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Varieties of fish cake, including kamaboko and chikuwa, are regaining popularity in Japan on the back of a rise in health consciousness as the novel coronavirus crisis has kept people at home since last year.

Fish cakes have been attracting attention in recent years, as they are made from low-fat, high-protein fish meat and are rich in amino acids necessary to preserve muscle.

Reflecting a drop in consumption, the volume of production of fish cakes, indispensable for Japanese dishes including the osechi traditional cuisine for New Year’s celebrations and oden stew, has continued to fall over the past few years.

According to Japan’s Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, production of seafood paste products in 2020 came to around 473,000 tons, down nearly 60% from around 1,155,000 tons in 1975. The number of companies in the seafood processing business has also decreased drastically during the period.

Fish cake consumption took a turn for the better recently, as more and more people staying at home amid the pandemic turned health-conscious.

An organization made up of around 600 seafood processing companies created a logo to be attached to products that contain a certain level of fish protein.

Working with Japanese television personality Ritsuko Tanaka, the Tokyo-based association uploaded to its YouTube channel a video on easy exercises that are based on yoga.

The video highlights the benefits of exercising and taking fish protein for people who are worried about their physical strength and for those who want to maintain muscle mass.

Meanwhile, Suzuhiro Kamaboko, a processed seafood product manufacturer in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, developed colorful fish protein bars this summer in collaboration with Japanese professional soccer player Yuto Nagatomo and others through crowdfunding.

The company plans to sell the protein bars, which are made from splendid alfonsino fish and other ingredients, to people who made donations are part of the crowdfunding project. It will also consider selling the products to the general public.

Suzuhiro Kamaboko says that some people have started to eat kamaboko thanks in part to the influence of Nagatomo.

“We hope to come up with new food items that go beyond the scope of existing products,” an official at the company said.

Yano Shoten, a company in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, started to sell a new type of chikuwa, dubbed “kinniku (muscle) chikuwa,” online recently.

The product has spread throughout Japan and the company said that it has received inquiries from gyms.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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