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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Monday, June 08, 2015


Blowfish (Fugu) is Safer than Skydiving: And Both are Very Safe

Blowfish is Safer than Skydiving
The Japanese eat 10,000 tonnes ( Top 10 Most Dangerous Foods - TIME ) or 9,000,000 kg of blowfish or fugu which is approximately 90 million servings, since one does not usually eat more than about 100 grams, or less, per serving (my estimate).

Further, the risk of deaths from eating fugu are even less than that of skydiving. The list below is from the Japanese wikipedia article on fugu, and claims to be comprehensive list of "main" deaths by fugu poisoning since 2000 (perhaps there were others that are not reported). Assuming that there have been 90 million servings a year for the past 14.5 years, or nearly 1300 million servings but only 13 deaths that makes the risk of dying from fugu poisoning to be about one in 100 million. So to compare the death rates, the risk of dying from skydiving according to one estimate is 25/3,000,000 per sky dive. Divided by 1/100,000,000 (my estimation) for the risk of dying as a result of eating a serving of fugu and, I think that we can cross off the millions, so that is 25/3 divided by 1/100. Or about 800. And the wikipedia article also notes that in the ten years from 1995 to 2005 31 people died of fugu poisoning in Japan in similar situations. That is about twice the rate of the 2000s, or 400 times less dangerous than skydiving.

And just as in estimation of the dangers of skydiving where we found that it was experienced, risk-taking skydivers that were dying, similarly, with fugu eating it is those taking risks (preparing, usually self-caught the fish without a licence, and eating the most dangerous parts, the liver or other innards), and not those eating it at fugu restaurants, who are dying.

So skydiving is about 400 to 800 times more dangerous than eating a serving of fugu, but both are very safe activities unless you really try your luck. Indeed, both activities are probably at least in part, enjoyable precisely because one appears to be (but one is not in fact) trying ones luck. This makes skydiving and eating blowfish similar to getting on a roller coaster ride, for thrills.

The Japanese rate themselves as being the most risk averse nation in the world and may only enjoy simulated risks. 

From フグ - Wikipedia
April 2001 Tokyo, Person in 60s prepared sashimi from fugu self-caught
May 2002 Kagawa Prefecture, two persons in their 50s boiled self caught fugu
November 2002 Person in 60s ate poison containing fugu liver
November 2003 Person in 70s ate dried fugu received from a friend.
May 2005 Nagasaki Prefecture Person in 70s made miso soup from self-caught fugu.
September 2005 Aichi Prefecture ate poison containing fugu liver
March 2006 Miyazaki Prefecture. Person in 60s cooked fugu themselves
January 2007 Nagasaki Prefecture. Person in 60s made sashimi for themselves.
August 2007 Nagasaki Prefecture. person in their 40s made a stew of fugu innards containing poison.
December 2007 Hyougo Prefecture. Person in 50s prepared fugu that they had caught themselves.
January Aicii Prefecture. A sushi restaurant proprietor ate some fugu innards with a customer and died. The proprietor did not have a fugu preparation licence. Another person (presumably the customer) was hospitalized.
October 2014 Hyougo Prefecture. Person in their 50s took home the left overs from a colleague's fugu cooking practice and ate the liver and died.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.