In Aomori, the most commonly fished octopus in the Tsugaru Strait is the North-Pacific Giant Octopus.
In comparison to the regular octopus, the flesh is tender with a higher water content. Large North-Pacific giant octopuses can easily grow to be over 20 kg (44lbs) and 3 meters long (9.8ft). With the harvesting season in winter, the octopus caught from the harsh cold water has a subtle sweetness. It is a necessity in celebratory dishes for the New Year. A very versatile ingredient, octopus can be boiled and used in nitsuke (soy sauce seasoned dish), sunomono (vinegared dish), sushi, and oden. Salted octopus, dried octopus, and flavored octopus are some artisanal goods made using the cephalopod. The ovary of octopus called kaitoge is a delicacy made into salted and dried goods as well as used in soup and cooked in dishes like nitsuke.
Sudako, or vinegared octopus, is considered to be an auspicious food because of its bright red and white color. In the Tsugaru region in Aomori, it is an essential item in the New Year celebratory meal, osechi.
Osechi consists of many different types of foods, which used to be served as offering food for the Toshigami god. It is believed that most of the dishes are preservable so that the god of cooking may rest. Osechi is an assortment of symbolically lucky foods neatly displayed in tiered boxes called jubako, so that luck and prosperity may tier up for the new year.
Octopus originally became an osechi food as the word for octopus, tako, is similar to the word for great happiness, takō.
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Local Dish Using Octopus
Octopus dogu-jiru, or octopus stew, has long been a favorite amongst fishermen. Since the head and legs of octopus are shipped out to customers, fishermen created a dish using the remaining innards.