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Dine With the Master! Hokkaido Crab Expert Shares All About Crab Season, Popular Types & Where To Find Them

Dine With the Master! Hokkaido Crab Expert Shares All About Crab Season, Popular Types & Where To Find Them

Date published: 18 August 2020
Last updated: 11 July 2022

Many people will say, "When in Hokkaido, you must try Hokkaido crab!"

Surrounded by colder water, Japan's northern island of Hokkaido is a crab hotspot. Here you can find many restaurants offering a variety of crab delights, plus shops that process crabs imported from Russia and Alaska.

Now we know that crab with the right amount of saltiness, deliciousness, and sweetness that fills your mouth is what you are looking for! But what kind of crab can you find in Hokkaido, and when is it most delicious?

We spoke with Marumi Osanai Shoten, a crab processor in Nijo Market, which is very popular with travelers, to find out!

Table of Contents
  1. What kinds of crab can you find in Hokkaido?
  2. 1. King crab (Brown crab, Blue crab) season: November - February
  3. 2. Snow crab season: March - July
  4. 3. Hanasaki crab season: May to August
  5. 4. Hairy crab season: Year-round
  6. How much does Hokkaido crab cost? Where can I find on a budget?
  7. 1. King crab price: 10,000 - 13,000 yen/kg
  8. 2. Snow crab price: 3,000 - 5,000 yen/kg
  9. 3. Hanasaki crab price: 3,500 - 4,500 yen/kg
  10. 4. Hairy crab price: 10,000 yen/kg
  11. Tips for eating Hokkaido crab
  12. How to peel red king crab
  13. How to peel Hanasaki Crab
  14. How to peel Hanasaki crab claws
  15. How to eat hairy crab 'kani-miso'
  16. What is the most popular type of Hokkaido crab among tourists?
  17. Can Hokkaido crab be shipped internationally as a gift?
  18. Marumi Osanai Shoten: Founded in Nijo Market 65 years ago

What kinds of crab can you find in Hokkaido?

What kinds of crab can you find in Hokkaido?

In Hokkaido, you find mainly red king crab (tarabagani), brown crab (ibaragani), and blue crab (aburagani), which look relatively similar to each other.

Also, you can find snow crab (zuwaigani), Hanasaki crab (hanasakigani), and hairy crab (kegani). Each has a different taste and season.

1. King crab (Brown crab, Blue crab) season: November - February

1. King crab (Brown crab, Blue crab) season: November - February

The photo shows an enormous king crab with its spiky shell and long legs. Meat is packed in the legs and is excellent for eating.

In Hokkaido, king crab is mainly caught in the Sea of Okhotsk, though in small amounts. Most of them are currently caught in Russia or Alaska. You can find fresh and frozen king crab all year round, but the winter season (November to February), when the stock available increases, is when you can find exceptionally healthy and tasty crab.

Brown crab and blue crab, closely related species that look just like red king crab, live in deeper water than red king crab and are sold only in frozen form.

2. Snow crab season: March - July

2. Snow crab season: March - July

This is a beautiful snow crab with slender legs. In Japanese, it is often known as “hon-zuwaigani” or “zuwaigani,” but is known by a few other names throughout the country.

Many crabs from Hokkaido are caught in Russia and are distributed year-round. However, the best time to eat them is spring: from March to July.

3. Hanasaki crab season: May to August

3. Hanasaki crab season: May to August

When boiled, the Hanasaki crab shell and body turn a bright red like a flower ("hana" means "flower" in Japanese). The exterior features a lot of thorns and is very hard.

In Japan, Hanasaki crab can only be caught off the coast of Nemuro in Hokkaido and its vicinity and is often landed at Hanasaki Port in Nemuro City. It is also referred to as phantom crab.

In recent years, many of the species caught in Hokkaido are small, and mainly Russian varieties caught in the Bering Sea and off Sakhalin are in circulation.

Hanasaki crabs caught from May to August are large and tasty and are referred to as summer crabs (natsugani).

4. Hairy crab season: Year-round

4. Hairy crab season: Year-round

A hairy crab has a shell covered with hair. Most of the hairy crabs in circulation are from Hokkaido, and are the island’s representative species. Hairy crabs are smaller than red king crab and snow crab.

You can eat not only the body but also “kani-miso,” creamy and salty, paste-like crab innards. The area where hairy crabs can be found moves as the season progresses, and they can be caught at various points along the Hokkaido coast. Since hairy crab is available all year round, there is minimal seasonal price fluctuation.

How much does Hokkaido crab cost? Where can I find on a budget?

How much does Hokkaido crab cost? Where can I find on a budget?

We asked Etsushi Nishide, the manager of Marumi Osanai Shoten, about the flavor profiles and prices of Hokkaido crab.

1. King crab price: 10,000 - 13,000 yen/kg

"King crab has the strongest sweetness. As the name implies, it's a big crab and full of meat, so it's very satisfying! Typically it's boiled or steamed, but it is also delicious when baked. The price is around 10,000 to 13,000 yen per kilogram in winter, when the volume of distribution increases."

The king crab from Alaska in the United States, which is famous for its large size and good taste, has been popular in recent years. It is a luxury product that is quickly frozen on board after being caught. One leg in the photo is about 2 kg and the whole is about 6 kg.
The king crab from Alaska in the United States, which is famous for its large size and good taste, has been popular in recent years. It is a luxury product that is quickly frozen on board after being caught. One leg in the photo is about 2 kg and the whole is about 6 kg.

