HOME Hokkaido Wakkanai Try your hand fishing for sea urchin on Rishiri Island! Eat the sea urchin you get either raw on the spot or gunkanmaki (wrapped in seaweed) style
Try your hand fishing for sea urchin on Rishiri Island! Eat the sea urchin you get either raw on the spot or gunkanmaki (wrapped in seaweed) style

Try your hand fishing for sea urchin on Rishiri Island! Eat the sea urchin you get either raw on the spot or gunkanmaki (wrapped in seaweed) style

Date published: 4 October 2018

Interested in seeing what it’s like to be a fisherman on Rishiri Island? Here you can do what the local fishermen do when harvesting sea urchins: crack open those that you yourself caught and eat them on the spot. You don’t need to get into the water to do it, either. No need to change clothes and no special preparations are required, so you don’t need to bring anything. At the Kamui Seaside Park on Rishiri Island you can have such an easy-going and enjoyable experience. Freshly harvested sea urchin are exceptionally delicious! Here you will find limited edition “exotic sweets” made with sea urchin and Rishiri kelp that certainly should be tried.

Visit Kamui Seaside Park!

At Kamui Seaside Park you can experience harvesting sea urchins yourself (1,000 yen per sea urchin per person) and enjoy local dishes using such special products of the area as sea urchin and Rishiri kelp.

The Kutsugata district on the west coast of Rishiri Island
The area in the lower part of the photo is where sea urchin can be cracked open and tasted. The small boats moored in the upper part of the photo are used for tourists catching sea urchins.

Kamui Seaside Park can be reached by car in about 30 minutes from Oshidomari Port which is serviced by ships that make several trips each day from Wakanai and Rebun Island.

Ships running from Rebun Island, which operate only in the summer, arrive at Kutsugata Port and it is only a 10-minute car-ride from there. There is one round-trip flight each from the New Chitose Airport and the Sapporo Okadama Airport to the Rishiri Airport and from there it takes about 20 minutes by car (the flight from New Chitose Airport operates only during the summer season).

Many of the visitors to Rishiri Island take the ferry that runs between Wakanai and Oshidomari. Between spring and autumn there are three to four round-trips made each day.

Local buses do operate on Rishiri Island, but they have only a few scheduled runs so it is better to rent a car at either Oshidomari Port or Rishiri Airport when you visit. There are many visitors during the summer season so it is best to make reservations well in advance of your visit.

Feel what it’s like to be a sea urchin fisherman!

So, let’s actually try harvesting sea urchins!

First you need to visit the reception in the building. You will need to fill out a form with your name and other particulars and pay the fee for the experience. You can also enjoy a light meal at the Kitarindo Kamui Seaside Park next door.

The sea urchin harvesting experience runs from June to September. If the groups are not booked up, you can participate on the day you arrive, but as this is a very popular experience, it is best to make a reservation in advance. This is especially true during the peak tourist season in the middle of summer.

After you register a staff member will take you to the boats

These boats are exactly the same as those used by sea urchin fishermen. The boats are docked in the breakwater where they are protected from the wind and waves, so you do not need to worry about becoming seasick because of rough weather.

The wind was rather strong on the day we visited, and although the boats swayed a little bit, they did not rock so much because they are moored in shallow water.

After boarding the boat the staff will give you the necessary equipment and explain how to use it to harvest the sea urchin.

Two implements are used. A device with a glass bottom for viewing beneath the surface of the water called “box glasses” (right) and a long pole with a net on the end of it (left).

These are exactly the same implements used by sea urchin fishermen. The method for harvesting the sea urchin is also exactly the same. With these you can actually experience what it is like to be a sea urchin fisherman.

No need to worry because a staff member will be there to assist you.

Sea urchin are nocturnal creatures so during the day they hide among the rocks and kelp. The slight rocking of the boat also makes them difficult to see.

The box glasses make it easy to see the bottom even in spite of being rocked by waves.

This is how it looks through the box glasses. When I looked through the box glasses my hair fell forward and made me look like a sea urchin (lol). It might be a good idea for women and those with long hair to use a hair band to keep their hair in place.
Sea urchin on the bottom as seen through the box glasses

While looking through the box glasses, dip the net into the water and try to scoop up the sea urchin. It is a bit similar to the goldfish scooping stalls seen at festivals, but unlike goldfish, the sea urchin do not move quickly so it is rather easy to scoop them up.

