When one speaks of flavors of the Sea of Japan, red snow crab is one of them. In Itoigawa-shi in Niigata prefecture, Marine Dream Nou is the place where soft-bodied and juicy red snow crab can be found.
Boiled crab is available from March to December, and except for January and February, you can taste this delicacy almost all year round.
We made a trip down to Michi-no-Eki “Marine Dream Nou”, a wholesale market where you can partake in the highest quality red snow crab this side of the Sea of Japan!
- Table of Contents
- Marine Dream Nou, wholesaler of the best crabs from the Sea of Japan
- Freshness is the key to Nou's freshwater crabs!
- Relish samples of red snow crab!
- You can see the freshness of a crab by looking at its belly!
- Satisfy yourself with the plump flesh and rich brown meat!
- But there’s more! Other fun things to do at Marine Dream!
- Book a table now!
Marine Dream Nou, wholesaler of the best crabs from the Sea of Japan
From Nou station on the Echigo TOKImeki Railway, drive along the coastline for about five minutes and you’ll reach the Michi-no-Eki, or roadside rest area, Marine Dream Nou. You’ll find rows of fresh fish lined up for sale at the fish market, and well as restaurants and souvenir corners.
The information counter also has one staff each for English and Chinese language services. Though they do have breaks in between their shifts, don’t hesitate to speak to them if you get the chance.
Even amongst the shops there, the “Kaniya Yockocho”, or crab market street, is especially popular, with rows of shops selling red snow crab all lined up. The crabs are harvested from the port nearby, and you can taste their freshness, having been boiled by the fishermen themselves before being transported over to the market.
You can even try out the red snow crab for yourself right there and then. In Nou, the very essence of the red snow crab is in their freshness!
Freshness is the key to Nou's freshwater crabs!
Red snow crab is famous for its soft and juicy flesh. Compared to snow crabs, red snow crab have a strong and sweet flavor, making them a popular choice amongst foreign visitors too.
Red snow crab are found at depths of 800 to 1,000 meters under sea level, where the temperature is largely constant all year round. As such, there is no set fishing season for them.
In Kaniya Yokocho, the shops are closed during the fishing ban for crabs from January to February, but for the rest of the year from March to December, you can savor the fresh taste of red snow crab.
The freshness of red snow crab is vital to its taste. From the moment the crabs are hauled up from the ocean floor onto the fishing boats, their freshness begins to deteriorate. As such, it is essential that the time between the harvesting and boiling of the crabs be kept as short as possible.
In Nou, the water depth increases suddenly due to sharp drops in the ocean floor, so the time taken to reach the shore from the deep sea fishing grounds is relatively short.
From the landing of the boats to the boiling and preparation of the crabs, the short time taken for the whole process guarantees some of the freshest and tastiest red snow crab you can get your hands on in Kaniya Yokocho.
Relish samples of red snow crab!
In Kaniya Yokocho, there are nine wholesale shops selling crabs, and you can see lively ladies calling out their goods for sale.
This time, we visited the wholesale shop for the fishing vessel, Soueimaru. “Please wait a moment, wait a moment,” we were told as we approached, before being presented with some crab legs.
“Try it out!”, she said as we quickly relished the legs, and we were surprised by how soft the meat was!
The Soueimaru started operating in 2005 as a fishing boat that exclusively harvested crabs for sale to other shops, but it has now started operating its own wholesale shop too. As there is no middleman, you can get crabs at low prices.
You can see the freshness of a crab by looking at its belly!
How are the prices of Japanese crabs decided?
It seems that it’s decided based on the size and plumpness of the crabs. But even so, how is the plumpness of the crabs judged?
This is based on the color of the belly of the crab. For fleshy crabs, the large amount of meat inside the shell will cause the belly to appear whiter.
How are the prices of the crabs decided?
It seems that it’s decided based on the size and plumpness of the crabs. But even so, how is the plumpness of the crabs judged? This is based on the color of the belly of the crab. For fleshy crabs, the large amount of meat inside the shell will cause the belly to appear whiter.
On the other hand, if there isn’t much flesh in the belly, it will appear translucent. If the belly appears translucent, it means that the crab has just molted recently, and as such, it would be less plump and fleshy.
