• 2022.07.01
  • Ericeira, town of sea urchins
I live in a town called Ericeira.

The name comes from ouriceira, or ouriço, and is also known as “the land of ouriço.” Many people think it refers to the ouriço (sea urchins) that live along the coast of Ericeira. But one explanation says that the original word ouriço doesn’t refer to sea urchins, but hedgehogs instead. Another says that it’s related to the Phoenician goddess Astarte.

Tracing the people of Ericeira back to the Phoenicians is backed by research done by a scholar named Manuel Gandra. It means that Ericeria’s history goes back to 1000 B.C. Did a bunch of hedgehogs live here all those years?

All that said, most people associate Ericeira with sea urchins. There’s even a symbol of a sea urchin on the town crest. That shows you how many of them there are here.

Crest of Ericeira

Surfers flock to Ericeira, which is also a surfer’s paradise. But they’re constantly worried about the sea urchins on the ocean floor. If you go out into the water without boots on, you’ve got to watch your step. Sea urchins have sharp spines. They’re also as brittle as unfired pottery, so the spines will break off and remain lodged in the skin, and crumble when you try to extract them. They’re a real pain.
My husband and kids have gotten sea urchin spines stuck in their feet, and I’ve even seen the strange sight of them pulling them out of each other with tweezers.

Tons of sea urchins and starfish

A good thing about the sea urchins is the Sea Urchin Festival, which happens once a year. We went this year too, of course.

The highlight of this year’s event was the cooking demonstration featuring sea urchins that took place at the central Ericeira fish market. Chefs from four or five restaurants used sea urchin to make original dishes on the spot, and we got to taste them as well.

The sea urchins here aren’t thick and plump like they are in Japan, but they are fresh out of the sea. I love their beachy smell and natural saltiness.
The event is rather small and not many people came out, so even though it didn’t last long, it was a lot of fun. There was plenty to eat—enough that my daughter was even able to go back and get seconds. I’m happy that sea urchin is becoming more popular, but things are likely to get more complicated once people get bitten by the sea urchin bug. In the meantime, we’ve got to enjoy it while we can.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!


  • Megumi Ota
  • JobConservator, interpreter, and coordinator / Insitu (restoration), Kaminari-sama / Novajika, and others

I’m a conservator and preservationist living in Portugal. I specialize primarily in paintings (murals) and gold leaf design, and am involved with UNESCO World Heritage structures as well as the interior of the Palace of Belém. I derive great satisfaction from having close ties to my community in the rural village near the Silver Coast where I live. My hobby is gardening.

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