Hakodate Fish Market
When I was 21 I went backpacking through Northern Japan in attempts to conquer some kind of “backpacking expectation”. When I reached the town of Hakodate, I had not spoken a word of English in over 14 days and had eaten enough hot noodle soups to last me a lifetime.
Hakodate is a fishing town on the southern tip of Japan’s Northern most island of Hokkaido. Shaped like an hour glass, the city of Hakodate has ocean on either side of the peninsula. One side is filled with large shipping vessels and container ships, the other side, small beaches and independent fishing boats.
I walked to the beach at midnight to watch the octopus fisherman at work off the coast. All of the octopus fishing boats lined up across the dark ocean looked like stars swimming, I soaked my feet and felt relaxed for the first time in over two weeks. An Ojisan (grandfather) on the beach told me to visit the Hakodate Fish Market in the morning to view this evenings prize catch.
I woke up early the next morning and loaded on my bags to head to the market. It was raining slightly and the crowds were less than I had anticipated. I walked past ten to twelve stalls of huge purple octopus, crawling and sliming in large buckets of water. Hokkaido women were slightly taller and more abrupt than the women of southern Japan and they proudly held their octopus pieces high and visible.
I was ready to turn away and find the local pub as I was anxious to try the locally made beer, Alt MejijKan, when I saw the next ten to twelve stalls had king crab. Sure, I had read in the guidebook that Hokkaido was famous for her king crab and I knew that the succulent white meat of a salty pink crab was my favorite meal for any occasion but it hadn’t occurred to me that it would be within my reach.
I inched closer to one of the stalls where entire king crabs were seated royally on a bed of shaved ice with fresh flowers surrounding their giant claws and saw the price – 12000 yen, an equivalent of $130 – $140 and once again it was out of my reach. That is until a wet hand grabbed my arm and I turned to find the stall owner who had cracked open a leg and offered me the meat. Upon this gesture, the stall across from us ran over to offer me one of her crab legs. “Try! Try!” I had hit a gold mine!
I spent 45 minutes jumping from stall to stall stuttering in Japanese and allowing them to touch my light colored hair, showing pictures of my home in Halifax and eating the divine Hakodate crab legs. The Alt MeijiKan beer could wait.