You may have heard of Kobe beef, but what about Fukushima peaches or Iwate saury? Japan takes local specialties to a whole other level, and they’re a driving force behind the tourism industry in Japan. Know what to look for with this crash course on Japanese local specialties from 10 different prefectures.
Located on the Ariake Sea, Saga’s specialties are beef and squid – especially live squid and squid sashimi. When grilled, squid becomes chewy and a bit rubbery, but raw it’s soft and almost creamy. The region’s beef is famous even in neighboring countries.
Ehime’s specialties are mikan (Japanese tangerine) and jakoten, a type of nerimono (fishcake). Ehime’s prized jakoten are made from small freshwater fish from local lakes, pureed and seasoned to form the cake and then deep fried.
Two of Miyagi Prefecture’s specialties are zunda (sweetened edamame paste) and oysters. The Matsushima Oyster Festival is held each year when they are in season. The capital city of Miyagi, Sendai, is especially famous for its beef tongue (gyutan) and their own style of Sendai miso.
Iwate Prefecture is part of the northern Tohoku region. One of their specialties is Pacific saury (sanma). In fact, the fisheries here are so famous that Tokyo’s annual Meguro Sanma Matsuri, or Pacific Saury Festival, sources its fish from this region. Another dish they’re famous for is wanko soba (small bowl soba).
A specialty of Aomori Prefecture is Nambu senbei. They appear to be large, slightly sweet rice crackers but are actually made from wheat. The snack is also sold in Iwate Prefecture as a popular souvenir, but it actually originated in the Nambu area of Aomori, or current day Hachinohe.
Akita Prefecture is known for its iburi-gakko – smoked pickles typically made from daikon. Daikon are large, white-fleshed radishes with a very mild and versatile flavor and are very common in Japanese cooking.
The collection of warm, tropical islands known as Okinawa are famous for their sea grapes, benimo (a native purple sweet potato) and shikuasa (a native citrus fruit). Taco rice, a dish that combines traditional taco fillings with rice instead of tortillas, originated here.
Yamaguchi Prefecture is famous for its fisheries, and is the place to go for fugu, or pufferfish.
Hokkaido, while acknowledged as a prefecture, never added the title (the suffix –ken) to its name. This region is famous for cantaloupe melons, particularly the prized Yubari King melons, along with sweet corn and seafood. More hairy crabs are caught here than anywhere else in Japan.
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