Hokkaido Seafood Treasures
Hokkaido is the largest and most northernmost prefecture in Japan, well-known for its vast, lush grasslands, mountains, and of course, access to the sea. While the mild climate in the summer draws in crowds looking to avoid sweltering Tokyo summers, and powdery, wide ski slopes in the winter bring in adventurous tourists every year, Hokkaido treasures don’t end there: what it’s really renowned for is its high quality and fresh seafood.
The Gift of Cold Waters
While Japan’s mainland has its own access to the sea and fishing, dating back from 1000 AD, southern prefectures would still choose to trade their rice for seafood caught in Hokkaido. This is because Hokkaido’s northern location is surrounded by cold water, ideal for producing the best fish, seafood, and sea vegetation.
It’s not just a campaigning hoax, but the seafood is actually better there than other parts of the world because of a unique current named Oyashio, which flows down from the Arctic, and its collision with a warmer Kuroshio Current, which flows through from the south. The two collide near Hokkaido’s coast, creating a unique environment where small phytoplankton, microscopic creatures which form the base of the marine food web, can grow and thrive. Attracted by nutrient-dense plankton, schools of different fish and seafood gather near this particular area to feast (Source: Earth Observatory NASA).
Colder ocean temperatures also mean that the fish are fattier than their southern counterparts, as they must be to survive, and so the fish caught in Hokkaido are particularly full of high quality fats. In a modern world where fish are often farmed and fed processed feed to fatten them, Hokkaido offers a refreshing source of wild-caught seafood that offers an equally plump option that doesn’t suffer from the same lack of minerals or exposure to antibiotics.
Commitment to Quality
If we examine data of changes in mineral content, wild-caught seafood is filled with more microminerals, such as potassium, zinc, and iron because ocean water introduces a variety of sea salts that can’t be replicated in a hydroponic environment (Source: Healthline). These microminerals play a crucial role in our health — for example, zinc is critical for the production of stomach acid which regulates our digestion, and is also an essential cofactor in metabolizing essential fatty acids for energy (Source: J Res Med Sci).
Fish and seafood are a major staple food in the Japanese diet, consumed and enjoyed across generations for their taste, access, and nowadays, recognized for their contribution to human health. Enjoyed both raw and cooked, the Japanese diet values the power of seafood to nourish, build, and heal the body with quality vitamins and minerals. While modernization of food production practices have complicated the process of gaining access to high quality foods, it’s important that we do our best to nourish ourselves with the best whole foods to gain the nutrition we need and avoid the antibiotics and preservatives which harm our health. Because no matter what popular media tries to convince, the best sources of vitamins and minerals are always going to be from nutrient-dense whole foods.
Succulent sea chestnuts, orange hard-shelled large crabs, bright red juicy salmon roe, and fatty, shiny salmon: Hokkaido’s commitment to seafood freshness is a refreshing practice of dedication to quality that has me visiting the prefecture again and again. A place which recognizes that the foods we compose our diet with matter, there is no doubt why its seafood is world-renowned. If you ever get the chance to visit Hokkaido, I hope you get a chance to taste their seafood, and experience for yourself the gift of natural and wild cold waters.
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