Crab is a popular winter food in Japan. It is loved for its tender texture and refined sweetness. This article will provide some basic trivia on crabs and information on how they are eaten, followed by a list of 10 restaurants across the country where you can try some delicious crab dishes.
Different Types of Crabs Eaten in Japan
Red king crab, snow crab, and horsehair crab are the 3 most popular species of crab eaten in Japan. Firstly, the red king crab, true to its name, can be distinguished by its large size. Although the meat is quite dense, it has a light taste, so it's recommended for those who are after quantity. Secondly, the snow crab. It has fewer thorny parts than other species, and has long legs, which is why it is sometimes called queen crab. In Japan, there are different brands of snow crabs across the country, each with a distinctive name by which it is known. For example, snow crab from Fukui Prefecture is usually called Echizen-gani (Echizen crab), while Matsuba-gani (Matsuba crab) is the name given to crabs from Shimane and Tottori Prefectures. Snow crab has a distinctive, sweet flavor with strong umami (Japanese savory taste), and its innards are also deliciously rich. Last, but not least, is the horsehair crab. It is smaller than the above two, and, therefore, has less meat, but it has a strong sweetness as well as innards that are richer and deeper in flavor than any other crab.
Introduction on How to Eat Crabs - 1. Crab Sashimi (Includes Sushi)
Crab sashimi is made with the meat from the legs of a crab with the shell peeled off. Snow crab is often used for sashimi. Leaving it in ice-cold water for less than a minute before consumption tightens up the meat, giving it a tender texture. Crab sashimi is sometimes eaten as nigiri-zushi (hand-rolled sushi), but kani-zushi is a true classic dish, even among crab cuisine. This is a dish of boiled crab meat pulled apart into pieces and placed on a bed of vinegared rice. With the delicious combination of the sweetness of the crab and the vinegared rice, it is no wonder it's such a popular dish.
2. Crab Hot Pot (Includes Crab Shabu)
Kani nabe (crab hot pot) is a dish of crab, vegetables, and other ingredients simmered together. The dashi (broth), full of crab flavor, has a refined and luxurious taste. The trick is to take the crab out first and eat it once the soup comes to a boil. If the crab is overcooked, the meat becomes tough. Kani-shabu (crab parboiled with vegetables), made with crab that is fresh enough to eat raw, is also popular. The crab meat is briefly swished through dashi produced from kelp or other ingredients, dipped in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, and eaten. Try changing the duration that you cook the crab for, and you’ll be able to enjoy a variety of textures from having it rare, medium, or any other way you like!
3. Grilled Crab
To make yaki-gani (grilled crab), the crab is cut into different parts and grilled over charcoal. It is an aromatic dish that allows the diner to experience the umami of the crab as it is. It is recommended to try it with a bit of lemon or sudachi (a kind of Japanese citrus fruit) juice to enhance the sweetness of the crab. When seared, the crab innards become melty, and the flavor becomes even deeper. Dipping the crab meat in the innards is also a superb way of enjoying yaki-gani. This dish goes great with a few drinks!
4. Boiled Crab
Yude-gani (boiled crab) is made by boiling an entire crab. It may seem like a simple way of eating crab, but it actually requires careful attention to the finest details, as the flavors completely change depending on how long it is boiled for or how much salt is added. Great skill is required to determine how to cook the crab just by looking at it and considering the weather of the day or the size and freshness of the crab. This is why, in order to guarantee that you get a nice yude-gani, you should try it at a restaurant. Thanks to the perfect seasoning of the dish by professionals, the boiled crab has a salty flavor, and can be eaten as is. However, it is often eaten dipped in a sauce called “kani-su”. It is a slightly sweet sauce with soy sauce and vinegar as the base, and it brings out the umami of the crab.
1. Kyodo Ryori Tei Sugi no Me Main Store (Susukino, Hokkaido)
This is a restaurant where you can savor Hokkaido cuisine in a stone storehouse built around 100 years ago. They procure fresh produce every day from all corners of Hokkaido, such as crabs, fish, meat, and vegetables. These seasonal ingredients are cooked in the best possible way and served. Out of all their crab dishes, the [Horsehair Crab Sashimi] (from 3,200 JPY) in particular is a recommendation. As they only use crabs with lots of meat, reservations are required at least 2 days in advance, but it is a dish that is well worth trying if you want to experience the sweetness of the tender horsehair crab. The [Crab Kaiseki Yotei Course] (10 items, 10,000 JPY (plus tax)) is also popular and features various crab dishes.
