts and throwing them in a bucket on the ground to throw them away.

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The meat of the fish, stained with blood, will be cleaned and cut into thin slices of semi-translucent sashimi and arranged in the shape of chrysanthemum for customers to eat for lunch. But the toxic parts that include the eyes and the liver are what put the otherwise nondescript fish in the spotlight. These pieces contain tetrodotoxin, which can kill an adult within hours and for which there is no known antidote.

The pufferfish sometimes gets a bad press for its toxicity, but it is the bland taste and the high price which contributed to undermining the popularity of the fish in Japan, with 3.4 billion yen (24 million pounds sterling) sold in 2017 against 5 billion yen in 2017. 2007.

But fugu-centric restaurants hope the Olympic 2020 and the hordes of tourists they bring will kick start business. Hajime Sakai, president of the wholesaler Sakai Shoten, which owns Fukudokoro Sakai, has tried to cultivate the demand for fish with online expeditions and pretty pufferfish ornaments. This year, his eyes are on the Tokyo Olympics.

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“I really hope the tourists will come to Shimonoseki, try the pufferfish and come back wondering why they can’t try this fish in their respective countries,” supposed Sakai.

In Tokyo, Yukihiro Furukawa has a restaurant in the upscale Ginza district, where classes that cost 30,000 yen ($ 273) per head include a plate of sashimi with slices of pufferfish arranged in the shape of a dragon. Furukawa, who is also president of the International Fugu Association, said wealthy tourists make up a large part of its market.

“I would say that in the high season, around 60% of my clients come from abroad,” he supposed. “We are currently going through a tourist bubble abroad.”

He assumed that although the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, could curb the influx of tourists to the Olympics, we will ultimately seek to take this battle for more overseas markets in the near future.

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Olympic Hospitality |Olympic 2020 Tickets | Olympic Tickets | Olympic Packages| Tokyo Olympic Tickets

The meat of the fish is soft and bland, although there is a touch of sweetness if it is chewed long enough. Along with toxicity, this makes it difficult to export as food for daily consumption, experts say.

“One thing about pufferfish is that it’s not just the fish itself,” supposed Masaaki Sano, professor of seafood distribution at the University of Kagoshima. It’s the chef’s skill that cuts him down, the presentation. it is a delicate cuisine that is the point. “

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