Since we’re getting ready to pop over to Japan to do some filming, I wanted to do some research on all the famous foods of every area in Japan. Japan’s really into the whole “famous things in each area” thing, and food is no exception. Each prefecture has its own famous food(s) that they’re known for. Might as well know what they are to eat them, right? The hard part is figuring out what all the famous foods are, since there are many and it’s unclear as to what is the most famous food in certain situations.
So, I’ve been doing my research. Because there are so many prefectures and so many famous foods, I’m going to be breaking this article up into two parts. One for North, East, and Central prefectures of Japan, and one for West and South prefectures of Japan. At the end of the second part, we’ll also include a printout that has a map with numbers on all the prefectures corresponding to a list down below it. That way you can print this out, take it with you, and go on a rompy food excursion in Japan.
Each prefecture will be given 3 famous foods with the exception of a few (like Hokkaido, which is really, really big and tasty). While there are many other famous foods in every single prefecture, these are the ones that seemed to be the most famous. Of course, if you feel the need to add anything, please do so in the comments.
Hokkaido Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Uni, Ikura-don (Sea Urchin and Salmon Roe Rice Bowl) – This is simply a rice bowl that’s one half ikura (salmon roe) and one half uni (sea urchin). They’ve pretty much just combined two of the best seafoods into one donburi, and that makes me hungry.
2. Kaisen-don (Seafood rice bowl) – This is also a rice bowl, but instead of just having tow things it has many things. This donburi has many kinds of seafoods on top, which can include crab, shrimp, uni, ikura, salmon, tuna, and more.
3. Jingisukan (Grilled mutton) – This is a yakiniku style dish that’s served on a convex metal skillet or grill. The meat used is lamb which was said to be the meat of choice for Genghis Khan (the dish is named after him), and the skillet is shaped like their helmets which they supposedly cooked their food on.
4. Ishikari Nabe (Salmon and vegetable stew with miso and butter) – This stew is a miso based stew that includes some Hokkaido salmon. Great to eat in the cold Hokkaido winters.
5. Nama Uni Donburi (Raw sea urchin rice bowl) – More rice bowls! This is just donburi that’s all uni all the way. Personally, I’d get #1 because I wouldn’t be able to choose which topping I’d want, but this is a close second.
6. Chan Chan Yaki (Salmon Hotpot) – This is known as the fisherman’s hot pot. It includes salmon and vegetables and comes seasoned in a miso-based sauce.
Aomori Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Ichigoni aka Strawberry Stew (Sea urchin and abalone stew) – The sea urchin and abalone are boiled in dashi and seasoned with a bit of salt and shoyu (soy sauce). Sounds simple, but also sounds tasty, too. It gets this name not for having strawberries but for being a pinkish color, which is kind of like the color of strawberries.
2. Senbei Jiru (Senbei Soup) – If you’ve never had senbei, you’re missing out. If you’ve never had senbei jiru, well, you ought to try it. It’s probably not like the senbei you’re thinking of though. Senbei jiru tends to use fresh senbei which makes a lot more sense when you consider it’s being put in a soup.
3. Ooma Maguro Tuna Dishes – Ooma is a port known for their tuna. So, this one is getting all grouped together. There are apparently various Maguro Tuna dishes in Ooma Port that are worth trying. If you’re in Ooma, you’ll definitely want to order the tuna.
Iwate Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Morioka Reimen (Cold Korean Ramen) – This cold noodle ramen is similar to the North Korean dish Naengmyeon, except the noodles in Japan are made from potato starch. It has a spicy cold beef broth and often includes fruit to help cut the spicy.
2. Morioka Jajamen (Thick Chinese noodles with meat-miso sauce) – These noodles are bigger and more like udon. It’s a Chinese noodle dish that is topped with cucumber, green onion, ginger, a meat-miso sauce and more.
3. Wanko Soba (Small Bowl Soba) – This soba dish is served in small bowls. One theory is because during a festival there wasn’t enough soba to go around, so it was put into smaller bowls so everyone could have a taste. Oh Japan and your small bowls.
Miyagi Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Gyuutan Yaki (Roast Cow Tongue) – This is what it sounds like… roast cow tongue. It’s usually sliced in to thin pieces so it’s easier to eat. It’s not like you have to stick the whole cow tongue in your mouth. Moo.
