January Seasonal Japanese Seafood 1月旬の魚

Sake Steamed Kumamoto Asari

Saké Steamed Asari Clams

The seafood in winter is rich with fat as the fish protects itself from the cold waters. Some sashimi eaten this time of year will be a bit oily as a result. As always, we love to have most seafood as sashimi when possible, like buri, sawara, hirame and hotate. Shinji in particular has a soft spot for kanburi or winter buri from Himi port in Toyama. He loves it as sashimi but it is also good as teriyaki or in the classic dish buri daikon – simmered with daikon in a slightly sweet soy broth. Kinmedai is also lovely when simmered in a soy broth as nitsuke.

Shijimi, little tiny clams, are ideal in miso soup. Asari can be steamed in saké or served with pasta as vongolé. And, of course, if you can get your hands on any of the crab this time of year, indulge!

Aozakana, literally blue fish, are the fishy fish in the mackerel family like saba and sawara. Sawara can be marinated in a sweet Saikyo miso and grilled, the miso helps to cover some of the intense fish flavor. Saba is nice simmered in miso in a traditional dish preparation called misoni. Shime saba is the term for saba that has been marinated in a sweet rice vinegar, essentially pickling it. Finally, each January we usually have ankou nabe, a hot pot of monkfish. We save the liver to prepare it as ankimo, often called “foie gras of the sea”. It is simple to prepare, see the recipe here.


If you click on the name of the seafood in Japanese you should be directed to a photo of the seafood.


Hokkaido Magaki Oyster

Akagai 赤貝 ark shell (Scapharca broughtonii)

Akagarei  赤鰈 flathead flounder (Hippoglossoides dubius)

Amadai  赤甘鯛 tilefish (Branchiostegus japonicus)

Ankou  鮟鱇 monkfish (Lophiomus setigerus)

Asari  浅利 littleneck clams (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Benizuwaigani  楚蟹  red snow crab   (Chionoecetes japonicus)



Wild Hokkaido Buri Sashimi

Buri 鰤 Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Buri 101 – Everything you need to know about yellowtail

Chidai  血鯛  crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Hamaguri  浜栗  common Orient clam  (Meretrix lusoria)

Hirame 鮃 olive flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus)

Hira suzuki  平鱸  blackfin Japanese seabass (Lateolabrax latus)

Houbou 魴 gurnard (Chelidonichthys spinosus)

Hokke 𩸽 arabesque greenling (Pleurogrammus azonus)

Honmaguro 本鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)

Maguro 101 – Everything you need to know about tuna

Hoshigarei  星鰈  spotted halibut (Verasper variegatus)

Hotate 帆立貝 scallops (Patinopecten yessoensis)

Itoyoridai 糸縒鯛 golden threadfin-bream (Nemipterus virgatus)

Kaki 牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Kanburi 寒鰤 winter Japanese amberjack (see buri) (Seriola quinqueradiata)

* The port of Himi in Toyama is famous for its kanburi.

Kinmedai– 金目 (sometimes called kinme) splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Maaji 真鯵 Japanese jack mackerel (Trachurus japonicus)

Madai or tai 真鯛 seabream (Pagurus major)

Madara or tara 真鱈 Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus)

Maiwashi 真鰯 Japanese sardine (Sardinops melanostictus)

Matsuba gani 松葉蟹 spiny crab (Hypothalassia armata)

Matsukawa  松皮鰈  barfin flounder (Verasper moseri)

Mekajiki  女旗魚  swordfish (Xiphias gladias)

Oma honmaguro 大間鮪 bluefin tuna from Oma in Aomori (see honmaguro)

Saba 鯖 Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Sawara 鰆 Japanese Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Shijimi 大和蜆 corbicula clams (Corbicula japonica)

Soudagatsuo 騒多鰹 frigate mackerel (Auxis thazard)

Surumeika 鯣烏賊 Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Tairagai 平貝 pen shell or fan shell (Atrina (Servatrina) pectinata)

Tarabagani 鱈場蟹 Alaska king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)

Tsubugai つぶ貝 whelk  (Buccinum undatum)

Yanagi dako 柳蛸 chestnut octopus (Octopus conispadiceus)

Yari ika 槍烏賊 spear squid (Loligo (Heterololigo) bleekeri)

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