Fukui Prefecture is located in the central part of Japan, bordering the Sea of Japan. It is home to some Japan's leading crab landing ports and is also known as a prefecture with many famous crab restaurants. "Echizen crab" (越前がに / Echizen Gani - male snow crab from Fukui), "Seiko crab" (せいこがに / Seiko Gani - female snow crab from Fukui), "Zubo crab" (ずぼがに / Zubo Gani - male snow crab from Fukui that has molted within six months) are all delicacies you should definitely try when you travel to Fukui.
In this article, we'll be focusing on "Echizen crab" and thoroughly introduce everything from its basic information to recommended sightseeing spots where you can eat seasonal crab dishes!
What is "Echizen crab", the best delicacy of Fukui Prefecture?
“Echizen Gani” or Echizen crab refers to male snow crabs (ズワイガニ / zuwaigani) landed at four ports in Fukui Prefecture: Echizen Fishing Port in Echizen Town, Mikuni Port in Sakai City, Tsuruga Port in Tsuruga City, and Obama Port in Obama City. It is known as the top brand among all snow crabs in Japan, and is the only high-quality breed presented to the Imperial Family. It is characterized by its elongated legs that look like tree branches, while its body, which was raised in the harsh waves and the frigid cold of the Sea of Japan, is moderately sweet and thick. Plus, there is plenty of crab miso inside the shell too.
Among the four ports in Fukui Prefecture, Echizen Town has the largest catch of Echizen crabs. Because it is close to the fishing grounds, fresh Echizen crabs are abundantly distributed to the market. There are more than 70 shops that sell Echizen crabs, including ryokan inns, guesthouses, fresh fish shops, and restaurants. You can enjoy various recipes at restaurants in the prefecture, such as boiled crab, grilled crab, crab sashimi, and crab shabu.
How to distinguish Fukui Prefecture's delicious "Echizen crab"?
There are two main points to distinguish delicious Echizen crab. The first is that the shell has black spots. These crumbs are actually eggs of a type of leech. The more crumbs there are, the longer it has been since the last molt, and the more dense the flesh is. The second characteristic is having big claws. The claws that grow larger each time they molt are a proof of their growth over the years.
Meanwhile, there is a new brand of Echizen crab called “Kiwami” (極) that appeared in 2015, which is said to be the pinnacle of taste. Only male snow crabs with a carapace width of 14.5 cm or more, a weight of 1.5 kg or more (at the time of landing), and a claw width of 3 cm or more are certified. It is said that only 0.05% of the catch per year satisfies this standard - so valuable that one crab was auctioned off for 3.1 million yen in 2022!
All Echizen crabs landed in Fukui Prefecture have a yellow tag stamped with the brand name and the fishing port where the crab was landed. Attached to the base of the crab claws, it proves that it is made in Fukui Prefecture. In addition, Echizen crab has been registered under the Geographical Indication (GI) Protection System (*1) since 2018, and of course the yellow tag for certification of production area has the GI mark. It can be said that it is a high quality that is also evaluated by the country.
*1: A system promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to protect regional products that have characteristics such as the environment and traditions of each region in Japan as intellectual property. As of October 2022, Fukui Prefecture has registered a total of five products, including Echizen crab.
When is Fukui Prefecture's "Echizen crab" crab fishing ban lifted? When is the season?
In Fukui Prefecture, there are restaurants where you can eat delicious Echizen crabs all year round. But if you are into seasonal crabs, we recommend going in the winter. The fishing ban for Echizen crabs is usually lifted on November 6th and ends on March 20th of the following year. Around January and February, just before the end of the fishing season, the crab meat is packed with fat and is said to be the most delicious time. However, prices tend to be high right after the lifting of the ban and during the year-end and New Year holidays, so if you want to eat Echizen crab at a relatively reasonable price, the best time to go is mid-late November, or from around February of the following year to the end of the fishing season.
3 Tourist Spots Where You Can Eat Echizen Crab in Fukui Prefecture
Echizen crabs can be eaten at various places in Fukui Prefecture, including hotels, inns, and restaurants. From here, we will introduce 3 classic sightseeing spots where you can enjoy Echizen crabs in Fukui Prefecture.
"Echizengani Museum" in Echizen Town, Fukui Prefecture: A facility where you can learn about Echizen crab. There is even an all-you-can-eat crab buffet in winter!
