“Hon Maguro” [Southern bluefin]

Each tuna varies in quality, taste varies according to size, fishing styles, species, female or male. In fact, the sex of tuna is not determined genetically, as in some other organisms. Tunas are capable of becoming either male or female – the sex they finally become is dependent on the environment and circumstances.

The tuna below is Southern bluefin, caught off the shore of northern Japan, after migrating into local waters. This quality is tremendous, cost is exceptional and taste the same. The piece on the right is “o-toro”, fatty tuna and the other is “chu-toro”, less grains of fat.

When it comes to domestic caught Tuna it represents a very small percentage of tuna in the Japanese market. I estimate less than 2%-3% are domestic, the quality immaculate, fresh, 100% fished by Japanese experts, and transported the same, all in 24 hours or less.

Japan’s tuna import regulations were first liberalized in 1961. Since then, imports of tuna have steadily increased in Japan. The trend for rising tuna imports into Japan escalates in recent years.

Bluefin is generally sold only to high-class Japanese-style and specialty sushi restaurants. The Japanese name for bluefin “Hon Maguro” (meaning “genuine tuna”) is indicative of the status this species enjoys in the Japanese market. Southern bluefin has secured its niche in the Japanese market. By virtue of the quality of its meat which closely resembles that of northern bluefin, southern bluefin enjoys a high demand.

The Southern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) can be found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans in the territorial waters of Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea and New Zealand . It is a magnificent pelagic species that grows over 200kg and migrates large distances. Southern Bluefin Tuna has been known to live for up to 42 years but doesn’t mature until 8-12 years of age, making it very slow to reproduce and easy to over fish.


Tuna species used for raw consumption in Japan are: northern bluefin, southern bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin, and skipjack. Southern Bluefin is the most-prized and hence the highest-priced tuna species in the Japanese market, followed by bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack. Depending upon the fish species as well as the quality of the meat and the season, prices of tuna may range widely.

The tuna is sectioned when it is of such high quality, each chef gets a section with akami, top side, and chu and o-toro are belly side. So to understand the cut, it is a slice from the top side to the bottom side; see photo attached. The fish gets divide between the best sushi chefs, by rank most likely, seniority and relationships.



Categories: Sushi Styles

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