May and June are the most popular months of the year to go clam digging「潮干狩りshiohigari 」in Japan. I went clam digging in Egawakaikan Shiohigarijo in Kisarazu, Chiba with my airBNB guests yesterday and we had a blast. It took about one hour for each member to dig about 2 Kilos of Asari clams (Japanese littleneck clams). Check out the four recommended clam digging recommendations below. Note: Clam digging is very popular in Japan so locations can get very crowded on holidays and weekends. Also check out the Tokyo area tide level to make sure you go around the low point.
Clam Digging (Tokyo Area Locations) – Dig for Dinner
The Japanese are very found of collecting one’s food as we know from the popularity of strawberry picking, blueberry picking, and sweet potato digging. The clam-digging season is from March to June, May and June being the most popular due to comfortable water and air temps. Families are well equipped with full wading gear, tents, picnic lunches and more when they hit the muddy beaches to dig for clams. Don’t worry you can show up with just sandals and a hat in most places. Most locations sell buckets (200-500 JPY), net bags (200 JPY) and digging rakes (200-500 JPY) if you show up without your gear!
Here are tips for clam digging that were taught to us by an “expert” Japanese clam digger.
Tip to Prepare for Clam Digging
- Determine what location you will dig at, and review the tide chart. Most places are open for digging a few hours before and after low tide about six hour window. Most locations close the end of June so check end dates on the websites.
- Layer your clothes and a change of clothes for the little ones. When we began digging in the morning it was cold, two hours later it was really hot. Also, you will get wet and sandy/muddy.
- Wear plastic sandals or shoes so your feet do not get cut from open and broken shells.
- Take a hat, sun protection and a bottle of water.
- Items necessary for clam digging: a bucket, a net bag, a clam digging rake (garden rake), small cooler for your car, some people had bathroom stools or small chairs, so they did not need to bend over the entire time.
- Optional items: towels, empty plastic bottles to take home sea water for soaking clams, lunch
- If you have small kids, bring some sand toys so they can play once they get bored digging.
Tips for Clam Digging
- Dig in the shallow water areas – clams from that area will have less sand inside.
- Do not pick up clams that are lying on top of the sand. Healthy clams hide about 5-15 cms down in the sand.
- You do not need to dig very deeply about 5-15 cms
- Clams tend to congregate together so if you are digging and not finding any pretty quickly move to a new spot.
- Asari clams have rough shells not smooth. I was advised not to choose the ones that are smooth. (Honestly do not understand but went with the recommendations).
Tips for Transporting and Preparing Clams to Eat
- Fill your bucket of clams or cooler with sea water to transport home. If hot, add some ice to the water. You do not want the clams to overheat.
- Once home take your bucket or cooler and store in a cool dark place for a minimum of six hours. The clams will spit out sand during that time.
- If when cooking a clam, it does not open when all others have discard it. Sick or dead clams sometimes do not open.
Locations for Clam Digging around Tokyo/Kanto area
- Odaiba Kaihin Koen (Minato-ku, Tokyo) – Odaiba beach 1, Minato-ku, Tokyo (access 3 min walk from Odaiba Kaihin Koen on the Yurikamome Line); free to dig at no cost however clams are quite small, take all your own equipment since none is sold at this location
2. Umi no Koen (Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama) – google map 10 Umi no Koen, Yokohama, Kanazawa-ku, Kanagawa (access 2 min walk from Umi no Koen (south exit) on the Kanazawa Sea Side Line which connects with the Keikyu Line from Shinagawa Station in Tokyo); free to dig at no cost up to 2 Kilo of clams, clams must be over 2 cm or under 15 cms. Gloves, buckets and rakes sold at location. Umi no Koen website (Japanese language only). Clam digging ends June 30th.
3. Egawakaikan Shiohigarijo (Kisarazu, Chiba) google map 576-6 Egawa, Kisarazu, Chiba 千葉県木更津市江川576-6 (access: drive your car – free parking or a 6 min taxi ride from Iwane JR station); cost up to 2 Kilo of clams adults 1,600 JPY, four and above 800 JPY. There is boat for 200 JPY adults or 100 JPY child to take you out to the best digging area, or you can walk out. Gloves, buckets and rakes sold at location. Egawakaikan Shiohigari website (Japanese language only) ** This spot is actually for wholesale production so it is know as the best place in the Tokyo bay area for size and quality. Cost is higher but worth it. Check out their calendar before visiting – runs through August but not all days.
4. Funabashi Sanbanzekaihin Koen (Funabashi, Chiba) google map 40 Shiomicho, Funabashi, Chiba 5 千葉県木更津市江川576-6(access 6 min bus ride from Funabashi station); cost to dig junior high school students and above 430 JPY, children 4 years and above 210 JPY, there is not weight limit on amout you can take home. Equipment sold on location. Season closes on June 11th, 2016. Funabashi Sanbanzekaihin Koen website (Japanese language only)
Clam Digging (Tokyo Area Locations) – Dig for Dinner
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