Snow-capped mountains and alpine trees in winter. Colorful flowers like cherry blossoms, and lush greenery in spring and summer. Dense autumn foliage in fall. These splendid seasonal scenes unfold every year on the Japan (or Japanese) Alps.
The Japan Alps refers to a series of scenic mountain ranges that runs along the spine of central Japan. The Alps is made of three mountainous regions that rise over 3000 metres: the Northern Alps, Central Alps, and Southern Alps. The Japan Alps region attracts visitors all-round the year for fun leisure activities like hiking and skiing.
As the Japan Alps is so massive and covers many prefectures and mountain ranges, this guide will focus on the section of the Alps in Nagano Prefecture. Nagano Prefecture, also known by its traditional name Shinshu, is a mountainous and landlocked area. Because of Nagano’s unique geographical features, the people living in Nagano are creative with growing and preparing food. Find out more about the special regional food that you must try when you visit Nagano.
Shinshu Soba (信州そば)
Nagano produces some of the best soba noodles in Japan. While the mountainous terrain and cold climate are not ideal for rice cultivation, it’s perfect for growing buckwheat, which is used to make flour and soba noodles. Shinshu soba noodles are thicker and chewier. One of the most popular ways to enjoy Shinshu soba is to pair it with sweet and salty walnut sauce, a signature Nagano condiment made from walnuts grown locally.
Shinshu Miso (信州みそ)
Nagano Prefecture is one of the top producers of miso in Japan. Shinshu miso is made using rice malt and soybeans. The secret to the special taste of Shinshu miso is the use of clear water. Nagano has access to abundant water resources because of its landscape and climate. Shinshu miso is commonly used to make the staple miso soup and also to enrich the flavors in many Japanese dishes.
Try our Shinshu Miso (Aged 2 Years)
Pickled Nozawana (野沢菜漬け)
Nozawana is a mild leafy vegetable (also a type of mustard leaf) that flourishes in Nagano’s cold climate. Pickled Nozawana is a local specialty. In the past, pickled food formed a large part of the people’s diet as preserved food lasted longer in cold temperatures. Crunchy with a refreshing taste, pickled Nozawana is a great side dish–tsukemono (Japanese pickle). Pickled nozawana is also used in cooking and as fillings in snacks like onigiri.
Soba Tea (そば茶)
The high-quality buckwheat grains grown in Nagano are used not just to make soba noodles but tea as well. Soba tea is brewed from roasted buckwheat grains. Due to the grains used and the process of brewing, soba tea has a light and nutty taste. Soba tea is a healthy drink as it contains antioxidants and helps to improve your digestion and immune system.
Try our Soba Tea
Gohei Mochi (五平餅)
A popular snack in Nagano, Gohei mochi is made from pounded rice. The sticky paste made from the pounded rice is wrapped around a wooden stick, coated with thick, sweet and sour sauce, and grilled over a fire. The key ingredients that elevate the taste of the sauces are miso and walnuts. This delectable snack is a must-have during winter!
About the author:
Wendy writes about her travel experiences to escape from her city life in Singapore. Her content creator’s journey started when she had the opportunity to live and teach in Okinawa and circumvent the world with Peace Boat. A compulsive-obsessive traveler and culture enthusiast, she believes that when we know more, we travel better. Or in true foodie spirit, when we eat more, we travel better.