2. Zundamochi (Soy bean mochi / rice cake) – This is basically mochi covered in a soy bean paste. Mochi is good. Soy beans are good. Why not combine them together?
3. Kaki Ryori (Oyster Dishes) – Oyster dishes are well known for in Miyagi Prefecture. So, kind of like Ooma and its maguro, if you see an oyster dish in Miyagi it’s probably worth a try.
Akita Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Kiritanpo Nabe (Kiritanpo Hot Pot) – This dish is like… super well known in Akita. It’s a hot pot dish served with kiritanbo, which is made from cooked rice that’s mashed and then formed into cylindars. Many other ingredients are included as well (just as with most nabe) but the kiritanpo is what makes it so well known.
2. Inaniwa Udon - This is a type of udon that’s, well, thin. Normally when you get udon the noodles are thick.
3. Hata Hata Zushi – Known as the “God Fish” for some reason, this fish is a bit sticky and doesn’t have scales. It’s one of those prefecture fishes you’ll mainly find in Akita, though, which probably is why it is kind of famous here.
Yamagata Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Imo Nabe (Potato Stew) – This is essentially a potato nabe. Must be good though since it seems to come in at number one.
2. Tamago Konyaku (Ball Konyaku) – This is konyaku (nearly zero calories!) in the shape of balls, cooked in various ways.
3. Dongara Jiru (Dongara Soup) – This soup contains gray cod cut into large chunks and includes the bones, head and innards. It also includes many other ingredients as well and is a good dish for warming you up in the winter!
Fukushima Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Kozuyu – This is a clear soup that contains dried scallop, vegetables, and more. Definitely has a distinct look to it, but looks tasty I think!
2. Kenchin Udon - This is a lot like Kenchin soup (see Ibaraki Prefecture), a soup with lots of roots and vegetables in a tasty broth. Looks like they add udon to theirs, though, making it a bit unique.
3. Nishin no Sanshou Zuke (Pickled Herring) – This is pickled herring that is layered in leaves of sansho and fermented in shoyu, sake, vinegar, and sugar. That way, you can eat it year round!
Niigata Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Noppei Jiru (Noppei Soup) – This soup is made from leftover vegetable parts cooked in sesame oil. This is often eaten at festivals, Buddhist ceremonies, and during the New Year.
2. SasaDango (Mugwort Flavored Mochi) – This was a portable food back in the Warring States period. It consists of mugwort flavored mochi and redbeans. To make it portable it’s wrapped in bamboo leaves.
3. Hegi Soba - These soba noodles use top-notch buckwheat and are served on a special plate called a “hegi.” The noodles are placed on the hegi so that they can be eaten one mouthful at a time. I like it when people separate my noodles for me so they’re easier to eat. No wonder these are famous.
Toyama Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Masuzushi (Trout Sushi) – Okay, when I made fun of sushi abominations a while back, I didn’t realize sushi pizza was an actual traditional thing in Japan. Whoops. Anyways, this salted trout is placed on the rice and then lined with bamboo leaves. It can come in round and not-round varieties.
2. Shiro Ebi Ryori (White Shrimp Dishes) - Toyama is also known for its white shrimp dishes. So, if you’re in Toyama, look out for things that have white shrimp in them.
3. Hotaru Ika Ryori (Hotaru Squid Dishes) – Also popular are Toyama’s Hotaru Squid. They’re little guys and can be cooked in a variety of ways. I like anything that involves Hotaru Ika and sticks, personally.
Ishikawa Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Kabura Zushi (Turnip Sushi) – This dish is made from salt preserved turnips and slices of amberjack (along with some other ingredients). It is cured together on malted rice… and here I thought vegetable sushi could never make me hungry.
2. Jibuni (Jibu Stew) – Stewed duck coated in flour, seasonal veggies, and Kanazawa wheat gluten. The “sound of stewing” something is “jibujibu,” which is where this stew got its name.
3. Kaga Ryori (Kaga Dishes) – Any connection to Chairman Kaga? Probably not. Still, #3 is a bunch of dishes bunched into one. This is a style of cooking that uses local seafood, wild greens, and heirloom vegetables. It’s not just one type of dish, though, so you’ll have to catch ‘em all if you’re in the Kanazawa City area, where this is popular.
