Summer Is Sea Urchin Season!
Uni or sea urchin is a popular summer seafood here in Japan, and Hokkaido has a number of places that are well known for the delicious delicacy!
Shakotan Town is a popular destination for summer travellers who come through Niseko. A short drive away and a popular destination for many cyclists as well. Shakotan is probably best known for Cape Kamui. You may have seen a photo of it and not even realized. The peninsula is long and narrow and juts far out into the Sea of Japan. Covered in green grasses, the peninsula is surrounded by the most stunningly blue water.
In addition to the beauty of Shakotan's unique coastline, the town is known for fresh seafood. The town's uni or sea urchin are highly regarded across Hokkaido and all of Japan. Between June and August, it is almost guaranteed that Shakotan sea urchin will find their way onto Japanese TV with some celebrity presence going out to the coast for a sea urchin rice bowl.
The sea urchin season is something that many Japanese travellers look forward to with great anticipation. The tender yellow delicacy are best when served shortly after being caught. Fishermen all along the western coast of Hokkaido, between Shakotan Town and Otaru City will be hauling in fresh catches of sea urchin daily.
If you are in Shakotan Town, Iwanai Town or Otaru City and see a sign for fresh sea urchin, it is a must try!
There are two kinds of sea urchin that are caught along the coast. Ezo Bafun Uni are a red sea urchin and Kitamurasaki Uni are a white sea urchin. You can tell them apart as the Ezo Bafun Uni are a darker orange than the softer yellow coloured Kitamurasaki Uni.
While they have similar flavours, there is a difference in taste between the two. The Ezo Bafun Uni have a slightly stronger, richer flavour. They are also a bit more expensice as it is harder to find them compared to the Kitamurasaki Uni.
Many Shakotan restaurants serve up a rice bowl topped with half red and half white sea urchin. The dish allows you to try both and taste the subtle differences between them. The dish is quite popular and is considered a local specialty. But you will also find many other options paired up with uni, like the salmon roe in the photo below or freshly caught scallops which are another specialty from the region.