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San’in Trip: Day Two–Follow the crab

Please visit Tokyofoodcast’s San’in Trip: Day One.

Day Two

Hyogo somewhere on the coast

On our second day, we followed the crab trail down the Japan Sea coast with a couple of stops along the way. Then, we finished with a crab dinner to remember.

We drove almost 200 km out of Hyogo and across most of Tottori almost all the way to the Shimane border on local roads. Especially from Kinosaki Onsen to Tottori, we passed scarcely populated beaches occasionally spotting some old ladies drying wakame seaweed on the beach. On this rugged coast, there’s one thing you cannot miss during the winter. From November to March, neatly coinciding with the sake-brewing calendar, it is Matsuba-gani crab season all along the Sanin coast. People from all over the country flock to the Japan Sea coast to get a taste of this particular crustacean.

Crab stops
Along the way, we stopped at a couple of sleepy fishing towns in Kasumi and Shibayama Port in Hyogo to admire the countless bugs filling up the rows of tanks.

English information on Kasumi (PDF)

Karoichi Fish Market and Restaurants, Tottori

Wakabayashi, Karoichi, Tottori, Tottori

Lunch stop was at Karoichi, Tottori, where you can find five seafood restaurants in a market that traffics in some creatures you do not even see at Tsukiji. I spotted a huge octopus in a blue plastic case standing as if a alien pod just dropped. The sushi lunch at Wakabayashi was recommended by a lady at the tourist promotion office in Tokyo, so that’s where we had a reasonable lunch for ¥700.

Japanese information on Karoichi Market, Tottori

Tottori Sand Dunes

Tottori Sakyu, Tottori

Tottori Sand Dunes

Growing up in Hamamatsu meant at least two trips a year to Nakatajima Sand Dunes. One for the kite festival, and another one for a school ensoku to view the beautiful wavy patterns all over the sand dunes and down into the ocean as high tide washed up the beach.

So, our visit to Tottori Sand Dunes to me was a bit like viewing through the tinted glasses. It’s a beautiful area, but with lots of tourists and some very sad camels. More than the sand dunes, though, I the feel of the well preserved 70’s scenery was more interesting. All the blocky gray concrete square characterless buildings and hotels brought back that era when the whole nation was built out with concrete. Even a coffee shop we stopped had 70s music playing with a little details such as a round black horoscope machine on each glass table, reminding me of kissaten from the Showa era. I don’t think any of this was intentional or ironic, but the whole area was really still in a 1970’s bubble.

Links to Tottori Sand Dunes English Information: http://delicious.com/enakamura/sand-dune

Kurayoshi, Tottori

Kurayoshi, Tottori

Kurayoshi, Tottori

The little town of Kurayoshi was in a guide book I picked up with a small mention as a retro-town with old kura or storehouses converted to shops. Without any particular expectations, we stopped at the area, but unexpectedly, we totally fell for the lovely quiet historical streets. This is one of the places I know for sure I’m going back.

A walk around the center with beautifully restored storehouses with red tiled roofs and white walls from the Edo period or modern houses from 1920’s along the river is so peaceful. Even during the spring break time from school we did not see many tourists there and we were able to fully enjoy a glimpse of culture from a few centuries ago.

The best part of Kurayoshi was when we stopped at an antique shop a bit out of the central area. Totally amazed by the amount of beautiful aka-e bowls with red patterns piled up in the small establishment, I started a conversation with the owner. As is often the case at antique shops, we sat down when tea was served. We ended spending more than an hour there getting totally educated about the city, area, and history. My purchase at the shop, a set of bowls hand-painted with a lobster design,was carefully set in a wooden box. When I was opening the box, I found out, the antique bowls were individually wrapped in actual deeds for nearby land from the early 20th century. Everything about the place was so magical and timeless!

Links to Kurayoshi Information: http://delicious.com/enakamura/kurayoshi

Sakaiminato, Tottori

Gyosantei, Sakaiminato, Tottori

Crab at Gyosantei

To finish off the day of crab, we hurried to Sakaiminato. Visiting Gyosantei, very popular for crabs and seafood, was one of the goals of our trip and I had called three weeks in advance to make sure we could get a spot at the lively establishment popular with locals.

I had visited the restaurant two months prior to the trip and was really happy how they truly specialized in Matsuba-gani. The combination of savory kani-miso with bottles of Chiyomusubi you find here is something I crave more than the actual crab meat. Only very, very good kani-miso (the brown goop when you open the main shell of the crab) deserves good sake, in my opinion. If it isn’t the best, the kani-miso can make the combination really fishy and it becomes such an unpleasant buzz killer.

“You are lucky, it’s the last day of the crab season…. Where did you come from?” the owner asked as we were leaving. Then the natural flow of question lead to why. “To visit Chiyomusubi Shuzo”, we responded. “Haaa, Chiyomusubi-san????”, genuinely surprised, he had mixed expression on his face. Earlier, he was explaining how his careful picks of the ten legged bug made his reputation as the place for crab everyone come to town for, very proudly. So, to hear someone came all the way to the little fishing port, for nihonshu, not for the crab must have been a real first for him. Well to be honest, Gyosantei was definitely on my list to come back for, but I did not want to give him that triumph so easily!! The restaurant is worth a special visit, just don’t tell him I said that!

We happily ended our quest for crab here in Sakaiminato on the second day.

fish market in tottori

Alien pod, Karoichi fish market, Tottori

Gyosantei Information
Nakanocho 3297, Sakaiminato, Tottori
Tel: 0859-42-2337
Reservatios can only be made for crab course-meals, which start at around ¥5,000.(Please check with Gyosantei) Otherwise, cue up in front of the restaurant to get in.

Please visit Tokyofoodcast’s San’in Trip Series for maps of the places in the post.

Old lady drying wakame seaweed on the beach

View of the Sanin beach

typical ragged sanin coast

Rugged Coastline



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