The Shunkado Unagi Pie Factory in Hamamatsu is where Japan's "unagi pies" are lovingly made. Part eel extract, garlic, and more are combined to create this treat. These snacks are enjoyed throughout Japan, and are a very popular souvenir, even outside of Hamamatsu.
What does an unagi (aka "eel") pie look like? Probably not what you'd expect, actually. It looks like a long cookie. Here are some human-sized statues of what they look like.
There are two reasons to visit the factory:
- To see how unagi pies are made.
- To eat some unagi pies.
When I went to visit, of course I did both. The trip to get there was a little rough. We walked from the nearest train station, which was probably a mile and a half away. It was hot, humid, and spider season. Spiders get pretty big in Japan.
Anyway, I'd recommend looking into catching a bus or a taxi if you're planning to go here. The train doesn't stop too close by.
We first did a self-guided tour of the factory to see what we were about to get into. You can look down on the workers from above to see them work.
They've been here making unagi pie since 1961, so it seems like they really know what they're doing!
You can watch each unagi pie go from nothing to something in a wrapper, ready to be eaten.
Each one is even hand examined. Any unagi pie with a crack or problem is taken out and (in my mind, taken home to get eaten for dinner by the employees).
Although packaging was quite far away, down on the first floor you can see the machines that make and bake the food portion of the unagi pies.
After seeing all this, one tends to get pretty hungry (so long as the idea of eel extract in your cookies doesn't turn you off). That's why there's a cafeteria you can eat in. Of course, they serve unagi pie dishes.
This was good. So was this.
They serve other things too, including different kinds of green teas (goes really well with the unagi pie foods). They also serve their dishes using different kinds of unagi pie. If you remember the image of the unagi pie statues from above, you can see the regular variety, the nut variety, and the VSOP variety (which has some brandy flavoring). They were all good, though I thought VSOP was the best. Certainly the most savory.
If eating and touring isn't enough, they also have a small viewing room that loops an educational video about how this factory got started.
Apparently it's not all that educational though, because I don't remember a lot.
The Unagi Pie Factory was a lot of fun, though I do (for some reason) like going to food factories. The highlight was definitely eating the already delicious unagi pies in an even more delicious combination (with strawberries, cream, etc). The green tea also paired really well.
The biggest drawback is location. It wasn't impossible or terribly difficult to get to, though it wasn't as convenient as getting off a train and walking a few blocks either. Being a factory, it was a bit off the beaten path, and you can't blame them for that. If it wasn't for that, I'd be as happy as this family eating this all-unagi-pie dinner.
If you are already in Hamamatsu, and are here for a couple days, it's definitely worth the visit. There's not a huge amount to do in Hamamatsu as it is, so the Unagi Pie Factory automatically gets pushed way up the list. If this were in, say, Kyoto, it wouldn't make the top ten.
It was interesting to see how the unagi pies got made, and I could eat a few special flavors. That being said, I’d recommend getting some of these at an omiyage shop (you can buy them in Tokyo, even), see if you love them, and then decide whether or not you want to know more. It was a pain to get to, and the spiderwebs crossing the sidewalk everywhere filled with gigantic spiders terrified me.