Bonito flakes are made out of boiled, smoked, sun dried, fresh bonito, a type of small tuna. It is one of 3 ingredients in dashi, a type of soup stock used in Japanese miso soup. The only other things in dashi are kombu (kelp), and water.
After searching a Japanese food store from top to bottom twice, there were still no bonito flakes to be found. Instead we got some fish sauce and dried flounder and hoped it would work.
Once we took the ingredients home, however, I read the back of the bag of dried flounder, which said it needed to be kept frozen (sort of defeats the point of drying it), which it had not been at the store.
There was no actually fish in the dashi, just some fish sauce.
But I had what I hoped would be a good enough substitute for the making of miso soup.
Miso soup is so good. Its basically nothing but water and soy beans prepared in various enigmatic ways and perhaps some seaweed.
But a long story short, the miso soup was good, and according to my mother, the extra step of making dashi added something, something I am not sure I could taste. Ah well.