A seasonal delicacy here is the male kano-gani crab, previously called zuwai-gani crab. Off the coast of Hashidate, where warm and cold currents collide, is a fishing ground rich in seafood. In winter, fishermen use the dragnet fishing method to catch the kano-gani crab, which lives 200m to 400m below sea level and are then transported alive to markets.
In Japan we have Taraba-gani king crab to the ke-gani horsehair crab, a diverse array of crabs but one variety is very highly valued as a culinary ingredient and available only in the winter.
This zuwai-gani snow crab is #1 and to conserve this marine resource, harvesting of the zuwai-gani snow crab is permitted only for a limited time during the winter. So to experience this delicacy in all its freshness and deliciousness, it is recommended you try it during the winter.
These crabs are characterized by a form that is slimmer than the other crabs and is concentrated with “umami” with a distinctly sweet flavor. The zuwai-gani snow crab dwells primarily on the west coast of Japan, in the Sea of Japan as far north as Hokkaido, and as far south as Tottori Prefecture, where fishing season for the snow crab opens around November and harvesting continues until around March of the following year.
In some regions of Japan, the Zuwai-gani snow crab is referred to by a name that signifies the local place of origin, such as “Matsuba-gani” and “Echizen-gani”, and some of these local varieties are recognized as luxury seafood brands.
But for those die-hard carb lovers comes from Ishikawa Prefecture you can visit the echizen crab Festival. Held every mid-November over two days, it is an event that heralds the coming of the Echizen-gani crab season. The festival attracts around 70,000 visitors.
The group hears about a top-class brand of Echizen-gani crab, Kiwami, which costs as much as 80,000 yen per piece. These huge crabs weigh more than 1.3kg, compared to the usual 500g weight of a regular one. The width of the crab shell is over 14.5cm while the claws are more than 3cm wide.
Do not underestimate the zuwai – I paid in the wholesale market JPY 25,000 for one crab and believe me that’s as serious as it gets.