Though there are many people who buy the crabs for takeaway from Kaniya Yokocho, most patrons eat the crabs on site. With a rough budget and the number of people in your group in mind, you’ll be brought to a suitable shop for your needs.
“Even if we don’t understand foreign languages, we can get by with body language and hand signals, so please don’t hesitate to talk to us.” Words of a reliable person indeed!
Satisfy yourself with the plump flesh and rich brown meat!
After picking up some crabs from Kaniya Yokocho, let’s head to the restaurant area at “Kanikani Kan” for a break. On fair-weathered days, you can enjoy your crabs while taking in views of the Sea of Japan! Enjoying the sea breeze while relishing in the crabs is a luxurious way to pass your time.
This time, we purchased 3,000-yen worth of crabs, with one large and two medium sized crabs, for a total of three crabs. We were offered one extra crab filled with brown meat as a bonus!
Using kitchen scissors, we first removed the legs from the main body. The main body can be easily cracked open by inserting your hand into the gap under the belly and pulling it open, so do give it a try! Even so, it can be quite a challenge the first-time round.
If you’re unsure of how to do it, do ask the shop staff for help. Many of the warm and friendly shop staff will go to extreme lengths to teach you just how it’s done, even if they can’t speak foreign languages.
The crab legs are thick and juicy! As the brown meat is still fresh, it was neither fishy nor stale, but was instead thick and delicious! It seems that brown meat is most abundant in crabs with small shells. Compared to the brown meat in crabs with large shells, the ones with smaller shells have brown meat with stronger flavors.
But there’s more! Other fun things to do at Marine Dream!
Marine Dream Nou doesn’t just have Kaniya Yokocho, there are restaurants that serve red snow crab, and a souvenir corner too.
Next to Kaniya Yokocho is the Marine Dream Honkan, the main building. One restaurant here is “Milky Way”, which has served ramen, pasta, soft cream, and since long ago.
Our recommendations are the crab ramen at 1,200 yen (with tax, top picture), and the crab cream pasta, also at 1,200 yen (with tax, pictured bottom). Both dishes use generous servings of snow crab legs produced on-site at the processing facility next to the rest stop.
Besides this, there are other shops selling foods that feature seafood from the Sea of Japan, such as the restaurants “Ajisenshioji Banya”, and “Nagi”, which serves seafood bowls and set meals using fish from the fishmonger at the rest stop, “Uomasa”. After having your fill of crab, if you still have room in your stomach, do be sure to top it up at the restaurants.
Outside the exit of the restaurant “Milky Way”, you’ll be greeted by a souvenir shop.
One item that caught our eye is the crab cola (324 yen, with tax)! It seems that it’s made using powdered crab shells. It’s a unique product only found here, where it’s produced. Other products include instant crab ramen and canned brown meat, amongst other goods made from crab.
A bit further down from Kaniya Yokocho, is the seafood center, a market that only sells processed fish and seafood from Nou Fishing port. From rock oysters to sweet prawns, squid, and much more, a large variety of seafood is lined up for sale.
Deep-sea fish such as monkish and flounder also make their way to the market. For Nou, which is situated close to deep waters, such catches are a regular at the market.
As you continue walking along the shops, you’ll see a sign with the words “Hamayaki”, which means “beach grill”, splashed across it. You can pick your seafood of choice to be grilled, ranging from mussels to horned turbans and abalone, and more.
After picking your favorite hamayaki, you can head down to the Kanikani Kan to complete your set meal with some crabs!
Marine Dream Nou is the place for enjoying the best that the Sea of Japan has to offer, including the rare opportunity to eat the crab that you’ve just bought on the spot.
Though it’s rather far from Niigata Airport and Niigata station via bullet train, taking around two hours and thirty minutes inclusive of transfers, it’s well worth the trip!
The location is excellent, directly facing the Sea of Japan, offering a wide and splendid view of it. As it’s near a fishing port, you can enjoy red snow crab and a host of other seafood, so do be sure to make a trip down!
Michi-no-Eki “Marine Dream Nou”道の駅「マリンドリーム能生」
- Address 3592-2, Noukodomari, Itoigawa-shi, Niigata-ken, 949-1351
- Phone Number 025-566-3456
Kaniya Yokocho: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Seafood center: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (January and February: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., April to September: 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)
Marine Dream Honkan:
January to March: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends
April to December: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Opens all year round
Book a table now!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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