Natural bounty of the mountains, rivers & sea of Tajima…
The northern region of Hyogo prefecture where Kinosaki Onsen is located is known in Japan as the “Tajima region”. It is geographically diverse, with many mountains, valleys, rivers and also faces the Sea of Japan. Its diverse geography and varied difference in temperature between day & night make it an ideal area for cultivating foods. Rich soils and clean waters provide fertile ground for raising a variety of fruits, vegetables and of course rice.
The abundant environment of Tajima has been key in the reintroduction of the Oriental White Stork to Japan. The bird is the symbol of Kinosaki Onsen and many local farmers have pledged to reduced-use or no-pesticide farming methods to improve the local ecosystem which provides the abundant forage needed for the bird (once extinct in Japan) to survive and thrive.
Japan is world renowned for its fish cuisine (particularly sushi) and wagyu beef, but to many Japanese the delicacy they look forward to enjoying is crab. Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima and most of the major cities of Japan all face the Pacific ocean where crab is relatively scarce. Every winter, Japanese travelers flock to the Sea of Japan side to enjoy snow crab – large crabs with voluminous amounts of fluffy crab meat.
In Kinosaki Onsen, the local name for the snow crab is “Matsuba crab”. It refers to the larger, male Japanese snow crab. The word “matsuba” is Japanese for “pine needle”. Numerous legends exist as to the origin of the local name, including that its long, slender legs/pincers resemble pine needles.
Matsuba crab is known for its sweet taste. Boiled, grilled or even sashimi crab meat by itself has a very succulent taste, but the real delicacy of Matsuba crab is “kani miso”… a grey mixture of crab innards that is incredibly tasty by itself, but mixed with crab meat in a grilled crab shell is one of the most favored ways to enjoy it.
Matsuba crab is available from November 7 to March 31st.
Superior Fresh Matsuba Crab & Tajima Beef Kaiseki (Nishimuraya Honkan)
A full course kaiseki dinner featuring a variety of seafood dishes, Tajima beef, and freshly caught, local Matsuba crab served in a variety of styles. Approximately 1.5 crabs are served per guest. Tajima beef dish features a special dry-aged Tajima beef. Available: Nov 7 ~ March 20.
Japanese wagyu (Japanese bred beef cattle) are celebrated as a premium beef known particularly for its fine marbling. Of the many wagyu, “Kobe beef” is truly world famous. Many do not know that “Tajima beef” are in fact the stock cattle for Kobe beef. Tajima beef
Largely vegetarian for much of its history, beef only entered into the regular Japanese diet during the Meiji period (late 1800’s – early 1900’s). Increased demand resulted in cross breeding of native Japanese cattle with foreign breeds, leading to extinction of the local purebreds. Due to its geographically isolated nature, however, the Tajima cattle endured as a Japanese pure breed and became the ancestor cattle of many other Wagyu – including Kobe beef.
To this day Kobe beef cattle in Japan must have genetically proven lineage of Tajima cattle, and both Kobe beef & Tajima beef are registered and protected with a geographical indication (GI) mark to ensure authenticity.
The Maruyama river flows through from Ikuno in central Hyogo prefecture through Toyooka City and Kinosaki Onsen before meeting the Sea of Japan. Both the river and the sea provide an abundance of sea and river foods. Learn of some of the more popular ones below.
Red Snow Crab
Smaller to the winter Matsuba crab, but no less delicious. Red snow crab is a great alternative if you cannot visit Kinosaki Onsen in the winter. Available in the spring & autumn months.
A very succulent & sweet fish, popularly enjoyed grilled. This fish has a luxurious image in Japan and a taste that even those who do not enjoy fish may enjoy!
Considered a delicacy in many countries, abalone is a mollusk with surprisingly mellow taste that can be prepared in many ways. Abalone is in season from early summer.
Sashimi, grilled, steamed… this fish tastes well in many different styles. The red sea bream is connected with festive and celebratory occasions in Japan.