Hokuriku Fermentation Tourism by Fermentation Designer Hiraku Ogura – Making “Black Squid”

Hiraku Ogura

December 17, 2022

Last October, American food professionals visited fermented food producers to deepen their knowledge of Japanese fermentation culture during the “Hakko Tourism in Japan” tour campaign. As part of the tour, organizers held a tasting session where guests gave candid advice from the perspective of the American market to food product manufacturers looking to enter the United States market.

This is Part 2 in our series on fermentation tourism. You can read Part 1 here.

Making black squid in Imizu City, Toyama Prefecture

Toyama Prefecture is one of Japan’s leading seafood paradises. Toyama Bay itself is akin to a large cove, attracting a wide variety of marine animals and providing fishermen with amazing catches.

And because of the prefecture’s propensity for delicate flavors, the region is known for its skill in processing ingredients.

Among the many high-level seafood dishes available in Toyama is “Kurozukuri,” which is made by adding squid ink to salted squid.

This glistening black fermented dish is a hidden gem among aficionados and contains within it a surprisingly deep history revealing Edo Period marketing tactics.

Map of Japan

Imizu City, Toyama Prefecture

Taste that transcends local borders

Black squid with grated ginger on shiso leave on a blue plate

Toyama black squid’s glossy sheen

Less than an hour by car from Toyama City, in Imizu City, near a recessed area of the bay, Hakko Hub visited Kyokichi, a family-run establishment which has been manufacturing Kurozukuri since the Edo Period.

Kurozukuri is a locally popular side dish that this writer found at a restaurant in Toyama by chance, but there are surprisingly few places that make it. Nevertheless, Kyokichi takes the dish’s roots seriously, and works tirelessly to keep the tradition alive.

The manufacturing method is very simple. Salted squid is mixed with plenty of squid ink that has been fermented and aged in a separate container and left to ferment for several days.

The fermentation lends a captivating texture to the final product, alongside deeper, more complex flavors.

It has a milder and deeper flavor than other salted squid dishes, and the umami and plumpness of the squid come forward over the saltiness. For this writer’s tastebuds, this traditional dish surpasses many other regional specialties.

And, of course, kurozukuri simply begs to be paired with sake.

Toyama’s sake, which is typically characterized by a moderate. light flavor, is just right for Kurozukuri. The two together certainly make for a heavenly combination.

Kurozukuri – a product of the Kaga clan’s branding

Mr. Kyotani, representative of Kyokichi

Kyokichi representative Mr. Kyotani

As mentioned above, kurozukuri itself dates back to the Edo Period.
Specifically, It’s a product of the Kaga clan’s branding policy.

According to one of Kyokichi’s proprietors, a lover of history:

“At that time, the only place in Japan that accepted foreign cultures was Dejima, Nagasaki Prefecture, and the Kaga clan learned about seafood processing techniques through a visit there. Kurozukuri originated from the idea of making salted fish using squid ink, which had been unfamiliar in Japan until then.”

Given this explanation, this black salted fish dish may be connected to the squid ink culture of the Iberian Peninsula, where Portugal and Spain are located.

The Kaga clan, exhibiting uncanny business prowess in anticipating a boom in regional revitalization, breathed life into this unique dish that now transcends regional borders.

This article was originally published in Gekkan Fu, Fukui Shimbunsha and on Fupo, Fu Production.
Hiraku Ogura | + posts

Hiraku Ogura is a fermentation designer and founder of Hakko Labo in Japan. With a background in fermentation science, he authored "Hakko Bunka Jinruigaku" to explore the cultural roots of Japan through the micro fermentation world. His innovative work pushes the boundaries of traditional knowledge in this ancient practice.