写真:Hokkaido Fall Food Guide: Must-Try Seafood, Fruit, Vegetables, and More!
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Hokkaido Fall Food Guide: Must-Try Seafood, Fruit, Vegetables, and More!

2021年11月19日

Hokkaido in the Fall, a Treasure Trove of Delicious Food!

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Hokkaido is a region of culinary excellence. Whether you're looking for fresh fruit and vegetables or delicious, hard-to-find seafood, there's no better place to explore the diversity of the country's food scene and get a real 'taste' of Japan.

In Japan, autumn is typically considered the harvest season. In Hokkaido, the incredible fall food selection is best explored through various avenues, including at the local markets, larger-scale events like Sapporo Autumn Fest, and surprisingly, along Hokkaido's highways. Here's a guide to some of Hokkaido's best autumn food and where to enjoy it!

Flavorful Seafood

Hokkaido is unofficially Japan's home of seafood. Surrounded by water populated by a wide variety of oceanic delights, the region's climate, location, and expert fishermen and women make it a must-visit destination for those who want to experience the best autumn seafood in the country.

Our recommendations for some of the best seafood in the area include ikura, salmon, saury, botan shrimp, and shishamo. Let's take a deeper look at these dishes, what they are, and how best to find and enjoy them.

Salmon and Ikura

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Salmon and ikura could be considered a bit of a package deal when it comes to excellent autumn food. Ikura is salmon eggs, also known as salmon roe. While it's difficult to accurately describe the taste and texture of ikura, its bright orange color, and shiny surface make it a hard-to-miss dish. Best enjoyed as sushi or on a bowl of white rice, these juicy little bubbles of flavor are as tasty as they are eye-catching.

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A popular Hokkaido dish made with salmon is Chan Chan Yaki, in which grilled salmon is cooked with vegetables (cabbage, carrots, shimeji mushrooms, etc.) in a sauce made with miso paste, soy sauce, and butter.

Shari, a town located in Shiretoko National Park, ranks first in Japan in terms of salmon catch. Visit this town in the fall and you’ll be able to witness fishermen unloading their catch, as well as taste freshly caught salmon in delicious local dishes.

Saury

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Also known as 'sanma,' and Pacific saury, this succulent fish is popular throughout Japan, but as is expected, is particularly delicious up north. It's a flavourful silver-skinned fish often grilled over an open flame – to make the skin nice and crispy – and served simply with salt and daikon (Japanese radish). It doesn't have an overly strong fishy taste making it very suitable for a range of palates. However, it is worth mentioning that it's almost always served whole. In central Japan, saury is usually enjoyed home-style with white rice and miso soup, but, in Hokkaido, it can also be enjoyed fresh as sashimi.

Nemuro City, located in eastern Hokkaido, ranks first in Japan in the production of Pacific saury. Every year in late September, a festival called Sanma Matsuri is held, offering visitors the chance to taste freshly caught saury on the spot.

Shishamo

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Shishamo, also known as 'shishamo smelt,' is one of Japan's most exclusive fish breeds. These delicious, tiny silver fish are unique to Japan and can only be caught in the Pacific coastal areas of Hokkaido during a very select time of year. They're typically caught during October to mid-November when the restriction on fishing them is lifted.

They're typically prepared in three main ways: grilled with salt – similar to sanma, fried as tempura, or in autumn as sashimi.

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Famous for shishamo production is Mukawa, a town in southern Hokkaido. Even here, due to the fishing restrictions, autumn (October - November) is typically the only time to enjoy fresh shishamo as sashimi. If you have a chance to try it, be sure to take it!

Juicy and Delicious! Fruit and Vegetables

From fruits of the sea to fruits of the land, Hokkaido's farmers grow some of the country's finest fruit and vegetables, and during the autumn harvest season, they're at their best. Here are some highlights.

Pumpkin

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There's arguably no vegetable more iconically autumn than the pumpkin. Sweet and robust in flavor, Hokkaido's pumpkins are some of the best you'll find. Actually, Hokkaido boasts the largest production of pumpkins in Japan, providing almost half of the entire domestic production.

The Hokkaido Pumpkin, also known as Red Kuri Squash, is available and famous across the globe, but of course, it's best enjoyed in its home city. It's grown during the cooler months, making it the perfect autumn-winter crossover vegetable. Ranking first in pumpkin production in Japan is Wassamu, a town near Asahikawa Airport. Here, you’ll find shops offering pumpkin soft-serve ice cream or pumpkin croquettes.

