Sapporo Kanihonke Crab, a Japanese seafood experience in Nagoya

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Sapporo Kanihonke Crab, a Japanese seafood experience in Nagoya
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If you are heading to the city of Nagoya, one of the things that you have to try is the famous Sapporo Crab. Yes, this fifty-year-old franchise is probably the most well-known crab restaurant all over Japan, and even in other countries.

Nagoya is known as the main gateway into the centre of Japan, and it is also the third largest metropolitan city with an average of 2.5 million people living there. Having a rich historical past dating back to the Tokugawa period, the city is well known for its automotive, aviation and ceramic industry.

Tourist visiting here will discover that there are interesting choices of things to do and places to visit around Nagoya. Two of the master attractions are the famous Nagoya Castle and the Atsuta Shrine, known to be the second most venerable shrine in all Japan.

Visitors staying in Nagoya city should explore the place on foot and for choices of food, you can find just about any type of Japanese food here. From the Osaka Takoyaki to the Tokyo Ramen, and of course the world-famous Sapporo crabs, you can find them all in the main city.


Entering the Kanihonke Restaurant in Nagoya.

Nagoya Sapporo Kanihonke Restaurants

There are four branches of the Sapporo Kanihonke found all over Nagoya, and the most famous one is located in the main shopping and entertainment district of Nagoya, near the Sakae Subway Station. This is the central branch in the metropolis which offers four floors of dining in a building that is simply hard to miss. The uniqueness of this particular restaurant is the special basement private dining area and also the other private dining rooms for groups.

The signature of Sapporo Kanihonke Restaurants is the giant crab that is prominently placed outside the restaurant. If you have been to other parts of Japan, this is one of the things that you may have seen before.

Upon arriving here, restaurant staff will greet you in Japanese with the signature ‘Irasshaimasu’ which means welcome. If you do not speak Japanese, not all is lost as they have English speaking staff. Just inform the staff that you do not speak Japanese by saying ‘English only’.

Depending on the size of your group, (I would recommend going as a small group of four to fully enjoy and experience this), you will be ushered to your table and they will provide you with an English menu.

A customer holds one of the Japanese King Crabs at the Sapporo Kanihonke Restaurant.

This restaurant is pork-free as they only serve Japanese seafood, which consists of crabs, prawns and fish only. Side dishes include vegetables, rice and some noodles. They also have a sushi menu which showcases the famous Japanese snow crab and other popular fishes. The Kani Miso is not to be missed as they use these crabs as the miso base.

However, you should note that this place is not certified halal, as they do serve sake and beer. But for food wise, they are all pork-free and suitable for those who could accept this. In most cases, visitors come here for one main reason, which is to sample the famous Japanese snow crabs.

The main reason for the owner opening up branches all over Japan and at other parts of the world is because he wanted everyone to sample and taste the famous Japanese crabs. Prior to this, you could only have this in Hokkaido or Sapporo, but not everyone goes there, hence the owner decided to bring the famous crabs to other places.

A closer view of the Hokkaido King Crab.

There are three main crabs from Japan that are a must-try, and they are the Japanese Snow Crab (Zuwaigani), King Crab (Tarabagani) and Hairy Crab (Kegani). At Kanihonke Restaurant, you can have the opportunity to try all of them as a whole or in individual pieces, depending on what you order.

One of the gimmicks at the Kanihonke restaurant is that when you walk in, you will see the live crabs on display in aquariums and holding areas. This is where guests can also take photos holding these massive crabs. Yes, they allow you to actually hold up one of the huge crabs to take a photo.


Hokkaido king crab legs as one of the main dishes.

Japanese King Crab

Probably the most famous of all the Japanese crabs is the King Crab. It has received worldwide recognition and many places sell them as premium quality food. These king crabs are so huge that they can measure a whopping five to six feet across with their legs apart. Now, that is really huge!

