Helmet Crab

Helmet Crab

As the season of cherry blossoms approaches in Aomori prefecture, so does the season for Mutsu Bay’s “Togekuri-gani,” or helmet crab. The sweet, delicate flavor of the meat and the rich crab innards are simply superb.

Mutsu Bay’s Togekuri-gani
cherry blossoms

About Helmet Crab

Helmet crab, or togekuri-gani, is classified in the family of Atelecyclidae, a member of the horsehair crab family. Compared to hairy crab, helmet crab goes to market at a relatively reasonable price. Because it becomes available around the time cherry blossoms are at their peak in Aomori, it has received the name of “Hanami-gani”(flower-viewing crab) or “Sakura-gani”(cherry blossom crab). It is a must-have food for cherry blossom viewing.

In Aomori, helmet crab can be found in Mutsu Bay. It is regarded as an extremely rare ingredient due to its limited seasonal availability and strict size restrictions. The helmet crab from Mutsu Bay is found in a wide area including the town of Sotogahama (Kanita), Yomogita, Aomori city, Hiranai, Noheji, Yokohama, and Mutsu city.

Nagaimo Ganku-mijika

Differences from Hairy Crab

One of the key differences between helmet crab and hairy crab is that the crab innards of the helmet crab has a much richer flavor. According to local fishermen, the male crab innards have a slight bitter taste. The female crab innards are orange-colored and usually mixed with the ovaries, called “kokko”, which give a nice crunchy texture. Generally speaking, female crabs with roe are more popular than males, but male helmet crabs are said to be larger and tastier.

How to Identify Male and Female Crabs

Male and female helmet crabs are similar in appearance. The easiest way to tell the difference is by looking closely at the triangular shape of their underside which looks like a fundoshi, or loincloth. If the triangle is narrow and pointed, it is a male. If the triangle is wider and bulging, it is a female. Other identifying differences are that males are larger than females and females have thicker hair around their abdomen.

Male Crab
Male Crab
Female Crab
Female Crab

How to Enjoy Helmet Crab

Typically, helmet crabs are boiled just like hairy crabs. Whether you shuck the crab legs or mix the crab meat with the crab innards on its shell, it is an exquisite dish. Another delicious way to eat helmet crab is to put the entire crab in miso soup.

How to Boil Crab

  1. Scrub the crab clean.
  2. Pour water in the pot, place the crab in the water before turning the heat on.
    *Placing the crab in the water before turning on the heat ensures that the umami gets locked in the meat.
  3. Add salt to taste once it boils.
  4. Cook for 15 minutes, then it is ready to eat.

How to Select a Good Helmet Crab According to a Local Fisherman

1. Judge by the “fundoshi” triangular underside

The underside of a helmet crab is shaped like a triangle, which looks like a “fundoshi,” or loincloth. If the fundoshi is attached to the body by two white pins, it is not yet ready to be eaten. When the fundoshi detaches from the body, both meat and innards are at its most delicious peak.


2. Judge by the color of the shell

Whitish colored shell indicates the crab is still thin. When the shell gets darker and has barnacles attached, it indicates the crab is mature! The crab at this stage has firm delicious tender meat.

the color of the shell


Helmet Crab

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