A Must For Crab Lovers! Japan’s Delicious Crab Varieties and Fishing Areas

This is an introduction on Japan's crab, its varieties and famous production areas, for true crab meat lovers! Do you like crab as sashimi (raw) or shabu shabu (hot pot)? Imagine it boiled, grilled or in an hot pot while reading this article!

If You Want to Eat Crab in Japan, These Are the Best Locations!

When it comes to areas with delicious crab, Hokkaido comes on top as the number one place in Japan for the amount of crab catch. Many crab varieties can be found in the area, and different crabs can be enjoyed depending on the season. Other important areas are the ones facing the Sea of Japan, the San-in region (Tottori, Shimane, Hyogo prefectures, and the northern part of the Kyoto prefecture), and the Hokuriku region (Fukui, Ishikawa, Toyama, and Niigata prefectures), known especially for large quantities of the so called "brand crabs", which are sold at a really high price. This article will introduce the fishing areas, seasons, and taste differences of various kinds of crabs.

Hokkaido Crabs

Red King Crab (Hokkaido)

Season: April to May and November to February
This is one of the three most famous crab varieties in Japan and can be caught only in Hokkaido. Red King Crab is big and its meat has a firm but tender texture, while the taste is simple and light. Its thick and long legs contain a large quantity of meat and it is recommended to bite into them after grilling them or boiling them during shabu shabu.

Red Snow Crab (Hokkaido)

Season: April to June
This is different variety from the Snow Crab that will be introduced afterwards. While it is said that it is less tasty than the Snow Crab, fresh Red Snow Crab from Hokkaido is still quite juicy and sweet! It is recommended to eat it raw as sashimi and its innards (called "kani-miso") are also delicious. They can be found in Snow Crabs too, but it is difficult to find them to buy.

Hairy Crab

Season: all year round (it can be caught in different seasons in different areas throughout the year) The Hairy Crab is a little smaller than other varieties and its whole shell is covered by fur. It doesn't contain a lot of meat but it is very tasty, and one of its peculiarities is the sweet and rich taste of its innards. Hair Crab is delicious when eaten mixing the meat and innards, or when used in Western style dishes like pasta or gratin.

Brown King Crab

Season: July to September
Its whole shell is covered in long pointy thorns and when it is boiled its color changes to a bright red. This crab's fishing season is short, and the catch amount is decreasing, which gives it its nickname of the "Phantom Crab". Its meat has a firm texture and it is sweet and rich in flavor. A special version of miso soup made with this crab - Teppo soup - is delicious. Every year in September, when Brown King Crabs can be tasted in season, the Nemuro Crab Festival takes place, which draws a great number of tourists to the area.

San-in and Hokuriku Regions Crabs

Snow Crab

Season: Niigata Prefecture and northwards - October 1st to May 31st
Toyama Prefecture and westwards - female crabs November 6th to January 1st and male crabs November 6th to March 20th
The taste of Japan's winter sea. Slightly smaller than the Red King Crab, with slender long legs, its peculiarity is the sweetness and the genuine crab taste. Dishes with simple seasoning, like sashimi or shabu shabu, are recommended to enjoy this crab's creamy texture. In-season raw Snow Crab is very expensive and the most high quality ones can be sold for over 10,000 JPY each! The more crab leech eggs are on their shells, the more meat the crab has inside. The Snow Crab has always had many names depending on the fishing area or harbor where it is caught. Lately, Snow Crabs are registered under different brands and they come with an official tag to avoid confusing them with imported crabs or the similar Red Snow Crabs. The same variety of Snow Crab can be found under many different names. The following are the brands it is sold as:

Matsuba Crab

Generic name for the males caught in the San-in area of the Sea of Japan. Females are called Oya Crab (mother crab) or Komochi Crab (parent crab).

Echizen Crab

Males caught in the Fukui Prefecture. The color of the certification tag is yellow. Females are called Seiko Crab.

Taiza Crab

Male crabs caught in the Taiza Harbor on the Tango Peninsula in the northern part of Kyoto. Their certification tag is green. Females are called Koppe Crab.

Kano Crab and Kobako Crab

Kano Crabs are the males caught in the Ishikawa Prefecture and their certification tag is blue. The females are called Kobako Crab and are the only female crabs that are marketed as a brand.

*The name changes whether the crab is male or female because the taste differs between the two. Females lay eggs and this takes away a lot of their nourishment, so male crabs are tastier.

Red Snow Crab (San-in and Hokuriku)

Season: September to June Close relative of the Snow Crab and identical in appearance. Its main characteristic is the bright red color even before it is boiled. Its fishing season is long and, compared to the Snow Crab introduced earlier, it is cheaper. Catching the females of this variety is prohibited. Red Snow Crabs caught near the Kasumi Harbor are sold as a brand and are called Kasumi Crab.

Many kinds of delicious crabs reach their ideal season and are caught from the opening of the fishing season in September to around May of the following year. Decide what crab you are aiming for and try eating up extremely fresh crab dishes in the market of a fishing area or in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn).

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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