This was too nerdy to post on Facebook and Instagram so I’m just going to leave it here.
The other day at the market, I stumbled onto a store that specializes in shell fish. Lots of shrimp varieties — some with long arms, others with long antennas, there were scallops and oysters but the thing that caught my eye were the crabs.
There were six different grades of crabs, ranging from USD$15 all the way up to over USD$100. They weren’t in water but still alive! I know, I know. I get how Tsukiji is known to have the freshest fish but the crabs were flown in from Hokkaido. Nemuro, Hokkaido to be exact.
Nemuro to Tokyo is an hour and 55 minute plane ride but there is only one flight per day in the afternoon. Since there are three flights from Nemuro to Sapporo (a main city in Hokkaido) maybe they flew the crabs to Sapporo first then to Tokyo? Sapporo to Tokyo is about a four hour plane ride away. And it was around 10 am at the market… working backwards these crabs were still alive and kicking being out of the ocean for over 24 hours. What in the world? How is this possible?? Did the crab people transport the crabs in ocean water??? Doesn’t the water splash all over the plane???? How much is the shipping????? There were so many questions firing through my brain at once.
Then I noticed there were some weird crumbles that covered the crab so I asked the guy: what is that on top of those guys?
Him: aljkfalskdjflaskdj (some Japanese word I had never heard before)
Me: I’m sorry, one more time?
Him: oga-alkdjf;aljkdf;lakdjflas (I only caught the first part)
Me: I’m so sorry, can you tell me one last time? *whips out phone*
Me: *punches it into my phone, shows him…* are these the correct characters?
Him: *laughs* yes (he probably thought I was some freak)
I walked away from the stand to get out of people’s ways and googled. The word was ogakuzu 大鋸屑. Ogakuzu is sawdust.
Turns out, sawdust has been used for centuries in Japan to maintain freshness when transporting mushrooms (enoki, nameko, shiitake, etc.) and also shrimp and crab. The reason being, a pile of sawdust sustains temperatures so the crustaceans and fungi arrive in their most optimal form.
That information enough is mind-blowing (I love learning new things) but who, when and how did someone even think of storing mushrooms, shrimp and crab in a mound of sawdust of all things?
These inane tid-bits I’m picking up every day are so fascinating. I love the market so much.
I’m planning to visit that stand a few more times before asking the store keepers how these crabs are transported from Nemuro, Hokkaido to Tokyo.
What? Inquiring minds want to know.
Today I learned there are cargo flights and trucks shuttling seafood from Hokkaido to Tokyo. With a truck, it takes a day. An airplane, the seafood arrives within a day.
Crabs apparently don’t need water to survive. (Some of them even dig holes in the sand and live there. Who knew?) They only require a certain temperature. So the crabs in the sawdust over a bed of ice is enough to keep them alive for several days.