One of the benefits of this particular vegetable is its high nutritional content and versatility. Whether it's pumpkin tempura (fried pumpkin), roast pumpkin, or simply with butter and herbs, it's always a treat.

Potatoes

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Exploring the souvenir shops of Hokkaido, you won't be surprised to learn that the region grows somewhere between two-thirds to 80% of all the potatoes in Japan. Hokkaido started growing potatoes around 300 years ago. You'll most often find the region's potatoes in the form of potato chips or as jagariko, long, thin potato crisp-like sticks. Hokkaido-only snacks such as jaga pockle (crispy potato stickers shaped like french fries), jagakkie (potato cookies), or hogaja (crackers made with potatoes and scallops) are, of course, also made with potatoes harvested locally.

A personal favorite way to enjoy Hokkaido's potatoes is in nikujaga, a comfort food staple consisting of stewed meat, onions, carrot, and plenty of hearty potatoes in sweetened soy sauce and mirin. The potatoes grown in Hokkaido’s cooler climate makes this comfort food staple especially sweet and delicious!

Grapes

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In recent times, Hokkaido is gaining quite the reputation for being one of Japan's premier wine destinations, thanks largely to its incredible selection of delicious grapes. Hokkaido is an excellent grape growing region thanks to its lower temperatures, crisper, humidity-free days, and plenty of sunshine. In autumn is when the region's grapes are at their best.

The region grows both world-class varieties for brewing (wine) and eating, both white and red. Popular varieties include Tabiro, Delaware, and Niagara. In the towns of Yoichi and Niki, located northwest of Sapporo, you can actually enjoy grape picking and taste delicious grapes on the spot. These two towns are famous for their wine production; consider visiting a local winery when visiting. The local restaurants offer excellent wine paired with exquisite cuisine.

Another great place to enjoy Hokkaido wine is at the Autumn Fest held in the fall in Sapporo's Odori Park.

Apples

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Apples grow best in cooler climates, making Hokkaido the perfect location for growing sweet, delicious apples. The place where apples were first grown in Japan is Nanae, a town in southern Hokkaido. In fall, you can enjoy apple picking here. We recommend trying the Nanamitsuki variety of apples, which is very sweet and juicy and has been gathering a lot of attention in recent years.

Early September to early November is peak apple season and a lovely time to go apple picking. Please be aware that it gets increasingly cold around this time of the year, so make sure to dress warmly.

If you visit in the earlier part of the season, chances are bright red varieties like Kitakami, Asahi, and Tsugaru will be at their peak. Around November, later in the fall apple harvest season, is when green/yellow varieties like Ourin are at their best.

Markets for Seafood and Fresh Produce

Sapporo Nijo Ichiba

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As Sapporo's most well-known and tourist-trafficked market, Nijo Market is a top choice for first-timers in Sapporo. It's also the city's most central market, occupying about an entire block in the heart of the city.

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The stalls here are run by friendly local producers selling the finest local fruits, vegetables, and seafood. This market isn't just a place to pick up excellent produce. It's also a great stop-off for breakfast or lunch.

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If you want to try some of the region's best seasonal seafood, be sure to visit Donburi Chaya, one of Sapporo's best seafood restaurants located inside Nijo Market. As its name suggests, this restaurant specializes in 'donburi (seafood on a bed of rice) and offers a selection of around 50 different options.

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If the selection seems a little overwhelming, ask the friendly staff for their recommendation, or if you go in autumn, try the ikura don (salmon roe bowl) or crab, ikura, and uni (sea urchin) bowl. Both options are succulent and flavourful, encapsulating the culinary excellence of Hokkaido. Donburi Chaya also has locations at the New Chitose Airport Domestic Terminal and in Otaru.

Hakodate Asaichi

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Early birds ready to take in the best of Hakodate's famous culinary culture should make a sunrise bee-line to Hakodate Asaichi (Japanese). This morning market is home to over 250 stalls selling a massive selection of incredible produce. The seafood area is a must-visit! Our tip is to try the crab, ikura, salmon, and uni (sea urchin), if possible, as a donburi seafood bowl. Amberjack and squid are famous Hakodate specialties so do try them, too!

The market spans an impressive four city blocks and is located just a few minutes away from Hakodate Station, making it nearly impossible to miss. It's open from 5:00 or 6:00 AM in winter until 12:00 noon daily, making it a perfect way to start the day.

