English names of Japanese Fish

I often wonder how many species I have caught in my time fishing here in Japan; after nearly five years now I think I can name almost any fish pulled out of Tokyo Bay, and identify fish caught in most other parts of Japan too (although Okinawan fish remain a mystery to me). Anyway, over the last few months I finally got round to listing all the fish, and looking up their English names.  In this day and age of internet and instant gratification you can easily find any of these, so to save time I have listed the names only in their respective languages, therefore you need at least a knowledge of katakana and a browser that supports Japanese text to read this list.

Japanese whiting シロギス
Grubfish カラカケトラギス
Harlequin Sandsmelt トラギス
Marbled Sole マコガレイ
Slime Flounder ナメタガレイ
Shotted Halibut ムシガレイ
Stone Flounderイシガレイ
Bastard Halibut ヒラメ
Bartailed Flathead マゴチ
Dragonet (Repomucenus curvicornis) ネズミゴチ
Dragonet (Repomucenus huguenini) ヤリヌメリ
Dragonet (Repomucenus valenciennei) ハタタテヌメリ
Inegocia guttata ワニゴチ
Red Sea Bream/Snapper マダイ
Crimson Sea Bream ハナダイ
Damselfish スズメダイ
Cardinalfishネンブツダイ
Threadfin Breamイトヨリダイ
Knifejaw イシダイ
Hyperoglyphe japonicaメダイ
Girella punctata メジナ
Chicken Gruntイサキ
Black Rockfishクロメバル
Japanese Greenlingアイナメ
Scorpionfishカサゴ
Schlegel’s Black Rockfishクロソイ
Goatfish オジン
Sidespot Goatfish リュウキュウヒメジ
Bensasi Goatfish ヒメジ
Filefish カワハギ
Horsehead Filefishウマヅラハギ
Canthigaster rivulataキタマクラ
Spotted Fugu ショウサイフグ
Red-eye Fugu アカメフグ
Takifugu niphobles クサフグ
Lagocephalus wheeleri シロサバフグ
Yellowfin Gobyマハゼ
Chaenogobius gulosusダボハゼ
Acentrogobius pflaumiiスジハゼ
Lizardfishマエソ
Sagamia geneionemaサビハゼ
Japanese Horse Mackerel マアジ
Japanese Scad/Jack ムロアジ
Japanese Scad/Jackマルアジ
Giant Trevally ロウニンアジ
Chub Mackerel マサバ
Blue Mackerel ゴマサバ
Bullet Tunaマルソウダカツオ
Anchovy Sardine カタクチイワシ
Hypoatherina valenciennei トウゴロウイワシ
Cutlassfish/Ribbonfish タチウオ
Red Cutlassfish スミツキアカタチ
Yellowtail ブリ
Japanese Seabass スズキ
Sardinells zunasiサッパ
Konosirus punctatus コノシロ
Double-Lined Fusilier タカサゴ
Striped Mullet ボラ
Pacific Codマダラ
Ocellated Octopusイイダコ
Common Octopusマダコ
Cuttlefish スミイカ
Red Cuttlefishヒメコウイカ
Swordtip Squidケンサキイカ
Nuchequula nuchalis ヒイラギ
Croaker イシモチ
Doederleinia berycoidesアカムツ
Hong Kong Grouperキジハタ
Physiculus japonicus チゴダラ(ドンコ)
Hairy Scorpionfish オニカサゴ
Red Tilefish アカアマダイ
Uranoscopus japonicus ミシマオコゼ
Japanese Conger Eel マアナゴ
Silvery Conger ゴテンアナゴ
Smooth Dogfish シロザメ
Rainbow Trout ニジマス (non-native)
Onchorhynchus masou アマゴ
Tribolodon hakonensis ウグイ
Gengoro (Hera) Carp ヘラブナ
Carassius langsdorfii ギンブナ
Topmouth Gudgeon モツゴ
Japanese smelt ワカサギ
Three-Lips ハス
Gnathopogon caerulescens ホンモロコ
Carassius burgeri キンブナ
Barbel Steed ニゴイ
Acheilognathus macropterus オオタナゴ  (non-native)
Rhodeus ocellatus ocellatus タイリクバラタナゴ (non-native)
Acheilognathus tabira erythropterus アカヒレタビラ
Salvelinus leucomaenis イワナ
Oncorhynchus masou masou ヤマメ
Japanese Flying Squid スルメイカ
Bleeker’s Squid ヤリイカ 
Ayu sweetfish アユ
Amberjack カンパチ
Sebastes thompsoni ウスメバル
Japanese pilchard マイワシ
Kidako moray ウツボ
Red lionfish ハナミノカサゴ
Japanese Spanish mackerel サワラ

Off the top of my head I think I could list about 50, but after sitting down and spending some time to write them all out, including the cephalods which obviously aren’t fish but are game targets, the list came to an astonishing 79 (current count: 99 species). The biodiversity in fish life here in Japan is amazing, and I think I mentioned somewhere else on my blog, there is always something to catch all year round, and satisfy all manner of different anglers.

Anyway, this list was compiled from Fishbase and WEB図鑑. Where there is no apparent English common name I have listed the scientific name, and where possible I have tried to list the standard Japanese common name (標準和名)as local variants of fish names are notoriously abundant in the language.  Also, please bear in mind that some English common names for fish differ depending on the country; Aussie anglers will usually call tai red snapper, whilst for Americans this refers to a different fish; others may swear the fish is a red sea bream.  If you notice any glaring mistakes please point these out and I will correct them. It has taken me some time and effort to compile all these so if you do use this page as a reference, please post a link to this page.

Edited 17/4/09: I changed the Japanese common name for red cutlassfish.

Edited 19/4/09: I caught two new species of freshwater fish.

Edited 26/10/09: I caught three new species of freshwater fish.

Edited 13/4/10: I caught one new species of freshwater fish, and changed the Japanese common name of another.

Edited 1/5/10: I caught a new species of freshwater fish.

Edited 23/5/2010 I caught two new species of freshwater fish.

Edited 13/8/2010 I caught a new species of freshwater fish.

Edited 20/2/2011 I caught a new species of freshwater fish.

Edit: 28/3/2011 I caught a new species of freshwater fish.

Edited 22/6/2011 I caught two new species of cephalopod.

Edited 2/7/2011 I caught a new species of freshwater fish.

Edited 8/1/2012 I caught a new species of saltwater fish.

Edited 21/1/2012 I caught a new species of saltwater fish.

Edited 14/1/2013 I caught a new species of saltwater fish.

Edited 3/11/2013 I caught two new species of saltwater fish.

Edited 13/12/2015 I caught a new species of saltwater fish.

23 responses to “English names of Japanese Fish

  1. たくさんご存じですねぇ
    私は昔ダイビングやってたので
    熱帯の魚は結構知ってました(今はもう忘れてしまったけど)
    それなのに大阪湾や、私の住んでる明石の海にいる魚はあんまり知りません
    スーパーで見る魚くらいかなぁ

  2. naokoさん、
    ダイビングやっていたんですか?僕はやったことがないけどインストラクターとしてやっている友だちが一人います。
    子どものころは地中海とかよく泳いでいましたが今僕は魚を殺し過ぎて一生とれない祟りを背負っているので怖くてあんまり海に入らない。

  3. Nice job on the list. I’m now inspired to think about the different fish that I have caught in Japan. I’m sure I’ll come nowhere close to 79.

  4. Hunt:
    Thanks, and thanks for visiting and posting!
    I definitely want to add some more freshwater species to the list, starting this year. Wakasagi for one.
    I greatly admire your Aomori fishing ventures, and look forward to hearing about your ayu fishing this season. Good luck with the sakuramasu too. I should be heading off for some aji fishing this weekend.
    Cheers,
    Adam

  5. Nice work, Adam!
    I’ll have to start learning to read Japanese to figure all the names now!
    (the wife won’t be happy about my learning Japanese for the fishing rather than her, though)

    cheers,
    Chris

  6. Hi Chris,
    I did all the names in katakana as this is the most common way to write fish (and other animal) names in Japanese, and also it is impossible for my PC to render some of the more obscure fish kanji. Now if you were to look up and memorise the kanji for each fish, I am sure your wife would be impressed!
    Have you been fishing lately? Over here in Kanto the weather has been really bad, I haven’t been out in March at all.
    Cheers,
    Adam

  7. I had planned to go fishing the week before last for rockfish and maybe seabass, but my back went out while getting ready at 5am! That was me laid out on the floor in the living room. It’s all down hill once you hit 40 I tell you!
    Coincidentally, my Japanese friend turned up walking sideways, his back went out the night before! But he still had to go as he is the manager of the biggest local fishing shop and would be strung up other wise.
    The weather here has been unusually chilly lately. I spend the week in Wakayama last week and it was gorgeous out, although extremely windy.
    I reckon she has mixed emotions about my knowing all the names of fish in Japanese and that is pretty much the extent of my Japanese ability! I will definitely have to sit down with a pen and paper soon, though. We are very recently married (town hall paperwork) and planning a ceremony and reception in the fall, and planning to move to Japan as well.
    How long have you been in Japan by the way?

