Exploring Hiroshima

Vol.14 Hiroshima's famous oyster restaurant
KANAWA - Dine on Hiroshima’s Famous Oysters

Enjoying Hiroshima’s famous oysters in the luxurious floating restaurant Kanawa.

Oysters sourced from Kanawa’s own farms

“All our oysters come from our own oyster farms on Okuro Kamijima, Hiroshima’s largest uninhabited island,” explains Naoko Yamamoto, the okami manageress of Kanawa - an oyster restaurant floating on the Motoyasu River in central Hiroshima.

Established 150 years ago on a small island south of Hiroshima City, Kanawa has always cultivated its own oysters. By using their own oyster farms and controlling varieties and growing seasons, they offer a unique service to their customers - fresh, raw oysters all year round.

Naoko Yamamoto, the okami manageress of Kanawa.

Naoko Yamamoto, the okami manageress of Kanawa.

“The oyster season usually runs from October to March, but we can harvest our oyster fields in every season,” says Yamamoto. “Most oysters spawn in summer leaving them inedible. We use varieties that don’t spawn, or harvest them before they do. This is the only place in Hiroshima where you can eat raw oysters in summer.”

Japan has some of the most stringent quality checks regarding raw oysters and Kanawa tests their oysters everyday to ensure quality and safety. With their farms located in the clean waters around an uninhabited island, the flavor of the oysters is second to none and the chances of contamination are extremely low.

Kanawa is a floating restaurant on the Motoyasu River.

Kanawa is a floating restaurant on the Motoyasu River.

The restaurant looks out over the Peace Memorial Park.

The restaurant looks out over the Peace Memorial Park.

The oyster boat itself has been a part of Japanese oyster culture for centuries. Originally used to ferry oysters from Hiroshima to Osaka, the boats quickly became a popular place to eat fresh oysters during the Edo period (1603 - 1868). Kanawa opened its oyster boat restaurant in 1963 and launched this newly refurbished boat two years ago.

Hiroshima - Japan’s oyster farm

With a history of oyster farming stretching back 400 years, today, Hiroshima harvests a staggering 58% of all the oysters produced in Japan. The natural geography, mild climate and calm waters of Hiroshima’s Seto Inland Sea make it the perfect place to cultivate high-quality bivalves.

You would be hard pressed to find a stretch of Hiroshima coastline without an oyster hut or a bamboo oyster raft floating in the water. During the year, oyster farmers steer their rafts around inlets and river openings, bathing their oysters in Hiroshima’s famous nutrient-rich waters.

The season begins in late October and conveyor belts move continuously in the oyster huts as local ladies shuck oysters all day long. From mid January to the end of February, you can find oyster festivals happening almost every weekend somewhere along Hiroshima’s 200km-long coastline.

Oyster cuisine at its finest

Although in the West the customary way to enjoy oysters is raw, strangely in the land famed for its raw sushi, oysters in Japan often come cooked. But as with anything in this gastronomic paradise, the Japanese cook their oysters in a myriad of mouth-watering ways, be it fried, grilled, steamed, braised or stewed.

At Kanawa, you can enjoy them all. They offer the traditional western dish of raw oysters and champagne, complete with a tiny receptacle of Bowmore whisky to dab onto the raw oysters. Kanawa also serve a range of signature oyster dishes like their plate of assorted oysters - each bite-sized oyster prepared using a different method developed by Kanawa’s head chef.

A luxurious platter of fresh oysters and champagne.

A luxurious platter of fresh oysters and champagne.

Oyster and vegetable ‘shabu-shabu’ hot pot.

Oyster and vegetable ‘shabu-shabu’ hot pot.

The assorted oysters with each oyster prepared in a different way.

The assorted oysters with each oyster prepared in a different way.

Kanawa’s famous oyster gratin served in half an apple.

Kanawa’s famous oyster gratin served in half an apple.

Another of Kanawa’s signature dishes is the famous oyster gratin. From the outset it appears like a regular gratin, until you see the gratin ‘dish’ is in fact an apple. The flavors of the soft apple base, the oysters and the cheese all merge to create this delicious dish. All the dishes at Kanawa are delicately flavored to bring out the natural flavors of the ingredients.
During your visit to Hiroshima, make sure to take some time and dine on Hiroshima’s famous oysters. With its location so close to the Peace Memorial Park, Kanawa is the ideal place to taste some of the highest quality oysters Hiroshima has to offer.

Kanawa’s famous oyster gratin served in half an apple.

Kanawa’s famous oyster gratin served in half an apple.
Details
OYSTER BOAT KANAWA
http://www.kanawa.co.jp/english/index.html
Jisaki 1-chome Ote-machi Naka-ku Hiroshima City
TEL 082-241-7416
Average price
Lunch 3,000 JPY
Dinner 15,000 JPY

Words and Photography by Tom Miyagawa Coulton. (Visited in February 2018.)

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