If you’re heading to Japan this winter, prepare your palate for some memorable epicurean moments. Seafood is a seasonal speciality, with the arrival of fatty fish and the highly-anticipated snow crab.
In sub-tropical Okinawa, you’ll be treated to winter fare of a different variety: sweet kuruma prawns, succulent sweet potatoes and nuchigusa herbs.
Or how about a seasonal fish hotpot accompanied by traditional sake?
This winter, a number of Hoshino Resorts properties are offering gourmet experiences around seasonal dishes – from a 9-course Okinawan feast to a creative snow crab set menu. And the colder temperatures are also a chance to warm yourself up with sake at a special 2-day tasting and discovery program at HOSHINOYA Tokyo.
Celebrating the snow crab
One of winter’s choice treats in Japan is the zuwaigani snow crab, which can only be fished between November and March. Known for its slim shape, long legs and succulent flavour, it inhabits the coldest reaches of the Sea of Japan.
This winter, you can sample the zuwaigani prepared in 8 different ways at Hoshino Resorts KAI Kaga and Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo – both located in prime snow crab territory on the north coast of Honshu. Each ryokan has its own take on the snow crab, combining the chef’s creativity with local culinary traditions.
At Hoshino Resorts KAI Kaga, the centrepiece is the shimenawa-mushi, snow crab steamed in a saltwater-soaked rope to make it plumper, juicier and more concentrated in umami.
To whet your appetite before the main dish, you‘ll be served crab in a variety of styles, including charcoal-grilled, fried, and as raw sashimi. And the snow crab hotpot is the ultimate winter warmer: dunk crab’s legs in a kombu broth laden with hearty winter vegetables.
Little wonder that the resort’s crab cuisine has been featured in the local edition of the Michelin guide.
Located near the famed Izumo Taisha shrine, Hoshino Resorts KAI Izumo serves only the local Matsuba variety of crabs, reputed for their strong flavour, elegant sweetness and soft texture.
The signature dish is crab steamed in Japanese paper to maintain the juices and then placed between cedar boards to infuse the crab with a woody fragrance. The grandiose presentation resembles an offering to the Gods, a nod to the celebrated shrine.
Sub-tropical island treat
Looking to escape the winter cold?
HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island is located some 1200 miles south-west of Tokyo in the East China Sea – and enjoys an average winter temperature of 18°C.
From December to March, the resort is offering a special “Island Terroir” dinner, celebrating the seasonal fare produced by its unique climate, soil and terrain.
Despite its tiny 6-mile perimeter, the island has a terroir all of its own. The entire landmass is formed by a coral reef rising above the waterline and, while the soil is not fit for all crops, it receives plenty of sun and is well-suited to grains and sweet potatoes. In winter, herbs, okra and the cucumber-like hechima thrive here while mainland farmers have to wait until spring.
Furthermore, the pristine emerald-green sea is awash with excellent-quality seaweed, sea lettuce, and octopus.
At HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island, you can opt for the 9-course winter dining menu inspired by local crops and culinary traditions. Expect an aperitif of Okinawan Seaweed Biscuits and Gazam Crab with Island Tofu, followed by kuruma shrimp steamed over hot coral in front of you, and 3 different arrangements of akane sweet potato.
Winter food never tasted so estival!
Warming sake workshop
At HOSHINOYA Tokyo, winter is all about warming yourself from the inside – with a sake-themed stay. This luxury ryokan, situated just minutes by foot from the Imperial Palace, is offering a 2-day program for you to learn about, taste, and even bathe in the famous rice wine.
All sake in the program is provided by the Toshimaya Corporation, a 400-year-old brewery in Tokyo’s Kanda district.
In the evening, you’ll be served seasonal vegetables and anglerfish in a sake soup stock, while breakfast includes sweet and savoury dishes flavoured with sake lees.
Other original experiences include a tasting session with a prize-winning sake sommelier and a chance to warm your body in a sake bath. Proof, if any was needed, that there are multiple ways to appreciate Japanese gastronomy in the winter months!