Fukui Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Oroshi Soba – This is a cold soba dish that has various toppings on it (unlike zaru soba). This is a good summer meal.
2. Satoimo no Koroni (Sato Potato Stew) - This simple potato dish only has a few ingredients. Sato potatoes, shoyu, sugar, and mirin. But, the simple taste is what makes this one so good.
3. Saba no Heshiko - This is preserved mackerel from Fukui Prefecture. The mackerel are cleaned, salted, and then put in rice bran. These pieces of fish are lightly grilled when it’s eating time.
Gifu Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Kurikinton (Mashed Sweet Potatoes With Sweetened Chestnuts) - Kuri (chestnuts) and kinton (sweet potatoes). Mush them together and you have Kurikinton. If you eat this you will do well monetarily (because it’s gold in color).
2. Keichan – Cabbage, chicken, and onions in a garlic shoyu marinade. It’s often cooked on a Mongolian skillet, just like jingisukan (see Hokkaido).
3. Hobamiso (Ho Tree Leaf Miso) – These leaves have antibacterial properties, which makes them good for keeping food clean. In this dish, though, you have dried ho leaves. On top, you put miso paste mixed with various other ingredients. It’s then heated over a fire and you eat the stuff on top.
Nagano Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Shinshuu Soba - Two parts wheat, eight parts buckwheat. Named after the old name of Nagano prefecture. I didn’t know it was known as the “trustful state.” That’s a good name to have when the Shogun’s watching.
2. Nozawanazuke (Nozawana Pickles) - Nozawana is a Japanese leaf vegetable. This is the pickled variant from Nagano.
3. Oyaki – This is a type of Japanese dumpling made with fermented buckwheat dough wrapped around various toppings. It’s usually steamed or broiled.
Yamanashi Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Houtou – This is stewed flat udon noodles and vegetables in a soup. The thing that makes this unique is that the udon noodles are prepared in the style of dumplings rather than noodles (which is why locals don’t consider this udon).
2. Yoshida no Udon (Yoshida’s Udon) – This special dish of Fujiyoshida City includes surprisingly firm and thick udon, topped with various ingredients. Each restaurant has it’s own suridane (spices), which means it can vary from place to place. Try the “niku udon.” It has horse meat. Neighhh!
3. Kabocha Houtou (Pumpkin Houtou) – Another houtou (see #1). This time it has Japanese pumpkin.
Aichi Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Hitsumabushi - This is Aichi style Unagi-don (which is unagi on rice). There is a little difference, though. First you eat the unagi as it is. Then, you add in some seasonings. Finally, when things are breaking up and getting crazy, add dashi (stock) to it and eat it like chazuke.
2. Miso Nikomi Udon - This is a type of udon that’s stewed in a miso broth with various other toppings (like cabbage, onions, carrots, negi, and so on). What a great sounding comfort food.
3. Tebasaki Karaage (Deep Fried Chicken Wings) – I mean, you can’t go wrong with chicken wings, especially if you fry them.
*Bonus: Miso Katsu – I always thought this was really famous, but it only makes it to #4 on the polls. Still, I like it. Aichi loves their miso.
Shizuoka Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Sakuraebi Ryouri (Cherry Shrimp Dishes) – If you’re in Shizuoka and you see sakura ebi on the menu be sure to pick it up. There’s many ways to prepare sakura ebi since it’s Shizuoka’s famous food.
2. Unagi No Kabayaki - This is unagi dipped and broiled in a soy based sauce over a grill. I’m a sucker for this.
3. Shizuoka Oden - This is a variet of Oden (various things like boiled eggs, daikon, potatoes, etc., that are first boiled then kept in a simmering broth until eaten). Shizuoka’s version of oden involves beef sinew for the broth and has a strong soy sauce. The broth is then replenished, so the items within get darker and darker and more and more delicious.
Gunma Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Yaki Manjuu (Cooked Maju) – This wheat flower that’s been fermented in saké is formed into small dumplings then skewered. On top is a sweet and savory miso-based sauce.
2. Okkirikomi - The most interesting part about this dish is the hand cut noodles, which can get pretty wide. The broth is mirin and shoyu based and includes vegetables, taro, and more.
3. Kamameshi – This is “kettle rice” which is rice that’s eaten from a communal iron pot called a “kama.” It also includes other ingredients besides rice, and the burned rice on the bottom adds an extra wonderful taste.