The "Echizengani Museum" (越前がにミュージアム) is an experience zone facility where you can learn about Echizen crabs and the mysteries of the Sea of Japan. It is a sightseeing spot in Fukui that we would recommend to families. From a panorama theater that resembles the 300m-deep sea, a simulator that recreates the operation of a fishing boat, to a wall-to-wall virtual aquarium, there is no doubt that adults and children alike will be thrilled with extraordinary experiences in front of their eyes. At the Echizen Crab Ecology Laboratory, you can also observe the rare Echizen crab research scene! The winter-only seafood buffet with Echizen crabs at "Oshokujidokoro Uoichi" (お食事処うおいち) on the second floor of the museum is also popular.
On the other hand, at the seafood market "Michi-no-eki Echizen Uoichi" (道の駅えちぜん うおいち), which is located across the road from the museum and can be reached in about a 1-minute walk, you can buy fresh seafood from Echizen Port as well as local souvenirs. During the Echizen crab season, this Michi-no-eki also sells Echizen crabs and its top-grade brand "Kiwami". Every year in November, Fukui Prefecture's largest crab festival, the "Echizen Crab Festival" (*2), is held. Echizen crabs are sold on the spot and seafood gourmet takeouts are sold.
*2: From 2020 to 2022, it was changed to the morning market style "Echizen Crab Morning Market".
Echizengani Museum (Echizen Crab Museum)
- Address: 71-324-1 Kuriya, Echizen-cho, Nyu District, Fukui Prefecture
- Business hours: 09:00 - 17:00
- Closed: 2nd and 4th Tuesdays (From November to March, no holidays during summer vacation)
- Price: 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for children
- Access: After getting off at Fukui Railway "Shinmei Station", take the Fukui Tetsudo Bus (Sabaura Line) for about 80 minutes and get off at the "Michi-no-eki 'Echizen'" bus stop.
- Official website: https://www.echizenkk.jp/kanimuseum
"Nihonkai Sakanamachi" in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture: Seafood market popular for crab seafood rice bowls and conveyor belt sushi
"Nihonkai Sakanamachi" (日本海さかな街) is a seafood market in Tsuruga City with 45 stores (as of July 2022), including specialty stores that handle Echizen crabs, seafood rice bowls, conveyor belt sushi, and restaurants where you can eat crab dishes. As one of the largest seafood markets along the Sea of Japan, you can buy not only crabs, but also fresh seafood such as shrimps, shellfishes, and fishes directly shipped from Tsuruga Port, as well as delicacies and processed marine products such as paste products.
Not only tourists but also locals often frequent to this market. You will be able to experience lively Japanese markets as you hear energetic shouts to attract customers. The staff will teach you how to identify delicious crabs and how to eat them deliciously, so if you want to know more about crabs, be sure to ask the store staff!
- Address: 1-1531 Wakabacho, Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture
- Business hours: Weekdays 10:00 - 17:00, weekends and holidays 10:00 - 17:30
- Closed: January 1st, other irregular holidays
- Access: Take the "Gurutto Tsuruga Shuyu Bus" from JR Tsuruga Station for about 10 minutes, and get off at the "Nihonkai Sakanamachi" bus stop.
- Official website: https://www.sakanamachi.info/
"Tojinbo" in Sakai City, Fukui Prefecture: Enjoy a superb view while eating lunch using Echizen crabs
"Tojinbo" (東尋坊) is a Japanese Natural Monument and Place of Scenic Beauty located in the Echizen Kaga Kaigan Quasi-National Park. The columnar joints of the dynamic rock surface sculpted by the rough waves of the Sea of Japan continue for about 1 km, making it a valuable place known as one of the world's three most scenic spots. In fact, there are many restaurants serving exquisite Echizen crab dishes even in such Fukui Prefecture's representative tourist attraction spot!
Tojinbo Shopping Street, which continues straight from the cliffs of Tojinbo, is lined with restaurants selling seafood. Depending on the shop, you can look out for live Echizen crabs from the aquarium inside the store, or you can enjoy crab cooked in various ways, such as grilled crab, boiled crab, and crab sashimi.
- Address: Tojinbo, Mikuni-cho, Sakai City, Fukui Prefecture
- Access: About 10 minutes by Keifuku bus from "Mikuni Station" on the Echizen Railway, then a short walk from the Tojinbo bus stop
There are still many charms of Fukui Prefecture! For your next trip to Japan, be sure to check out articles related to crabs and Japanese cuisine!