Most Malaysians visiting Japan will opt for this dish as it is paramount without fail. Just like visiting Kobe and having to try the famous Kobe beef. Hokkaido is home to this exquisite experience but now you can also do this in many other parts of Japan and the world. Having said that, nothing beats trying the real deal in Japan.

Japanese Snow Crabs

This is the much sought-after crabs for any seafood lover. They are caught in the northern regions of Japan and go by a number of names like Matsubagani, Echizengani and Yoshigani. It also depends on the region they are caught which has their own local names.

The Snow Crab is not only native to Japan, but it can be found in Russia and also Canada. However, the Japanese have brought a world-class name to these crabs, namely by offering it in various styles of cooking.

Hanasaki Crab

In Hokkaido, there is also a local crab species called Hanasakigani or Blooming Flower Crab, which is found in the eastern part of Hokkaido. This species is not as famous as the other Hokkaido crabs, but they taste equally the same as them. The Hanasaki crab is well-known among the northern Japanese and is slowly making a name for itself nowadays.

Some Hokkaido locals even claim that the Hanasaki crabs are much tastier than the snow or hairy crabs. My recommended dishes would be the Hanasaki crab salad or the Teppou-giru, which is a Hanasaki crab soup rich with flavours.

Another style of serving the fresh king crab legs.


What to Order at Sapporo Kanihonke Restaurant?

For first-timers to Nagoya or even Japan, if you visit here, I would recommend the set lunch menu, as it is priced moderately and value for money. The starter lunch set cost ¥4000 which includes tax. If you have kids under 12 years old with you, there are two kid’s menu sets available which is the Prika Set (¥1500) and Kamui Set (¥2300).

And if you are travelling in a small group, do try the Hakodate Set, priced at ¥7000 including tax, which is good for two persons. You could also order other sets from the menu to compliment your meal.

The special private basement dining area at the Nagoya main branch.

For those who want to have the ultimate Japanese crab experience and splurging, I would recommend you go for the a-la-carte menu, where you can pick out the type of crab and style of cooking.

What amazed me is the fact that they offer raw, roasted, grilled, steamed, fried and boiled choices for the crabs. I never expected to see so many ways of cooking a crab to perfection. It’s definitely an eye-opener for any seafood lover as this is truly the crème de la crème of crabs.

One of the private dining rooms at the Hokkaido Kanihonke restaurant in Nagoya.

On a final note, if you are the serious and hardcore crab lover, I would highly recommend ordering the whole boiled Snow Crab from the San-in region of Hokkaido. This guarantees the ultimate taste of the best crab in Japan and the price? Prepare to part with ¥12,000 to ¥21,000 for just one snow crab, depending on the size.

So, if you are visiting Nagoya in Japan, and want to sample some of Japan’s most famous crab restaurants, Sapporo Kanihonke is the place to visit. To avoid rush hour, I recommend going just before lunch or dinner time and be prepared to experience the ultimate freshness of Japanese seafood here.

The restaurant on the main road of Nagoya.
Image by Google Street View

Sapporo Kanihonke Nagoya Sakae Central
Address: 3-8-28 Sakae, Naka-ku, 460-0008 Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Telephone: +81-52-263-1161
Website: http://www.kani-honke.jp/en/restaurant/sakaechuo/
Weekday Business Hours: 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM
Weekend & Holiday Business Hours: 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Landmark & Access: 7 minutes’ walk from Subway Sakae Station

Please note that Japanese restaurants charge an 8% GST tax on top of the total amount. This is so you do not get caught off guard when paying the bill. In some restaurants, the tax is added to the menu, to show you the final figure you will pay, but some may only show the un-taxed price.

David Hogan Jr
David Hogan Jr
A multiple award-winning travel writer, blogger and social media enthusiast. He has been traveling to Japan since 1990 and all over the world for his work. His work has been featured on CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Lonely Planet and many other publications. David writes at: http://malaysia-asia.my and is on social media platforms as @MalaysiaAsia

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