Kyodo Ryori Tei Sugi no Me Main Store
: [Weekday/Saturday/Day before holiday] 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm (last order 10:30 pm)Closed
: NoneAverage price
: [Dinner] 10,000 JPYAccess
: Three minute walk from Susukino Station on subway Nanboku Line .Address
: Minami Gojonishi 5, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido
)More Details Reservation
2. Hakodate Kaiyo-tei Main Branch (Goryokaku-Koen-Mae, Hokkaido)
At this izakaya (Japanese pub), customers can savor the various seafood of Hokkaido. In addition to squid, sea urchin, Okhotsk Atka mackerel, and more, they also have horsehair crab and red king crab. One of their most popular dishes is the [Fresh Boiled Crab] (from 1,980 JPY). The freshly boiled crab has tender meat, and the shell is full of innards. There are plenty of other a la carte dishes that bring out the juiciness of the crabs through deep frying, such as the [Red King Crab Tempura] (1,180 JPY) and [Crab Deep-fried in Shell] (600 JPY).
Hakodate Kaiyo-tei Main Branch
: 5:00 pm - 11:00 pmClosed
: Sunday *If a national holiday falls on a Sunday, closed on Monday insteadAverage price
: 3,800 JPYAddress
: 7-5, Hon-cho, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido (Map
3. Ikkatei Tabiji (Hakodate, Hokkaido)
This casual restaurant serves up items like kaisen-don (rice bowl dish with seafood) and fish set meals that make use of Hokkaido’s seafood. Of course, they have plenty of crab cuisine as well, and from sashimi and boiled crab to grilled crab, they will prepare fresh crab according to your preference. Their [Crab Gratin] (630 JPY) is somewhat of a specialty here, and is a recommended item among their crab dishes. It is a dish made with plenty of crab procured from a shop that they run, and is topped with white sauce and cheese. The sweetness of the crab and the saltiness of the hot cheese match perfectly, and it is sure to warm you to the core.
: 5:00 am - 3:00 pm *Open 6:00 am - 2:00 pm from end of October to end of AprilClosed
: NoneAverage price
: 840 JPYAddress
: Donburi Yokocho Market, 9-15, Wakamatsu-cho, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaido (Map
4. Datemachi MISATO (Kotodai-Koen, Miyagi)
This restaurant serves everything from horsehair crab to local ingredients such as abalone and beef tongue. The fresh [Horsehair Crab] (from 3,500 JPY) is procured from Hokkaido, and the meat is broken up into pieces and served with plenty of crab innards. Crab innards, which have a rich sweetness like sea urchin, are the perfect accompaniment to sake and shochu (both types of Japanese alcohol). They also have a large selection of a la carte items made with high-grade ingredients, including the luxurious [Abalone Grilled with Butter or Steamed with Sake] (from 3,000 JPY), which is full of the rich aroma of the seashore, and the [Foie Gras Grilled with Saikyo Miso] (1,200 JPY), which is cooked slowly over charcoal.
: [Weekdays, Saturday, Day before National Holidays] Dinner 6:00 pm - 3:00 am (L.O. 2:00 am)
[Sunday, National Holidays] Dinner 6:00 pm - 12:00 am (L.O. 11:00 pm)Closed
: IrregularAverage price
: 5,000 JPY *Dinner courses from 3,000 JPYAddress
: 1F, Kuniso Bldg., 2-10-21, Kokubun-cho, Aoba-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi (Map
5. Takinokawa - Treat with Local Fish from Echizencho Fishing Port - Fukui Miyuki branch (Fukui, Fukui)
Located close to Fukui's Echizen Port, this restaurant is known for procuring carefully selected and super fresh fish not just once, but twice a day. In the winter, customers can try Echizen crab, which is famous all over Japan. Try the [Echizen Crab Sashimi] (from 8,000 JPY) served as is to experience its tender and moist texture, which is a testimony to its freshness. The [Rice Bowl Dish with Seared Echizen Crab and Innards] (from 10,000 JPY), on the other hand, is a superb dish that you can only have here. The process of lightly searing it deepens the rich flavor of the crab in this dish.
Takinokawa - Treat with Local Fish from Echizencho Fishing Port - Fukui Miyuki branch
: [Tuesday - Sunday, National Holidays, Day before National Holidays] Lunch 11:00 am - 2:00 pm (L.O. 1:30 pm) / Dinner 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm (L.O. 9:30 pm)Closed
: MondayAverage price
: [Dinner] 8,000 JPY / [Lunch] 1,500 JPYAccess
: 7 minutes by car from Fukui Station on JR Hokuriku Main LineAddress
: 4-12-1 Miyuki, Fukui, Fukui
)More Details Reservation
6. Masuyone (Tsuruga, Fukui)
This is a popular restaurant managed directly by a fishmonger, where you can savor super fresh seafood. The menu features a wide selection of dishes including kaisen-don, meal sets, a la carte dishes, and courses. They also offer a variety of crab cuisine that let you enjoy the natural flavor of the crab, with some popular options being [Kani-don] (rice bowl dish with crab) (2,700 JPY) and [Steam-grilled Buttered Snow Crab] (1,620 JPY). If you want to eat as much crab as possible, the [Crab Course] (8,400 JPY) is recommended. The course includes boiled crab, grilled crab, crab hot-pot, and rice gruel with crab, along with a sashimi assortment of other seafood.