Kushiro Washo Ichiba

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In the town of Kushiro, located on Hokkaido's southeast coast, is Kushiro Washo Market (Japanese). After Sapporo's Nijo Market and Hakodate's Morning Market, this location is one of Hokkaido's most famous markets and for a good reason, given the quality of the produce here.

Seafood is a real highlight, and the best way to enjoy it as a visitor is as 'kattedon,' a DIY-style donburi bowl. Just grab a bowl of pearly white rice, then stroll the indoor market vendors, and pick and choose your toppings from the huge, colorful selection on display.

Sankaku Market in Otaru

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In the quaint, picturesque town of Otaru is Sankaku Ichiba. The market is situated right by Otaru Station, making it an easily accessible stop-off for those visiting Otaru from Sapporo for a day trip or those just wanting to explore via public transport.

The market gets its name from its triangular shape, 'sankaku' in Japanese means' triangle,' and it's a little smaller than some others on this list, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in charm. This market handles seafood caught in the waters offshore Otaru, so you can be sure you’ll be able to taste fresh, flavorful fish.

With plenty of donburi restaurants nestled in and around the market, it's a top choice for a delicious, easy seafood lunch.

Fukuko Market in Wakkanai

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The northernmost market we’d like to introduce here is Wakkanai Fukuko Market, which is also one of the newest. This sleek facility opened in 2007 and is technically also the northernmost commercial complex in Japan! Every Sunday, a fish auction is held early in the morning, and visitors are allowed to watch. This is an excellent chance to experience the local seafood market culture.

Fukuko Market is a great place – as expected – for seafood; however, what makes it unique is its wide variety of culinary offerings, from ramen to Russian cuisine.

Michi no Eki (Roadside Stations) for Fruit and Vegetables

Salmon Park Chitose

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Some of the best places to enjoy delicious fresh produce in Japan are at the nation's many roadside stations, known in Japanese as 'michi no eki.' If you're arriving in Hokkaido from an international destination, then there's a good chance you'll travel along National Route 337, a well-trafficked route that connects the cities of Chitose and Otaru. On this route is Salmon Park Chitose.

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Visited by locals as much as it is by tourists, Salmon Park Chitose is a one-stop shop for incredible seasonal produce from Hokkadio's central region and beyond. Everything you'll find here is delicious, seasonal, and cheap!

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For those planning to spend an extended amount of time in the area, make for a great place to do your produce shopping. If you're just passing through and are worried about the transportation of fresh produce, their selection of omiyage sweets, artisanal condiments, and thoughtfully packed goods like smoked cheese are also worth checking out.

Michi no Eki Nanairo-Nanae, North of Hakodate

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For those traveling to Hakodate and around the Hakodate area, visit Michi no Eki Nanairo-Nanae. Situated just north of Hakodate, this stylishly modern location is a popular rest stop for both road-weary travelers looking for a feast and those just looking to sample some excellent local produce. The facility also has a museum where you can learn more about the history and culture of Hakodate. Oh, and keep an eye out for the famous big potato!

Michi no Eki Pia 21 Shihoro in Kamishihoro (Obihiro, Tokachi Area)

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In the lush, regional corner of Shihoro, Kamishihoro in the Tokachi area is a unique michi no eki that feels as much like a farm escape as it does a roadside station.

Michi no Eki Pia 21's most iconic feature is its Shihoro beef dishes and Shihoro style French fries, made from potatoes from the area. When it comes to picking up great produce, you can't go past the facility’s Susou-Sen Vegetable Market.

Road Station Akkeshi Conchiglie in Southeastern Hokkaido

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Akkeshi, located on the southern coast of Hokkaido, just east of Kushiro, is known locally for two main sources of pride; excellent oysters and world-class whiskey, and at Road Station Akkeshi Conchiglie you can enjoy them both.

With its unique architecture and bright pink exterior, it's near impossible to miss this facility when traveling through the area, and you shouldn't as it's not only a great place to pick up souvenirs and information about the area, but its culinary offerings, including seafood restaurant Restaurant Escale, and oyster restaurant Oyster Bar Pittoresque, are excellent. For something a little different, at Oyster Bar Pittoresque, you can try the local oysters with Islay Island, Scotland style, where whisky is poured over raw oysters.

From the roadside stops to the bustling inner-city markets to sprawling farmlands, Hokkaido's incredible quality of food is ubiquitous and undeniable. The region is possibly most famous for its snowy winter months, but those in the know will tell you it's autumn when the food is at its best. So next time you're planning a fall trip around Japan, do add Hokkaido to your itinerary.

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