You can have good sushi anywhere in Japan, but you may as well enjoy sushi that is special to the region. Here are five unusual regional ingredients - volume 2.
This is saltwater fish found primarily in the northern parts of the Sea of Japan and in the northwest of the Pacific Ocean. In Japan, Ishikari Bay and Mashike are famous sources. Hakkaku can generally be caught throughout the year, but high season is February and March. Although hard to imagine from its long, thin, and spiky appearance, its meat has a soft and springy texture and it is fatty with light but pleasing flavors when eaten in sushi or as sashimi. It is said that many people go to sushi bars in Hokkaido specifically for the hakkaku. They are rarely found at conveyor belt sushi, so we recommend going to a proper sushi bar. At Uomasa, a popular sushi bar in Otaru that has a large and fresh selection of ingredients, you can enjoy hakkaku not only as sushi, but also as sashimi or grilled. You should stop by!
1. Hakkaku Sailfin Poacher (Hokkaido)
Fujitsubo is a crustacean that lives in shallow rocky reefs and has a calcareous shell. On first appearance, it looks like a shellfish, but it is actually in the shrimp and crab family. There is little of it to eat and it is not that well known around the country, but it is a delicacy that is often eaten in Aomori. As it has become harder to find, it is considered to be a rare gourmet ingredient and is now farmed, primarily in Aomori. Its meat has a sweet flavor that is like a mix of shrimp and crab, and is characterized by the scent of the sea. It is good in seafood bowls, and as gunkan battleship rolls, sashimi, and boiled in salt. If you'd like to try it, we recommend going to Hidezushi, a sushi shop in Aomori frequented by locals. Fujitsubo is in season from the summer to autumn, so it would be wise to check in advance before going.
2. Fujitsubo Balanomorpha (Aomori)
Monkfish, which is known as a winter specialty, is in season in November to February. It is caught in Ibaraki and Shimonoseki, and the monkfish from Ibaraki is especially famous. It's taste is light yet sweet, its meat soft and springy, and it has a pleasing, firm texture when you bite into it. The original monkfish sushi (limited to the winter from November; advance confirmation required as availability depends on weather conditions) at Janome Sushi in Mito consists of the liver, skin, and meat and is rumored to be so good that it is almost addictive. You should try it if you get the chance.
3. Anko Monkfish (Ibaraki)
Mamakari is an alternate name for "sappa," a fish in the family Clupeidae which gets its name because of its light and fresh ("sappari" in Japanese) taste. The name also derives from "manma," an expression for rice, and the idea that it is so good you'll go next door to borrow some rice. It's primarily eaten along the Seto Inland Sea and Ariake Sea. Mamakari sushi is a regional dish in Okayama, and in Okayama, there is a relatively large number of restaurants, including conveyor belt sushi and sushi bars where you can eat them. The mamakari caught in the Seto Inland Sea is fatty, thick, and has a superior flavor. It is typically marinated in vinegar and eaten as nigiri sushi. The Azumazushi Sun Station Terrace Okayama branch is connected to the station for wonderful access! Definitely try this Okayama specialty.
4. Mamakari Japanese Sardinella (Okayama)
Irabucha is the best known of fish endemic to Okinawa. Irabucha is a general term for fish in the Calotomus japonicus family, which are characterized by their colorful appearance of reds and blues. In Okinawa, it is often eaten as sashimi or simmered, and has a firm texture and a light, elegant and fresh flavor. It is available in many sushi shops as an Okinawa sushi ingredient, but if you have the chance, we encourage you to visit the Kokusai Street Food Village Branch of Ryukyu Sushi Tsukiji Aozora Sandaime, an authentic sushi restaurant particular about its ingredients. There, you'll be able to enjoy a unique nigiri sushi with miso-marinated irabucha.
Depending on the region you are visiting, you'll be able to encounter a variety of tasty and rare ingredients. Please be adventurous and try them!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.