Have you heard of kamaboko? It’s a type of surimi fishcake from Japan. Surimi is made by creating a paste of pureed white fish paste that is flavoured, formed into different shapes and steamed to cook. In Japan there are many surimi products which are sold both fresh and dried for consumers to add to their soups, hotpots and other dishes. You may already be familiar with one surimi product that is consumed around the world – imitation crabsticks, made from coloured and flavoured fish paste.
Kamaboko is a large loaf-shaped surimi fishcake that is cooked whole, most commonly by steaming, but it can also be fried, grilled or poached. It us usually served sliced, either on its own or within other dishes.
Suzihiro, a traditional manufacturer of kamaboko, have created a centre where visitors can learn more about the history and manufacture of kamaboko. Originally a retailer of fresh fish and seafood, Suzihiro began making kamaboko in 1865, expanding their local customer base to Tokyo during the 19th and 20th centuries. Many Tokyo customers would purchase Suzihiro kamaboko on their journeys to Hakone’s onsen (hot spring bath) resorts.
The Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum is located in the Kazamatsuri district of Odawara City, in Kanagawa Prefecture. Visitors heading to Hakone from Tokyo can easily make a stop at the museum, which is right next to Kazamatsuri Station, on the Hakone Tozan Line between Odawara and Hakone-Yumoto.
As you exit the station, the path from the exit will lead you straight to a large modern building which houses the Suzunari Market, an indoor food market selling a wide range of food including plenty of fishcake products as well as other local delicacies. There are a few eateries within the space, plus plenty of takeaway food to enjoy fresh. There are also products to take home, some of which are designed as omiyage – the customary gifts that Japanese travellers bring home for friends and colleagues.
A coffee shop overlooks the station, with a small garden area between. To one side is a store showcasing and selling ornate Suzihiro kamaboko products. If you exit the market building onto the main road and turn right, the next building along houses the Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum.
Admission is free. There are also paid activities to try your hand at making simple surimi products. These run at set times; contact the museum to reserve in advance if you want to participate.
There is very little information in English so having a good translation app on your phone will make it easier to understand the exhibits detailing the history and manufacturing process.
Best of all though is the opportunity to watch, through enormous glass windows, skilled workmen and women crafting kamoboko in the large factory kitchen.
You may also enjoy my previous posts about my travels to Japan.