Fishing for Sea Urchin
The town of Rausu sits on the eastern coast of the world national heritage site of Shiretoko. A small town with a population of no greater than 6000 people, Rausu is well-known across Japan for the vast variety of fresh seafood which is fished on its coast.
One of the town’s most popular products is sea urchin, which is called uni in Japanese.
The variety of sea urchin which is fished in Rausu is called “Ezo Bafun Uni”. This sea urchin feeds on the highly nutritious kelp which grows in the waters just off the coast of Rausu, giving it a distinct flavor, sweeter than that of sea urchin fished elsewhere.
The sea urchin fishing season begins in Rausu at the end of January, when the sea is at its coldest. Fishermen board a small boat and head out to sea, picking the sea urchins out of the ocean one by one, using a net. This careful procedure can only be carried out in fair weather conditions when the water is clear and calm.
Sea urchin can be fished in Rausu until around mid-June, when the seawater begins to warm up. Each sea urchin is carefully split and hand-washed, with great care taken not to damage the delicate insides.
Enjoying Freshly Caught Sea Urchin in Rausu!
Of course, lovers of seafood shouldn’t miss out on a visit to Rausu to try out freshly caught sea urchin right at the point of origin! From February until June, it is possible to try out freshly caught sea urchin in restaurants around Rausu. We recommend trying out uni-don, a bowl of steaming hot rice topped with a generous portion of fresh sea urchin!
If you visit Rausu in February or March, you will also be able to see incredible winter scenery such as drift ice which drifts into the coast of Hokkaido from Siberia, and rare migratory seabirds such as Steller’s sea eagles!
Prepare your own Seafood Bowl!
There’s nothing tastier than a fresh meal using seasonal ingredients which you have prepared with your own hands! Those who want to learn more about Rausu’sea urchin should try out an “uni-wari”, sea urchin splitting experience, during which you can learn how to split and prepare the urchin to make your own seafood rice bowl.
“Uni-wari”, sea urchin splitting experience:
Shiretoko Rausu Hamada Shoten
Text by Phoenix Scotney, Coordinator for International Relations at Hokkaido Tourism Organization.