Osaka court hands restaurant manager suspended sentence in pufferfish probe

Defendant vows to continue serving fugu since it is a 'wonderful part of Japan's culture'

Masato Sawahara
Masato Sawahara

OSAKA (TR) – The Osaka District Court on Tuesday handed a suspended prison sentence to the manager of an elite restaurant chain over the illegal serving of a poisonous blowfish, reports TBS News (Aug. 11).

Masato Sawahara, the 42-year-old manager of chain Osaka Tora Fugu no Kai, received an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for three years, and a fine of three million yen for serving the poisonous liver of tora fugu, or tiger blowfish, to customers.

“Each shop prohibited customers to speak about what was an organized and continuous crime,” the court said.

In May, police arrested Sawahara, who heads the chain’s main branch in Tennoji Ward, for serving course meals containing the liver in sliced (sashimi) form, which is a violation of the Food Sanitation Act.

With the liver and various other internal organs of fugu containing the deadly poison Tetrodotoxin, a license is necessary to prepare the flesh of the fish in Japan. Offering the liver and organs in any form is illegal.

“Wonderful part of Japan’s culture”

Sawahara accepted the ruling but expressed a desire to continue serving the fish.

“In the same manner, I want to continue serving fugu cuisine — a wonderful part of Japan’s culture,” Sawahara is quoted.

The chain’s four branches operate on a membership system in which the addresses and phone numbers for the restaurants are not made available to the public.

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