Gotcha!

These are all of course natural sea urchin! Here on Rishiri you can really feel close to nature.
When the number of sea urchin on the bottom becomes few due to many people enjoying this sort of experience, the staff will replenish the number with those caught by fishermen so there is no worry about not being able to catch one.

Successful catch!
Once you catch a sea urchin, you put it in the strainer on the boat and can then take it with you when you get off the boat.

The sea urchin you can catch here are purple sea urchin. The bafun sea urchin are much rarer, so for this experience it is possible to only get purple sea urchin. Also, keep in mind that even if there should be bafun sea urchin here, you are not allowed to catch them.

Crack open the sea urchin you caught and eat it!

After you leave the boat, take your sea urchin to the sink area where you can crack it open.
The tools for doing that are here and they are exactly the same as those used by sea urchin fishermen.

This device that looks like pliers is especially made for cracking open sea urchin. The implement next to it is used for removing the meat from the shell of the sea urchin. The bowl to the right is filled with sea water and is used for rinsing the meat.

The first step is cracking open the shell and you need to be careful how you hold the sea urchin when you do that.

At first glance it seems that shell is covered everywhere with thorn-like bristles, but in fact, there is one place that is different and that is the mouth of the sea urchin.

If you look closely you can see a round white area in the center of all the thorny bristles and that is the mouth.

When cracking open a sea urchin, put the sea urchin so that the mouth is down and then crack it open from the top.
If you are not sure how to do that, don’t worry because the staff member will gladly help you.

With the mouth down, place the device in the center of the top and lightly insert it into the shell. Don’t use too much force because that might damage the meat.
After gently inserting the device, squeeze the handles and that will pop open the shell.

It’s really very simple and takes only a second to crack it open.

As soon as you crack it open, scoop out the meat.
Use the spatula-like device to gently scoop out the meat without damaging it.
Place the meat that has been scooped out in the strainer.
Once the meat has been removed, the shell and mouth (upper right white object) are no longer needed so can be discarded.

When removing the meat inevitably some of the shell and internal organs get stuck to it, so it is necessary to rinse the meat before eating it.

Slowly put the strainer containing the meat into the bowl of sea water and this will clean most of the meat.
Use your fingers to remove anything that did not rinse off.
Cleaned sea urchin meat!
Transfer the meat to another container. The meat comes apart slightly, but in one sea urchin the meat can be divided into four portions.

Removing the meat from the sea urchin and cleaning it.
When considering that sea urchin sold in markets is harvested one at a time by fishermen and then cleaned by hand, the high price of sea urchin is understandable.

Try it in a gunkanmaki (rice with a seaweed wrapper)

You can eat the sea urchin as it is after it has been removed and cleaned.

Savoring sea urchin just removed from the shell. It melts the moment you put it in your mouth. It has a slightly salty taste seemed to me like “sea urchin cream cheese”.

At the Kitarindo Kamui Seaside Park shop you can get a gunkanmaki rice with wrapper (100 yen each) on which you can then top it with the sea urchin thus making your own uni gunkanmaki.

Top the gunkanmaki with sea urchin, putting the smaller pieces in first and then layering the larger ones on top to give it a professional look!
There you have your own original uni gunkanmaki! If you like, you can even dip it in Rishiri kelp soy sauce.
Enjoying my uni gunkanmaki on the terrace!

I ate it without dipping it in soy sauce so as to fully savor the flavor of the sea urchin.
It is delicious as it is. With its slightly salty flavor, the sea urchin has a rich sweetness that spreads throughout your mouth. Served on a gunkan, the rice and seaweed are the perfect combination to give it an even milder flavor.

There are many shops where you can eat sea urchin, but catching your own, preparing, and eating it is a rare experience and indeed a memorable experience!

You must try the Aisurishirizan ice cream!

After the sea urchin experience, I really recommend you try the ice cream at the Kitarindo Seaside Park shop. It’s called Aisurishirizan.

Aisurishirizan flavored with sea urchin and kelp 500 yen

It is vanilla ice cream topped with kelp salt, small pieces of kelp, powdered sea urchin, and large pieces of dried sea urchin served with a spoon made of kelp.
This unique dish enables you to enjoy the delicacies of the sea together with ice cream.
It definitely is a one-of-a-kind treat you should try!

