Japanese Oysters: Milk of the Sea

Japanese Oysters: Milk of the Sea

Oysters come into the market around November and into the spring in Japan and are a very popular food, especially during the winter as people like to have them with nabe. Oysters are known to be rich in nutrients and are known as the “milk of the sea.” In many food cultures, oysters are also considered to be an aphrodisiac.

Oysters come in various sizes and the general rule of thumb is that small or sometimes medium-sized oysters can be consumed raw, whereas large oysters should be cooked unless stated otherwise. Famous oyster-producing
areas include Hiroshima, the Sanriku Coast, and Hokkaido, with varying seasons ranging from fall to early spring.

There are two main types of oysters in Japan: rock oysters and Pacific oysters.

Japanese Oysters: Milk of the Sea

Rock oysters

Rock oysters are in season during the summer months of June through September. The shells are thicker than Pacific oysters, and the size and weight of the oysters are also larger. Since they are larger oysters, they are said to taste more like the ocean and have a juicy plump texture. Some rock oysters are cultivated but most are natural, making them rare and more expensive than cultivated oysters.

Japanese Oysters: Milk of the Sea

Pacific oysters

Pacific oysters are in season from November to April and are available all year round, fresh and cooked or frozen. They are smaller in size compared to rock oysters. In Japan, the season for eating oysters depends on the type of oyster, but since most oysters on the market are Pacific oysters, the season is generally recognized as winter.


Japanese Oysters: Milk of the Sea

Popular Oyster Dishes in Japan

Fried oysters or kaki furai is a very popular oyster dish in Japan. The dish consists of the oyster being breaded and then deep fried. It is often served with a side of cabbage, lemon, and tartar sauce. 

Hot pots are very popular in Japan, especially during the colder months, and having them with oysters is no exception. In Hiroshima, it is called “kaki no dotenabe,” and is known to be a specialty there. The nabe consists of vegetables, tofu, and oysters that have been simmered in a broth. The dish is prepared in an earthenware pot that is lined with miso bean paste and lemon on the side.

Although more popular and commonly found in Chinese cooking, oyster sauce is another way to consume oysters in Japan. Adding oyster sauce to stir-fry or as a topping for vegetables and seafood will give it a unique umami savory flavor.

Try our Kesennuma Bay Oyster SauceDue to its complex ocean currents and proximity to lush forests, Kesennuma Bay in Miyagi Prefecture produces some of the highest quality oysters in Japan. The oysters for this Kesennuma Bay Oyster Sauce are harvested one by one by skilled workers between March and late May just before spawning season (instead of the typical winter season), as this is when the oysters are at the plumpest. Only the highest quality oysters are chosen, which means once they are sold out, you have to wait an entire season for the next batch. And unlike most oyster sauces that use just the boiled oyster broth, our producer, Ishiwata Shoten, uses the whole oyster which gives this oyster sauce a distinct oyster flavor and savory umami taste.


About the author: 

Samantha Kwok

Samantha Kwok

Samantha is currently a 5th-year JET in Okinawa, originally from Hawaii. She has been somewhat connected to Japanese culture her whole life despite being Chinese American. She's had the privilege of traveling to Japan and experiencing Japanese culture at a young age. She loves food and is always looking to try new places. When she is not working or out eating, she is an avid baker at home and has been known to feed her colleagues an excessive amount of baked goods.

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