Although the most common English translation is “snow crab,” the Japanese term is much more complicated. I also feel “snow crab season” fails to capture the craze in that happens every winter, especially here in the San’in region with entire train trip deals are themed around pigging out on these crabs.


Although Matsue has its own crab craze going on as part of the Dan-Dan Shoku Festa and other parts of Shimane are just as capable of catching and celebrating the winter crab catch, Tottori is really where the crab branding takes place. Snow crabs–typically called Zuwai-gani go by many different names throughout the country, but whatever you call them, Tottori is a top producer. Here in the San’in region, the big name that gets thrown around a lot is Matsuba-gani, supposed named because its long legs resemble pine needles or because fishermen used to burn pine when cooking them. They are harvested in the Sea of Japan, and not to be confused with Benizuwai-gani (red snow crab), which are harvested at a deeper depth in an earlier season and have softer, sweeter meat–but they are also a San’in favorite.

Matsuba-gani does not represent the entire species, either. These are only the males, where are the smaller females with denser meat are called oya-gani are popular in miso soup, a homemade Tottori favorite. Males that have already moulted are called Wakamatsuba-gani and tend to have meat that is more soft and moist.

There are various ways to prepare and eat Matsuba Crab when they are in season around November-March. Boiled, cooked with rice, grilled, you name it, but what I hear most adoring talk of is eating very, very fresh crab raw, when the meat is slick. There is a special process to eating it this way which can be instructed at crab festival events, but I do no such experience to speak of–I don’t have enough crab madness myself to reserve a space at these crab extravaganzas.

I have, however, had a few chances to eat crab meat miso soup, but I cannot recall what kind of crab they were. I’ll just wrap this up by saying that everyone knows Tottori is amazing for crab, but these little guys from Izumo go down like big, sticky potato chips.

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