    Off now to get on with my day. Have a good day.
    Feel free to email my at my email address if you are in the area. I’ll treat you to a pint.

    cheers,
    Chris

  8. Congratulations on getting married and shame about your fishing trip! Have you ever tried Japanese “hari” or “kyu” (Japanese acupuncture or moxa) for your back? In the past they have helped me out a lot when I had work-related neck and shoulder problems.
    Well I was born in Tokyo though I have lived most of my life in the UK.
    I may take you up on your offer one day, I quite fancy a go at those Akashi tako. Is there a particular season for it?
    Cheers,
    Adam

  9. Hey,
    The octopus is best in June and July.

    Chris

  10. Thanks, I will bear that in mind! Is there a particular boat you go on or like?

  11. Usually go out with one friend or another. But there are boats to hire.

  12. Pingback: Back from Ibaraki « the Compleat Tsuribito

  13. Thank you so much for this list! As an American fish-lover in Japan, I find myself staring at the fish in the supermarkets, without a clue as to what they might be. Now I can buy something other than salmon and find a recipe for it!

  14. Pingback: For the century | the Compleat Tsuribito

  15. Hi Peggy,
    The list includes some inedible species too…stay away from the fugu!
    All the best,
    Adam

  16. Oh, thanks Adam! I won’t find the inedible kinds in the markets and I’ve decided not to eat fugu, tempting as the idea to cheat death may seem. =)

  17. Hi Adam,
    Nice job on the list & translations. I undertook a similar project some years ago, have some good resources, and am happy to share, particularly for those species for which you haven’t settled on an English vernacular common name. I also have excellent resources on salmonids (Oncorhynchus and Salvelinus). For example, lumpers and splitters are, I think, continuing to debate whether or not amago and yamame are separate species…
    Over a period of seven years, I lived, respectively, in Noborito on the upper Tamagawa where I avidly fished carp & crucian carp; in Tsuchiura where I fished the Sakuragawa and Kasumigaura almost daily for largemouth bass, bluegill and carp and incidently caught barbell steed, pisciverous chubs, wakasagi, raigyo (snakehead mullet) and catfish; Nanao where I fished Nanao Bay for mebaru (Sebastus inermis)–one of the tastiest fish I’ve ever dined on–, black porgy (kurodai), flounder and other species… and fished the Japan Sea for rockfish, opaleye (mejina) and porgy. Meanwhile, my former wife was from Hiratsuka–good suzuki and hirame fishing as well as whiting, croaker, gizzard shad (konoshiro), scad (aji) and other species. Also got to fish Biwako (bass) and Ashinoko (rainbow trout, brown trout, bass) and a mountain stream in Mie-Ken (yamame). Including the tiddlers, I caught something over 100 different species. I envy that you have learned to make Japanese-style poles/rods and have often regretted that I did not do the same while there. I did bring back to America a couple of really fine examples of modern (graphite composite) tenkara rods which are a joy to use for panfish and small trout.

  18. Re: above: Er… no, not 100 fish in Japan… I’m thinking of a life list that includes North American species.

  19. Well it sounds like you enjoyed your fishing during your time here in Japan. And I agree, mebaru make very good eating! I used to catch them as well as kasago on a small boat sailing from Manazuru, close inshore in the rocky shallows. I think some labs here are doing DNA tests to settle the issue about yamame/amago.
    Did you ever fish the Sanriku (north-east) coast? Of all the places I have fished in Japan, it is probably my favourite. Sadly it took a lot of damage in March and I haven’t been up there since (the trains still aren’t running) but I’d love to head up there now as it is cod season.

  20. Hi Adam

    I am keen on my spearfishing. Are all of these species you listed edible? Also in your travels where do think you have seen the clearest ocean. On the east or west coast? I am guessing not close to any of the cities is the best options. Also kelp and rocky outcrops do any places immediately spring to mind?

  21. Kiwisimon without a doubt the clearest water I have seen in Japan was in Miyakojima (Okinawa Pref.). Watch out for the tiger sharks though! One of the local delicacies is a kind of parrotfish called irabuchaa that is caught by spearing. It can give you ciguatera though.
    On Honshu I’d say the Sanriku coast especially south Iwate Prefecture. I haven’t been since the tsunami though.
    I can’t speak for Kansai or western Japan as I haven’t fished there much but I once spotted a bunch of spearfishermen taking chinu (black sea bream/porgy) at the mouth of Hamanako.
    Hope this helps,
    Adam

  22. Hi Adam, I am glad to glance through the list of fish you made. I got confused at some points where the English names you gave to some fish do not correspond to what I know, for instance: ゴマサバ you named “blue mackerel” is often called “spotted mackerel” and マサバ you named “Chub Mackerel” is “Pacific Mackerel” in japanese exporting market. Could you explain

  23. Hi Jon,
    Most angling or economically important fish have several common names depending on location or use – my list is not exhaustive. The scientific names are definitive: ゴマサバ is Scomber australicus, whilst マサバ is S. japonicus.
    Hope this helps,
    Adam

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