Get a glimpse of how one of Japan’s delicacies, the poisonous fugu fish, is traded at auction!

Fugu, as the blowfish or pufferfish is called in Japan, is known as a tasty fish that can be enjoyed many ways, whether as sashimi or as a hot pot, but it’s also famous for being deadly poisonous if not prepared properly. Even Japanese people will probably have a hard time explaining why exactly we eat a fish that could, however unlikely if prepared by a qualified chef, potentially kill us, but fugu remains highly prized by the Japanese public, and we generally don’t think of it as especially dangerous to consume, since poisonings are extremely rare, at least if you go to a proper restaurant.

Now, since they’re considered a delicacy, blowfish naturally can be quite pricey, and recently we found an interesting tweet from German business news outlet DB sharing a video that shows the unique way the valuable fish is traded at auction in a market. The traditional auction method is called “bag auction (fukuro seri)” and involves the auctioneer hiding his hand in a bag while exchanging bidding information with buyers through hand signals.


Here’s what the market looks like. We think the footage in the tweet comes from the Haedomari Market in Shimonoseki City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, located in the southwestern tip of the Japanese main island. Haedomari is the largest fugu market in Japan and is apparently the only market that currently uses this bag auction method.

The auctioneer conceals his hand in a black bag, and uses a system of hand signals to communicate bidding information with potential buyers. Each of the buyers indicate how much they are willing to pay for the fugu by grasping the auctioneer’s fingers in a certain way. Once all the buyers have made their secret bid, the auctioneer points to the successful bidder.


Here’s the actual tweet with the video:

There are several theories on how this unique bidding method came into being. Some say that the extreme cold during the winter months when blowfish are in season caused workers at the market to do everything with their hands covered as much as possible. The high value of the blowfish, which can go for US$200 per kilogram (2.2 lbs) combined with the fact that there is really no substitute fish that restaurants can serve in place of fugu, also means that prices could spiral up if left to an open bidding system, and the bag auction may have been developed as a way to control the price of the fish.

Either way, the auction is an interesting sight, and something that we don’t have the chance to see everyday. We hope you enjoyed the brief look into Japan’s premier blowfish market!

Source and images: Twitter/ DW – Business