Tochigi Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Shimotsukare – Simmered vegetables, soybeans, abura-age, and sake kasu. Many other additional ingredients can be added as well.
2. Gyouza – You know what gyoza/gyouza is, right? Dumplings, in English. Safe to say, if you’re anywhere the gyoza is pretty good. If you’re in Tochigi, it’s even better. In fact, it’s famous for its gyoza.
3. Chitake Soba – Chitake is a certain kind of mushroom, also known as the Lactarius Volemus. This is a soba dish that features said mushroom.
Ibaraki Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Ankou Nabe (Monkfish Stew) - When fresh, the super-ugly monkfish can be pretty good. This stew contains said monkfish, most notably its liver.
2. Ankou no Dobu Jiru (Monkfish ) – Once again it’s the monkfish. Ibaraki’s all about the monkfish. This soup contains all parts of the monkfish, including skin, liver, fins, stomach and more. Don’t waste your monkfish, kids.
3. Kenchin Jiru (Kenchin Soup) – Kenchinjiru is a soup that was first made at kencho-temple (where it got its name). A monk dropped a block of tofu and it broke into many pieces. He put it in the soup anyways, and kenchinjiru was born. The cool thing about this soup is the distribution of the tofu. Since it’s a bunch of little pieces, it’s so even!
Saitama Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Hiyajiru Udon (Cold Soup Udon) - This is a cold-souped udon from Saitama. It has sesame seeds, cucumbers, and other awesome things.
2. Igamanjuu – The rice is cooked with azuki beans and put around a steamed bun with sweet bean jam. Tasty and sweet.
3. Niboutou – This is pretty much the same as Okkirikomi but… Saitama-ified, I guess. Mmmm, Saitama.
Chiba Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Namerou - This is a fisherman’s dish consisting of horse mackerel, sardines, flying fish, and Pacific Saury. It’s cut into small bits and is added to miso, ginger, leeks, and green basil.
2. Yude Rakkasei (Steamed Peanuts) – This area is good for cultivating peanuts, so Chiba and Fuji City have become well known for said peanuts. Apparently these are the only peanuts that go well with alcohol in all of Japan.
3. Aji no Tataki (Minced Horse Mackerel) – This is horse mackerel that has been chopped up and placed with something fresh and tasty.
Tokyo Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Monja Yaki- Similar to Okonomiyaki, Monja yaki is a pan-fried batter with various ingredients in it. The difference is mojayaki has more liquid and therefore more runny. It’s then eaten directly off the grill with a spatula.
2. Fukagawa Don (Fukagawa Rice Bowl) – Short-neck clams and hard clams are deep fried and mixed with onions and miso are put on rice. Back in the day these kinds of clams were very plentiful and this dish was popular in Fukagawa. Now it’s just famous.
3. Kusaya – This is a drinking snack consisting of salted and dried fish. It’s super smelly but has a pretty mild taste, all things considered.
Kanagawa Prefecture’s Famous Foods
1. Kaigun Kare (Navy Curry) – Back in the day Yokosuka had quite the navy base. It still does, though the team that uses it is different. During this time, a type of local curry used with the navy popped up. Strangely, this kind of curry is actually what’s considered “normal” curry in Japan now, though it’s cooked “the old way” here. I suppose it’s famous for birthing curry as Japanese knows it.
2. Namashirasu Don (Raw Whitebait Rice Bowl) – Whitebait is a term for tiny fish, usually baby anchovy or sardines. In this dish, instead of frying or cooking the whitebait fish, you can get it raw. I bet the texture is pretty awesome.
3. Sanmamen – This is a Yokohama style ramen that’s served in a shoyu broth and covered in stir-fried vegetables.
West And South Coming Next Week
Next week I’ll be doing West and South Japan, covering the second half of this series. Also included will be a printout you can use and take with you to Japan. That way no matter where you go you’ll know what famous foods to look out for and consume. There are a lot of famous foods to be eaten, and it would take the memory of an elephant to remember them all, so why not let us help you out?
Update: Read Part 2 Now!
Anyways, that’s next week, so hopefully you food lovers can wait that long. There are many more delicious things to see.
What looks the best to you? Also, what have you already tried and loved? Let us know in the comments so we can know what to especially look for.