Here is the recommended way to eat it.

First, take a large bite with a spoonful topped with a large piece of dried sea urchin

The dried sea urchin crumbles in your mouth and mixes with the soft ice cream. It doesn’t melt in the way that raw sea urchin does, but in a softer, lighter way that still imparts the full flavor of the sea urchin.

Once you’ve savored the taste of the sea urchin the next step is to mix all the ingredients.

While enjoying the lingering flavor of the dried sea urchin, stir everything together with the kelp spoon.
After stirring everything together, after a bit it becomes soft like Turkish ice cream as you can see in the above photo.

By stirring the mixture, the salt reacts with the ice cream to make it colder, freezing the small bits of kelp making them crisp, which further accents the dish.

The thick, sweet flavor of the sea urchin combined with the umami of the kelp is indescribably delicious. Not only sweet and delicious, this is an ice cream full of flavor!

This unique ice cream actually has three patents.

Chiharu Hirakawa, director of Kitarindo, invented this ice cream dish.

The first patent is for the drying process of the sea urchin.
There not being a local ice cream on Rishiri Island, she began experimenting through trial and error to make one and hit upon the idea of using dried sea urchin. Dried sea urchin has a longer shelf life, thus making it possible to be sold as a gift item like kelp that visitors could take away with them. She thought that tourists would enjoy ice cream made with the island’s most famous product.

The second patent is for the kelp spoon.
There is only one large section at the base of each strand of kelp. Ms. Hirakawa comes from a family of kelp fishermen on Rishiri Island, so she wanted to find a new way to utilize the kelp.

The idea and technique for cutting kelp into a spoon shape received a patent.

The third patent is for the kelp salt.
Kelp salt is commercially sold, but this kelp salt is made by a different process.
The white powder (glutamic acid) that forms on the surface of the kelp when it is preserved is collected and then mixed with saltwater salt from the sea around Rishiri. It is the heavy mixture of glutamic acid that imparts the strong, delicious salt flavor.

This delicious ice cream dish is the product of much knowledge and technique and one pleasantly savored while enjoying the magnificent view of the sea!

Here is another experience you might like to try.

In addition to the sea urchin fishing experience and the Aisurishirizan there are other gourmet experiences you can also enjoy.

Crab fishing experience (free). You can borrow special gear for fishing for small crab (you can’t eat them) along the seaside. The day I tried I didn’t have any luck.
In the Rishiri Kelp Gift Experience (1,500 yen) you can make three original gift items from kelp (photo provided by Kamui Seaside Park)
The three items made from the kelp are hanaorikombu (kelp that has been flattened out and folded over), kombudashi pakku (kelp soup stock pack), and oshaburikombu (kelp pacifier), and all three go into a package with the image of the island mascot character Rishirin on it so you can take it with you when you leave. (photo provided by Kamui Seaside Park)

Here are some other popular gourmet items at the Kitarindo Kamui Seaside Park shop!

Rishiri kamaboko (boiled fish paste) made from Rishiri Atka mackerel (450 yen per plate). This is a popular family dish familiar to everyone on Rishiri, each family having its own recipe.
Takokatsu (octopus cutlet) made from raw octopus legs and body that have been fried (400 yen per plate). You can select two types of seasoning from among kelp salt, kelp sauce, and kelp soy sauce.
Takokatsukare (octopus cutlet curry) 860 yen. The curry roux is made with a broth made from Rishiri kelp boiled in Rishiri spring water that gives the curry a richer, more flavorful taste.

Each and every dish is a gourmet delight in itself and an experience highly recommended.

When you visit Kamui Seaside Park you can experience fishing for sea urchin and sampling unique sweets and gourmet dishes. This is a place you certainly should visit when you come to Rishiri Island!


※ All prices mentioned in the article include tax.

  • Kamuikaigan Park
    神居海岸パーク(うに獲り体験)
    • Address 〒097-0401 北海道利尻郡利尻町沓形字神居149-2/kamui149-2, Kutsugata, Rishiri-cho Rishiri-gun, Hokkaido, 097-0401, Japan
    • Phone Number 090-6994-2255

    Open: June ~ September
    Hours: 9:00 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m.
    Closed: always open during the season

Written by:Nobuhiro Kawashima

*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.

Share this article.

Recommended places for first-time visitors to Hokkaido
Search