Watarigani : Japanese crab
Watarigani/Gazami : “Japanese blue crab” or “swimming crab” or “Gazami” “Takezani” (Saga prefecture) “Buzen Hongani” (Kyūshū), “Gantsu” (Ookayama) or “Gane” is a crab you can find in Japan, shining by its fine taste !
Thise male species is from Ōigawa in Yaizu and i didn’t know that it was possible to catch them around until I found it in a local store !
Watarigani is usually lurking in quiet seas, until depths of 30 meters. You will be astonished to learn the Miyagi Prefecture tried to breed them, without great success (10 tons in 2011 by aquaculture). Following the great earthquake of 2011, and after importants moves of mud in the sea, 500 tons were caught in 2015.
Caracteristics of Watarigani/Gazami
Portunus trituberculatus from its latin name, is well-known for its flesh but mainly for the really nutritious eggs in his belly ! It seems that fishing them is pretty hard, because he has no fear to cut his limbs when caught in the fisher’s nets. Recently they are more hard to find in Japan’s waters. Lots of them are imported from Korea, China, and Asian seas.
Watarigani is eating mainly small fishes, worms, bait, and small crustaceans. His predators are sharks, rays, squids… which are natural ennemies. They are also revenging spirits as the watarigani is eating their offsprings and inversely, giving a true underwater war.
You can see on the picture there is some white dots on the crustacean. They are used during those kind of wars as a subterfuge to hide from its ennemies eyes.
One want to eat Watarigani in winter, even though it is possible to eat them from spring to summer. It is recommended (sometime forbidden) to eat them in autumn, the breeding season. They reproduce after the moulting period and then, the female will retire under the mud to hibernate. She wake up only for laying the eggs hidden in the abdominal cavity.
The first lay will be called “ichibanko” and the second “nibanko“, smaller than the first one. The “ichibanko” offsprings will be ready to reprocuce very fast, on the next autumn. The “nibanko” will have to wait one year, which is pretty long considering the three years average life span of thoes crabs.
As you can the on the next picture, one crab is quite expensive. Keep in mind that if you make a miso soup one crab can feed easily 5 people.
The main production areas are the one with bays : Ariake sea, Seto, Osaka, Ise and Mikawa. Tokyo also, in the past.
Recipes of Watarigani/Gazami
It is not so easy to find informations in english. I gathered some interesting resources, do not hesitate to take a look !
How to boil a Watarigani (Video, english subtitles)
Of course, miso soup ! (Ci dessous, sous-titres anglais)
(Jap) Ankake !
See also :
(Jap) More “tachnical sheet”