Salmon Sushi: “やまべ鮭寿司 -Yamabe Syake Sushi- ” at Sapporo Station.

River Cusine

My home is located in Saitama Prefecture in the Kanto region of Japan, while my wife’s family hails from Hokkaido. Consequently, I find myself visiting Hokkaido several times a year, always passing through Sapporo Station. A must-buy for me there is a bento called ‘Yamabe Syake Sushi’.

‘Yamabe’ refers to the juvenile form of Cherry Salmon (Oncorhynchus masou). In Honshu, they are known as ‘Yamame’, but in Hokkaido, they are called ‘Yamabe’. This bento is commonly sold at the station’s bento shops and contains sushi made from both Chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) and Cherry salmon juveniles, equally divided in a square box.

While the taste is delicious, it’s more subdued compared to sushi varieties like tuna or yellowtail. The Chum salmon part is similar to what you’d find in any sushi restaurant, paired with firm bento-style rice. The Yamame part is notably thinner and of white flesh. Although it belongs to the same salmon family, one might not choose this fish if seeking only simple flavors.

The price is 600 yen.

Sakura Masu is a cold-water fish found in the upper streams of rivers in Honshu, though they are scarce in number. However, in Hokkaido, with its higher latitude, they are broadly distributed across many rivers. In Hokkaido, many anglers specifically target these juvenile fish. I, too, have fond memories of fly fishing for them during my university days in Hokkaido.

This bento is more than just a meal; it embodies the regional characteristics of Hokkaido’s river fish. As I’ve often mentioned on this site, with the widespread distribution of sea fish, cuisine utilizing river fish has been on the decline. This bento featuring river fish other than Ayu (Sweet fish) or Unagi (Japanese eel) may be one of the few of its kind available at stations.

To me, this bento interweaves various sentiments: memories of fishing in my student days, the simple yet profound taste, and as a symbol of the culinary culture, it’s a bento I wish to see endure. I believe it stands as a means to preserve the rich and diverse aquatic flavors of Hokkaido.