: 10:30 am - 6:00 pm *Customers who reserve courses can be accommodated during the hours of 6:00 pm - 10:00 pmClosed
: IrregularAverage price
: 2,000 JPYAddress
: Nihonkai Sakanamachi, 1-1531, Wakaba-cho, Tsuruga-shi, Fukui (Map
7. Daimyo Jaya (Kanazawa, Ishikawa)
At this restaurant, customers can enjoy refined Japanese cuisine made with seasonal ingredients. Inside its formal Japanese interiors, you can savor the kaiseki (Japanese banquet cuisine with alcohol) of Kaga cuisine, which is the regional cuisine of Kanazawa. The [Kani Kaiseki] (12,600 JPY) is available only in the winter and features various crab dishes, including sashimi, grilled crab, hot pot, tempura, boiled crab, and more. It is sure to make you a fan of crab cuisine! Their [Kaga Kaiseki] (6,300 JPY) comes with charcoal-grilled crab and is a popular option that allows you to try both crab and Kaga cuisine for a reasonable price.
: Lunch 11:30 am - 2:00 pm, Dinner 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm (L.O. 9:30 pm)Closed
: IrregularAverage price
: [Dinner] 5,000 JPY / [Lunch] 2,100 JPYAddress
: 7-5-1, Konohana-machi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa (Map
8. Sandaime Uokuma (Kuramae, Tokyo)
This restaurant specializing in fish cuisine has been in business for 77 years. They are known for their home-style flavors created with carefully selected, high-grade, quality ingredients such as pufferfish and horsehair crab. Their signature item [Premium Large Horsehair Crab] (6,800 JPY) is steamed, rather than boiled, to ensure to keep the umami. The rich and juicy innards, which have a refined sweetness, is so delicious that you'd be able to eat endless amounts of it. You can ask the staff to peel the shell for you, so you can simply enjoy the crab without all the hassle. [Crab Cream Croquette] (1,000 JPY) is another popular dish and contains a generous amount of crab meat. The crispy coating and the crab cream that pours forth has a wonderfully mild flavor.
: [Weekdays] 5:00 pm - 10:30 pm (L.O. 10:00 pm)
[Saturday] 5:00 pm - 9:30 pmClosed
: Sunday, National HolidaysAverage price
: 10,000 JPYAddress
: 3-20-5, Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo (Map
9. MARUICHI Ueno Chuo-dori Branch (Ueno, Tokyo)
At this restaurant, you can enjoy oysters, crabs, and other seafood procured directly from contracted fishing ports. Their signature [All-You-Can-Eat Steamed Oyster and Crab] (2,999 JPY for 1 person) allows customers to eat as much as they want of crab that has been steamed whole. Because it contains a whole crab, it looks great, too. Enjoy the tender oyster and crab to your heart's content. They also have a selection of oyster cuisine, such as [Assortment of 3 Kinds of Oysters] (999 JPY) and [Rich Oyster and Cheese Gratin] (999 JPY). They have a wide range of drink menu as well, along with an all-you-can-drink plan, so this restaurant is recommended for those who want to eat and drink a lot.
MARUICHI Ueno Chuo-dori Branch
: 5:00 pm - 12:00 amClosed
: None *Closed at the beginning and end of the year (December 31 and January 1)Average price
: 2,980 JPYAddress
: 3F, OAK Bldg., 4-8-9, Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo (Map
10. Isohei (Neyagawashi, Osaka)
This is a famous restaurant where you can savor seasonal seafood from around the country, as well as crab cuisine. The restaurant facilitates with counter seats, horigotatsu (sunken kotatsu tables), and private rooms in the wooden interior so that you can choose your seating according to your preference. Their crab cuisine is mainly available as part of a course, and their [Crab Course] (5,800 JPY) is a great value option that comes with crab sashimi, crab marinated in vinegar, grilled crab, crab tempura, and more. This course cuisine is recommended for enjoying crab in its various cooking while comparing the flavors of the different types of sake and shochu that feature on their drinks menu.
: [Sunday, National Holidays] 5:00 pm - 12:00 am (L.O. 11:00 pm)
[Tuesday - Saturday] 5:00 pm - 2:00 am (L.O. 1:00 am)Closed
: MondayAverage price
: 6,000 JPY *Courses available from 4,000 JPYAddress
: 3-4, Higashi Otoshi-cho, Neyagawa-shi, Osaka (Map
Savor the umami of crab, which is in season in winter.
Disclaimer: All information is accurate at time of publication.