GUIDE Cheap and Delicious Seafood in Hokkaido by JNTO on 01 February 2019
Japan is known for its seafood, and Hokkaido has its own multitude of fresh and affordable seafood options in different season. Visitors come to Hokkaido to feast on its signature offerings like crab, sea urchin, squid, salmon, and scallops.
Hokkaido has four species of crabs – Kegani (horsehair crab), Tarabagani (King crab), Zuwaigani (snow crab), and Hanasaki Crab – which are normally best during winter, except for Hanasaki Crab which is in season from August to October. Sea urchin (in season from June to August) has a rich taste with creamy texture, while the Hakodate Squid is the source of pride for Hokkaido. Scallops, in season from December to February, are also famous and enjoyed grilled or fresh. The most ubiquitous seafood is salmon, especially its roe (called ikura), which is commonly enjoyed as an ikura don, a rice bowl topped with servings of roe.
Seafood is often perceived to be expensive, but you can actually enjoy them at various places across Hokkaido at a reasonable price, whether it’s in an izakaya, a conveyor-belt sushi bar, or a specialty restaurant.
Nemuro Hanamaru is a popular sushi chain restaurant with ten stores across Hokkaido (eight in Sapporo and two in Nemuro), including conveyor-belt restaurants and sushi bars. Hanamaru originated from Nemuro, a port town on the east coast of Hokkaido where the surrounding seas are known for being rich fishing grounds. The ingredients come straight from Nemuro, and customers are willing to wait for hours to get in – sometimes up to 2.5 hours! Like Toriton, the menu changes with the season. You can also have local sake from Nemuro to accompany your meal.
Nagoyakatei is another conveyor-belt sushi restaurant with nine branches in Sapporo alone, in addition to outlets in Kushiro and Obihiro. The restaurants all feature a lively atmosphere with a warm wooden interior. You can ask the sushi chefs at the counter to recommend specialties like saury and whale sushi. Some dishes are even prepared with entertainment. For example, when dishing out the salmon roe gunkan sushi, a server will beat a wadaiko drum while shouting.
Hachikyo is an izakaya (Japanese-style pub) with four locations in Sapporo; each location has a different vibe with the same menu and an atmosphere of a cosy fishing hut. Two of the outlets – the main branch and the ofukuro (mother) branch – feature tatami floor seating for a convivial atmosphere. Hachikyo offers affordable dinner sets with an extensive selection of dishes which include fresh seasonal seafood delivered to their locations from various fishing ports. Their specialty is “tsukko meshi”, which is rice that is very generously topped with salmon roe; they claim that no other restaurant in the world uses as much roe as they do!
Hyousetsu-no-mon, established in 1964, is the longest-running crab restaurant in Sapporo, serving 30 different crab dishes including crab sashimi, charcoal-grilled dishes, shabu-shabu and tempura. Premium Japanese king crabs, snow crabs and horsehair crabs are always in stock. Their crabs come from nearby waters – the red king crab is caught in the Bering Sea, the large and rare snow crabs are from the Sea of Japan, and the horsehair crabs are from local Japanese waters. Between August and September, the restaurant serves blue king crab – the largest king crab species which tastes sweeter than the red king crab.
Hokkaido is the perfect place to satisfy your seafood cravings, thanks to its wide selection of restaurants that offer the freshest seafood dishes, from sushi to crab. Don’t miss out on these delicacies when travelling to Hokkaido.