Kanagawa, the seaside prefecture located just south of Tokyo, is known for its wealth of history, culture, and cuisine. It is home to Yokohama, Japan’s second most populous city and the prefecture’s capital, the historical hub of Kamakura and the hot springs of Hakone. With some of Japan’s oldest port cities open to foreign trade, the region’s cuisine and culture boast influences from around the world, ranging from China to Europe to the West, along with its own unique historical traditions.
Famous for its local produce, seafood, and beef, Kanagawa is a food-lover’s paradise. From the Chinese inspired food of cities like Yokohama and Kawasaki, to the regional specialties of cities like Odawara and Misaki, here are some of Kanagawa’s most famous foods and the cities they come from:
Meaning home-style or family-style,iekeiramen is known for its creamytonkotsu (pork bone) andshōyu (soy sauce) based broth and thick-cut noodles. The style dates back to 1974 when a former truck driver, Yoshimura-san, opened his own ramen restaurant. Common toppings for this hearty bowl includechashu(roast pork),negi(green onions),nori(dried seaweed), and spinach, although there are plenty that can be added.
With the bountiful fishing grounds along Kanagawa’s coast, the region—and the island of Enoshima in particular—is famous for itsshirasu, or young white fish. These little fish can be served raw over a bowl of steaming rice, known asnama shirasu don, but you can also find them atop bowls of ramen and most notably atop a cone of soft serve ice cream, a dish exclusive to Enoshima.
Yokosuka Kaigun Curry—Yokosuka
Created in its namesake port city of Yokosuka, Yokosuka Kaigun curry—also known as navy base curry— tells a story of British culinary influence and Japanese history. Yokosuka is now famous for housing an American naval base, but it was once home to the Japanese Imperial Navy. The navy served a special spiced beef curry dish thickened with flour, like a British beef stew, alongside rice rather than bread. It still makes an appearance in the mess halls of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
Made in the natural hot springs of Owakudani in Hakone,kuro tamago, or black eggs, are one of the region’s most unique foods. They get their distinctive black color from being boiled in the hot natural sulfur spring water, turning the eggs from white to black. It’s said that eating one of these eggs will grant you an extra seven years of life!
One of the more historic dishes on the list,kenchinjiru is a vegetable soup thought to be named after one of Japan’s oldest Zen Buddhist temples, Kencho-ji. In thiskombu dashi (kelp broth) based soup you can find burdock root, shiitake mushrooms, daikon radish, carrots, taro root, and cubes ofkonnyaku, a jelly made from the konjac root - all staples in Buddhist temple cuisine.
Located in Kanagawa’s Miura district, Misaki port is the second largest tuna fishing port in Japan and is renowned for its high qualitymaguro. One can enjoy the local catch as delicatesashimi or perhaps in the fashion ofMisaki maguroramen, an invention born out of an abundance of tuna where the soup is made from the head of the fish and the meat is used as a topping.
Wagyū - Hayama and Yokohama
The Japanese beef known aswagyū, is some of the most sought-after in the world. There are two renowned brands ofwagyūhailing from Kanagawa: Yokohama Beef and Hayama Beef. As such, steak and grilled meat, oryakiniku, are considered a local delicacy.
Named after the coastal region where it is produced,shonan pork sausages are a deliciously tender sausage produced in small batches using locally raised pigs. They can be quite difficult to find outside of Kanagawa, so be sure to try them while you’re there.
Thought to have been invented in the city of Odawara around 220 years ago,kamaboko is a type of Japanese fish cake made from a finely minced and steamed fish paste. It is a traditional New Year’s dish and a staple topping for ramen and other noodle dishes, and is easily recognized by its iconic pink and white pattern.
The influence of Chinese cuisine on local Kanagawa food can’t be understated. Yokohama’s massive Chinatown is lined with restaurants and food stalls sellingnikuman (pork buns),shūmai (steamed dumplings), and a local Chinese-influenced ramen calledsanma-men, a dish composed of a thick salt orshōyu-based broth, thin noodles, and topped with stir-fried pork and vegetables, which typically include bean sprouts, peppers, and cabbage. However, the capital city isn’t alone in its famous Chinese-inspired cuisine. Kawasaki and Odawara are also famous for their takes on the spicy Sichuan noodle dishtan tan men, and you would be remiss to stop by Kawasaki without trying their populargyōza, pan-fried dumplings.
As one can see, Kanagawa has an astounding array of culinary specialties to accompany their many sightseeing destinations. Just a short trip from Tōkyō, the area is a must visit on your next trip to Japan!
About the author: The spark that lit Kevin Kilcoyne’s interest in Japanese culture began in elementary school through a friendship with his then classmate Keisuke. Since then, that passion has evolved and bloomed to encompass more than just video games and manga, leading Kevin to live in Japan as a participant of the JET program. During his time in Japan, Kevin sought out as many foods as he could, the experiences and taste memories lingering long after they had gone. Now he is forging a path to link his passions for Japanese food, history, and visual culture and is planning for his return to live in Japan once again. For now, you can find Kevin on Instagram (@waruishouten) where he posts his photography and illustration work. Keep an eye out for more posts and updates as Kevin delves more deeply into his passions for writing and food.