As New Year’s well wishes fade from conversations across Japan, an unspoken but equally cheerful sentiment permeates the atmosphere of Hiroshima Prefecture: “Happy Oyster Season!” Echoes of this can of course be heard and tasted year around in the prefecture, but the abundance and quality of oysters harvested in the winter months turns late January-February into quite the celebration.
Wherever your tastebuds lie on the shellfish enthusiasm scale, Hiroshima’s diverse methods of preparation, the season’s swell of availability, and related drop in prices, are sure to keep your mind and mouth open to the possibilities.
If you’re most familiar with your oysters served on the half-shell, you may be surprised to discover some of the popular Japanese options. Although you can find some delicious ‘nama-gaki,’ raw oysters, around Hiroshima, the Japanese specialties usually involve some heat. Most common is the ‘kaki-fry’ or fried oysters, which are served mostly in set meals with worcestershire or tartar sauce on the side.
The fried oysters are widely available at many restaurants and even supermarkets during the winter months in Hiroshima. A set meal featuring kaki-fry will usually set you back between 1000-1500 yen, and you can typically buy a package of them at the grocery store for around 500 yen.
This is the name given to a few restaurants that open both seasonally and year-around for oyster-lovers in Hiroshima. Here are two of its popular restaurants to try:
Open: (seasonally from October 22, 2016) 10:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: in Hiroshima Minato Park, Ujinakaigan 1-chome, Minami-ku, Hiroshima City
Official Website (Japanese): www.hiroshima-oyster.com/area
Open: (all year) 5:00 pm – 12:00 am
Location: 8-11 Fukuromachi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima City
Official Website (Japanese): www.umihei.com
If you make your way to Miyajima island, there are many food stalls that sell another version of the oysters, grilled. It’s a great way to test out the idea of cooking the shellfish that won’t break the bank. At most stalls you can buy three shells for 500 yen, and during this season the streets are even more crowded with vendors selling the juicy dish.
The most popular area to get your oyster fill is anywhere along Omotesando, the shopping street.
Another local favorite is a twist on the famous Hiroshiman Okonomiyaki. Typically served with squid or pork, this time of the year will have many restaurants featuring local kaki as an option as well. Nicknamed ‘kakioko,’ these cakes can be found at many okonomiyaki places in the city, and prices are generally between 1000-1500 yen per Oyster-filled plate.
Widely regarded as the city’s hub for okonomiyaki, the restaurants in Okonomimura often feature a few extra oyster dishes as the season progresses.
Open: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Location: 5-13 Shintenchi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima 730-0034, Hiroshima Prefecture
Reference Website (English): www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review…
Official Website (English): www.okonomimura.jp/foreign/english.html
The list of cooking styles continues, but to save you from overwhelming options, the ports along the coast have combined all oyster efforts into individual festivals! Nearly every weekend starting in late January, a different port will open up to celebrate and serve the versatile seafood. You can enjoy oyster nabe, oyster udon, steamed oysters, chowdered oysters, oyster curry, and oyster gratin, just to name a few.
Of course this is all in addition to the standard options, and whatever else they might come up with! The oysters served at these events are always a few hundred yen cheaper than sold normally, so come prepared to try a multitude. Many events are quite small and local, but for those excited or willing to try out Hiroshima’s oysters, attending at least one of these festivals this season is a must.
This map highlights the ports that have hosted oyster events in the past. Here is an interactive version with event names. Also, be sure to check out this website for information and detailed menus for other oyster festivals you won’t want to miss!
This is undoubtedly the largest festival in the prefecture. You may want to arrive early, as the lines extending to the oyster stalls tend to grow quickly, and with good reason. The vendors pre-make a select number of dishes, and when they run out they don’t make more! All of the feasting pairs well with the refreshing drinks and entertaining shows throughout the day to wash it all down.
Dates: February 11-12, 2017
Open: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Price: free admission
Location: In front of ferry terminal in Miyajima, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima Prefecture
Reference Website (Japanese): www.visithiroshima.net/things_to_do/seasonal …
Official Website (English): www.miyajima.or.jp/english/event/event_kaki.html
The Miyajima festival may be the most popular, but if you don’t need all the extra Taiko drumming, dance performances, or crowds, check out one of the many other local options!
This event also features some performances, and offers a free shuttle bus from the Onoura JR station to the festival!
Date: Sunday, February 12, 2017
Time: 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Price: free admission
Location: Miyahama Onsen Event Ground, 1-19 Miyahama Onsen, Hatsukaichi-shi, Hiroshima Prefecture
Reference Website (English):http://www.nihon-kankou.or.jp.e.wp.hp.transer.com/detail/
Date: Saturday, February 11, 2017
Time: 10:00 a.m. – sold out
Price: free admission
Location: Kure Chuo-Koen Park, Chuo 4, Kure-shi, Hiroshima Prefecture
Reference Website (Japanese):http://www.kankou.pref.hiroshima.jp/
There is truly no better place to celebrate this oyster season than Hiroshima. However you decide to spend it, may your oyster holiday be merry and your belly be full!
By Daderot (I took this photograph.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons