Located in the very north of Japan, Hokkaido boasts Japan’s number one catch of crabs. In Japan, crabs are used not only in washoku, but also in various dishes such as crab croquette, chao-mai (steamed meat dumpling) and gratin. And of course, in Hokkaido there are numerous restaurants specializing in crab dishes. Throughout the prefecture, many diverse types of crabs are caught – but there are a few that stand out.

One is the hair crab, a species that is representative of Hokkaido. While the meat itself is delicious, hair crabs are particularly characterized by their rich and flavorful kani-miso (crab innards). These crabs can be caught almost all year round because they feed on different organisms in different areas, meaning their fishing season varies from region to region. Visitors can eat fresh hair crabs throughout the year and enjoy different tastes according to region and season.

Another standout crab is the red king crab, featuring a hefty portion of tender meat. Hokkaido red king crabs go well with any recipe: sashimi style, tempura style, boiled, steamed, grilled or in a shabu-shabu hot pot… you can have it any way you want. Digging into a leg as-is will immediately reveal the red king crab’s genuine, fresh taste.

Last but not least, the blue king crab, a rare species found around Nemuro on the far eastern tip of Hokkaido. This crab, which is well known to serious crab enthusiasts, is of the same species as the red king crab, but has a richer taste. And because its legs are thicker and contain more meat, it’s particularly filling. The clear red color becomes a deep crimson shade when boiled, adding a brilliant decoration to the dining table. Chopped into chunks, the legs go very well with teppo-jiru (crab-leg miso soup) and other types of nabe hot-pot cooking.

Though Hokkaido is well known for having a variety of delicious food, you can’t leave without trying the crab. The only problem is deciding which dish to choose! 

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