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According to Wikipedia

Fugu is also the only food the Emperor of Japan is forbidden to eat, for his safety

This information comes from a Forbes article "Killer Foods":

The fish remains the only delicacy denied the emperor – too risky.

This seems a bit fishy to me, so doing a search in Japanese, the best I could come up with was this anecdote, with my translation interspersed:

昭和天皇が自分だけフグ食べさせてもらえなくて拗ねられた話大好き。
I love this story about Hirohito sulking because he alone couldn't eat fugu
侍従「陛下はだめです」
Chamberlain: Your Majesty is forbidden
陛下「なんで」
Hirohito: Why?
侍従「毒があるので」
C: It's poisonous
陛下「みんな食べてるじゃん」
H: But everyone else is eating it
侍従「毒抜きしましたので」
C: The poison has been removed
陛下「じゃあ私も」
H: OK, I'll have some too
侍従「だめです」
C: It's forbidden
陛下「なんで」
H: Why?

Here is another page (with a horrendous Google Translate) that makes similar statements.

So, what is the truth about the emperor and fugu?

  • 3
    I have to ask: Forbidden by whom? Custom? Law? Terms and Conditions signed upon becoming Emperor? – Oddthinking Nov 29 '13 at 7:35
  • This might be possible, in Belgium for example if the king is visiting places around Belgium he isn't allowed to eat fish due to the fishbones. But this is all anecdotal ofcourse... – Lyrion Nov 29 '13 at 7:46
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    @Oddthinking, I would assume forbidden by his flunkies in the Imperial household. – Ken Y-N Nov 29 '13 at 8:07
  • 5
    I hope you can see my concern: A flunkie that forbade their boss from doing something the boss actually wanted to do might find that they no longer are employed as a flunkie. – Oddthinking Nov 29 '13 at 10:45
  • 3
    "This seems a bit fishy to me" - I see what you did there... – Andrew Grimm Dec 1 '13 at 6:52
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I've found references to Fugu (or poisonous Blowfish) being forbidden "to the Emperor", "the Emperor and his family", "to the Emperor and the Empress", To the Emperor and the royal family" in Forbes, NYMag, The Guardian, Chicago Tribune, etc etc.

In this article in the LA Times, they talk about it being an ancient law forbidding the Emperor to eat fugu;

The blowfish, known here as fugu, carries a deadly neurotoxin with no known antidote. An average-sized fugu is chock-full of the poison tetrodotoxin -- in its blood, liver and even its sex organs, Sasaki says.

But he scoffs at the centuries-old ban on the Japanese monarch eating the delicacy, sought after by many Japanese as daring cuisine.

"The prince and other royalty have eaten fugu, so why not the emperor?" he says. "It would set a good example."

Frankly I've seen so many re-hashings of the same phrase (all without any shred of sourcing) that I'm utterly convinced that this is an urban myth, potentially one taught to qualified fugu chefs during their training since they seem to be taken in by it as well.

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