2. Snow crab price: 3,000 - 5,000 yen/kg

"Snow crab is the next best thing to enjoy the sweetness of king crab. As with king crab, you can enjoy snow crab miso, and it is as delicious as hairy crab. Try it boiled or steamed—or enjoy it shabu-shabu style. When it's at its peak deliciousness in spring, the price is about 3,000 yen per kilogram."

3. Hanasaki crab price: 3,500 - 4,500 yen/kg

"Hanasaki crab has a richer body taste and a shrimp-like flavor compared to other crabs. Freshly boiled live crab is especially delicious. It also features a crisp and elastic texture. I especially recommended trying it in the local cuisine, 'Teppoujiru miso soup.' The price of Hanasaki crab is about 3,500 to 4,500 yen per kg in the summer season."

4. Hairy crab price: 10,000 yen/kg

"Unlike other types of crab, hairy crab has a softer and lighter taste. The crab miso is outstanding. It is recommended to eat the meat with crab miso. During its season, you can find fresh hairy crab in areas all around Hokkaido. Hairy crab is very popular with people in Hokkaido. The price is about 10,000 yen per kilogram, though you may find it at a bargain at about 3,000 yen for 400 grams."

Tips for eating Hokkaido crab

Crabs tend to have a hard, thorny shell. Once you get the hang of it, it's easy to eat. We recommend using kitchen scissors.

How to peel red king crab

Put scissors on the joint at the base of the leg and snip it off.
Put scissors on the joint at the base of the leg and snip it off.
The white part has a soft shell, so make a cut there.
The white part has a soft shell, so make a cut there.
Make a notch in the white part on the opposite side.
Make a notch in the white part on the opposite side.
You can easily take out the meat by peeling away the shell.
You can easily take out the meat by peeling away the shell.

How to peel Hanasaki Crab

As with the king crab, scissors are put in the joint at the base of the leg and cut.
As with the king crab, scissors are put in the joint at the base of the leg and cut.
Cut the joint in the middle of the leg.
Cut the joint in the middle of the leg.
Insert scissors from the cut off-end and run a cut down one side.
Insert scissors from the cut off-end and run a cut down one side.
From the other side, also insert scissors from the edge and make a notch.
From the other side, also insert scissors from the edge and make a notch.
When you remove the shell, you will easily get the meat inside.
When you remove the shell, you will easily get the meat inside.

How to peel Hanasaki crab claws

Hanasaki crab claws are especially hard, but the inside is tightly packed with meat. First, cut off from the joint at the base of the claw.
Hanasaki crab claws are especially hard, but the inside is tightly packed with meat. First, cut off from the joint at the base of the claw.
Hit the nail shell with a knife to make a crack.
Hit the nail shell with a knife to make a crack.
When you open the shell, the large piece of meat comes out from inside.
When you open the shell, the large piece of meat comes out from inside.

How to eat hairy crab 'kani-miso'

From behind the shell, put your fingers in the top and bottom to break open the shell.
From behind the shell, put your fingers in the top and bottom to break open the shell.
Eat the 'kani-miso' accumulated in the shell with a spoon. You can also use the crab miso as a dip for the crab legs. Just peel off the legs the same way you did for the king crab or the Hanasaki crab and enjoy.
Eat the 'kani-miso' accumulated in the shell with a spoon. You can also use the crab miso as a dip for the crab legs. Just peel off the legs the same way you did for the king crab or the Hanasaki crab and enjoy.

What is the most popular type of Hokkaido crab among tourists?

What is the most popular type of Hokkaido crab among tourists?

Large king crabs, which are satisfying to eat and have a pleasant sweetness, are the most popular with foreign visitors. The hairy crab's 'kani-miso' is also quite popular.

Can Hokkaido crab be shipped internationally as a gift?

Marumi Osanai Shoten can ship refrigerated or frozen to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. For Hong Kong and Taiwan, both refrigerated and frozen crab starts from 7,000 yen (small size box).

For Singapore and Malaysia, both refrigerated and frozen crab starts from 11,000 yen (small size box). Thanks to a special agreement with the shipping company, you can send it cheaper than general.

Marumi Osanai Shoten: Founded in Nijo Market 65 years ago

Marumi Osanai Shoten: Founded in Nijo Market 65 years ago

Marumi Osanai Shoten, which shared lots of helpful information about Hokkaido crab, can be found in Nijo Market in central Sapporo. Nijo Ichiba is lined with shops selling a variety of Hokkaido foods, such as seafood, including crabs, and melons.

Marumi Osanai Shoten sells a variety of Hokkaido seafood in addition to fruits and vegetables from the region, like melon, corn, and potatoes. There are only a few aquariums with crabs in Nijo Market, and theirs contain live king crab, snow crab, Hanasaki crab, and hairy crab. You can even choose your crab from the aquarium and eat it on the spot! It takes about 20 minutes to boil. It is a top-rated service.

Currently, staff are taking measures against coronavirus, such as wearing face shields and providing hand sanitizer so that you can shop confidently.

When you visit Hokkaido, you want to eat the most delicious crab at that time. Please use this article as a reference to fully enjoy the best Hokkaido crab in the best season.

  • Marumi Osanai Shoten
    有限会社 マルミ長内商店
    • Address 1 Chome Minami 3 Jo higashi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido
    • Phone Number 011-221-2278
    • Hours: 8am – 5pm
      Closed: Open daily

Text by: Minna no Kotobasha
*The information in this article is as of August 2020.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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