Lake Biwa is home to 595 animal species and 491 plant species and a good share of them are native to the lake. Some of these endemic species have been named as part of the eight delicacies that represent the unique tastes of the area. Have a taste of the eight rare delicacies of Lake Biwa!
Also known as three lips, hasu, or opsariichthys uncirostris, is a predatory fish which primarily feeds on koayu, which are also endemic to Lake Biwa. It is part of the cyprinidae family of freshwater fish and is in season from November to July. It is preferably broiled with salt which brings out the delicate and light taste of its white flesh.
Another member of the cyprinidae family, the nigorobuna (carassius auratus grandoculis), is a carp that lives in the deep waters of Lake Biwa. It serves as the main ingredient of the local dish funazushi, or fermented sushi, popular in the Shiga Prefecture. Nigorobuna is in season from January to April.
Ayu, or sweetfish, is a species common to the rivers of Japan. Koayu (plecoglossus altivelis) is a variant that lives offshore in Lake Biwa and is part of the osmeridae family of small fish. Even in its maturity, koayu only grows to about 10 centimeters in length and weighs around 5-20 grams as its diet primarily consists of plankton. Ayu in rivers can grow larger, having more food options such as moss that grows on rocks. Koayu is in season from January to August.
The isaza (gymnogobius isaza) is a member of the gobiidae family. It is usually found in the northern part of Lake Biwa and comes to the surface at night. Because of its hard bones, the fish is commonly deep-fried to make them edible. Isaza is in season from November to April.
The Suji-ebi (leander paucidens) of Lake Biwa, together with soybeans, are combined to make the dish ebi-mame. This dish is prepared and served during celebrations to wish long life and good health. Suji-ebi is available all year round.
Biwa trout (oncorhynchus masou), also referred to as biwamasu or biwa salmon, is a member of the salmonidae family of ray-finned fish. It feeds on koayu and shrimp and is valued for its tasty and lean flesh. Biwa trout is in season from June to September.
Also a member of the gobiidae family, biwa yoshinobori (rhinogobius) is a goby fish that lives in Lake Biwa’s open waters. When fried, it is cooked with soy sauce and sugar. When boiled in salted water, its flesh bears a light sweetness. Biwa yoshinobori is in season from August to October.
Honmoroko (gnathopogon caerulescens) is said to be the most delicious of its kind in the cyprinidae family. Its flesh has a light and delicate flavor and the fish is usually boiled to soften its small bones. Honmoroko is in season from October to April.
Enjoy the delicacies that can only be found in Lake Biwa and be adventurous when you visit. Let their distinct flavors melt in your palate and take you back to Shiga each season!