Blue Fin Tuna Cutting Performance Report


Have you ever seen a large tuna cut in front of you?  I never had, even though I grew up in Tokyo, and went to Tsukiji Fish Market very early in the morning… until last week.

Last Saturday, there was a fresh Bluefin Tuna cutting performance at Mitsuwa Market Place in San Jose.  So I dragged (actually they were excited to join me) my husband, my friend Jan and his son Eryk to Mitsuwa.  This is a highly unusual experience, not too many people, even in Japan has an opportunity to see something like this.

When we got there 15 minutes before noon, there were already quite a bit of audience around the “stage”, where beautiful fresh bluefin tuna (Hon Maguro) lay there quietly…  headless and tailless.

According to the store manager who was an MC, this 450 lbs beauty has just arrived from Spain.

There are many tools they use to cut the beast. (OK, first when it was laying there, it looked like a Spanish beauty, but once it was cut, it looked more like a cow!  Just see through the picture and video.  You’ll agree. No pun intended.) 

Among the things they have ready for probably the biggest sale day of the year (Mitsuwa’s own Black Fri…, um, Saturday), they have all these stickers for fatty tuna and very fatty tuna ready, right in front of us.  This is exciting!

First they cut two jaw part (kama) and auctioned them off. 


Video: cutting the kama (jaw part) out, and auctioning it — just like at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo!

Who wants to buy one?   Had we known Jan would invite 10 people over, we should’ve bought them.  (One small problem…  We didn’t have a big enough grill.)  Some restaurant owners bought them instead.


After the kama, they needed to cut the loin part in half with a Samurai sword.  Around this time, I started to think it’s more of a beast, not the Spanish beauty….

Video: Cutting the loin part (Akami = red flesh i.e. Maguro) in half with Samurai sword.

Now the one of the loin is out, three men bring it to the table… 

They will be cut into chunks, then sliced into saku, the thin, rectangular piece of flesh that will be cut into sashimi pieces at home or restaurant.  (See pictures below.)

Then the belly part… Toro.  By this time, I’m totally thinking this is beef.  Doesn’t it look like one?

Once the tuna’s bone is exposed, now the women come out to scrape the meat around the bone, called Naka-ochi (middle scrapings).  Only men do the (showy?) cut, only women do the (not-so glamorous?) scraping…  Very Japanese, yet I didn’t notice until my American husband pointed it out. 

The loin that were cut in chunks are sliced thinner, and into rectangular shape, and made into saku…  Lots of them.

Once an MC, now back to the store manager, he’s busy doing whatever needed to be done to sell these highly valued (and priced accordingly) delicacy.

Chu-toro (Fatty tuna).  They were sold at $50/lb.   For something that has been just cut in front of your own eyes, it’s not a bad price (especially if I compare with what I would have to pay in Tokyo… or at our favorite sushi restaurant!

These are o-toro (very fatty tuna).  It almost look like beef…  perfectly marbled Kobe beef (top) or bacon (middle).

Monstrous bone from the gigantic tuna. The red flesh still on the bone is further scraped (by women, of course) and sold as naka-ochi.

Naka-ochi.  Since the fish is so big, even the scraped flesh is pretty substantial.  It was soooo delicious!

My dear friend Jan got so excited, he invited 10 of his friends right from the store, well before everything was over (actually more like “as soon as they started cutting the kama”.  To my surprise, pretty much everyone happened to be at home, and they joined us at Jan’s house for a major “After-Thanksgiving” feast. 

I’ll report about that later.

So… what do you think?