Japan is famously known for its regional cuisine, known as "kyodo ryori" (郷土料理) in Japanese, which are based around local, seasonal ingredients. Here are some popular regional dishes you can enjoy next time you're visitng Japan:
Sampei-jiru (Salmon and Vegetable Soup)
A soup made from salted fish (commonly salmon) and vegetables. It's a dish that has been eaten for over 200 years in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost prefecture, and will warm your body on a cold day.
Senbei-jiru (Cracker Soup)
From Aomori Prefecture, this local soup is topped with "nanbu senbei" (a cracker originating from Hachinohe, the largest city in eastern Aomori). The meat for the usually consists of seasonal ingredients such as crabs from the rivers or pheasants from the mountains. Recently, you'll find many soups in restaurants include chicken or mackerel instead.
A local dish commonly found in Tochigi Prefecture, this specialty is made from simmered salmon head leftover from the traditional New Year's meal known as "osechi ryori", roasted soybeans, shredded daikon and carrots. It is usually eaten on the first day horse day of February according to the zodiac calendar, which is referred to as Hatsu-uma-no hi (初午の日). Hatsu-uma-sai festivals are held during this time at Inari Shrines to pray for a good harvest. It is also said that if you eat it, you will not get sick.
In Japanese "hikizuri" (ひきずり) means dragging along and in the context of this dish from Aichi Prefecture, it means to drag meat across a sukiyaki pan. While sukiyaki, a type of hotpot or "nabemono", normally uses beef, you'll find chicken being used in this dish in places such as Nagoya, the capital of Aichi, which is famous for its chickens.
Nishin Nasu (Simmered Herring and Eggplant)
This dish from Kyoto Prefecture is considered to be "obanzai" (おばんざい), which in Kyoto means a dish you eat everyday. In the past, when Kyoto was not as developed as it was now, it was difficult to get fresh fish from the sea so dried herring was used for this dish which is combined with eggplant ("nishin" means herring and "nasu" means eggplant in Japanese).
In Kyoto when you combine various ingredients to enhance deliciousness it is referred to as "deaimon" (出会いもん). The combination of nishin and nasu is considered to be one of the best representations of deaimon.
Kaki Meshi (Oyster with rice)
Hiroshima Prefecture is the number one producer of oysters in Japan and is where you'll find this local dish. Kaki meshi is typically made by cooking oysters with soy sauce served over steamed rice. In Japanese, oysters are sometimes referred to as "sea milk" (海のミルク) because they are very nutritious.
Igisu Tofu (Seaweed Tofu)
From Ehime Prefecture, this dish includes "igisu" - a special kind of red seaweed that grows on the coast of islands in the Seto Island Sea. Igisu tofu is commonly eaten cool, making it a favorite summer dish for locals. It is also commonly used in Buddhist memorial services .
Game-ni (Mixed Chicken Stew)
This dish comes from Fukuoka Prefecture and is often eaten during celebrations such as festivals and weddings. It's commonly made from stewing chicken, burdock and lotus root together. Originally this dish was made from turtle meat but now chicken is commonly used as the main source of meat.
Goya Chanpurū (Mixed Bitter Melon)
This dish comes from Okinawa Prefecture, Japan's southern most tropical islands. In Okinawan dialect, "chanpuru" means mixed and this stir fry dish typically mixes various ingredients such as tofu, goya (bitter melon), bean sprouts and other local ingredients. Goya (ゴーヤー) is said to be the "king of all summer vegetables" because it has a lot of vitamins and is commonly found in dishes in Okinawa. It is believed that one of the reasons why people live long in Okinawa is because they eat a lot of goya.
About the author:
Hi I'm Anna, currently a 5th year JET (from Australia) working in Himeji. I love exploring Japan and finding new things to experience and try, particularly sweets!