Overview

Far more than merely sushi and tempura, Japan's eight regions - Chubu, Chugoku, Hokkaido, Kansai, Kanto, Kyushu, Shikoku and Tohoku - are home to an incredible array of local flavours, culinary heritages and unique methods of preparation. Here is a simple introduction to the foods of the eight regions of Japan.

Chubu

Sitting as it does in the centre of Japan's main Honshu island, the cuisine of the Chubu region comes from its nine prefectures - Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Shizuoka, Toyama and Yamanashi. Sourced from the region's impressive mountain landscapes and bountiful coastlines, many dishes from from Chubu are now national staples.

Hoba miso, Gifu prefecture, Chubu (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/aschaf/3810540426/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Andrea Schaffer / CC BY 2.0</a>)
Hoba miso, Gifu prefecture, Chubu (Photo: Andrea Schaffer / CC BY 2.0)

Chugoku

Found in the westernmost area of Honshu island, the cuisine of the Chugoku region is made up of the foods of its five prefectures - Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori and Yamaguchi. Running the gamut from warrior to spiritual heritages, the food in this region is home to some curiously fascinating histories, leading to a great variety of flavours, textures and methods of preparation.

Bara chirashi, Okayama prefecture, Chugoku (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/cityfoodsters/16250929886/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">City Foodsters / CC BY 2.0</a>)
Bara chirashi, Okayama prefecture, Chugoku (Photo: City Foodsters / CC BY 2.0)

Hokkaido

The cuisine from the region of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost prefecture and region, is an amazing treasure trove of quality. Its huge ocean borders and massive agricultural sector is the source of much of the country's foodstuffs. With its undeniably fresh seafood, dairy produce, as well as meats and vegetables, Hokkaido is a literal heaven for food lovers.

Kaisen don, Hokkaido prefecture, Hokkaido (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ladyous/9038867530" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Richard, enjoy my life! / CC BY-SA 2.0</a>)
Kaisen don, Hokkaido prefecture, Hokkaido (Photo: Richard, enjoy my life! / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Kansai

Located in the south-central area of Honshu, the cuisine from the Kansai region is a reflection of the deep political and cultural heritage of its seven prefectures. These prefectures - Hyogo, Kyoto, Mie, Nara, Osaka, Shiga, Wakayama - are home to local foods that begin with nationally loved street stall snacks and range all the way up to Japan's representative high-end dining traditions.

Saba no narezushi, Wakayama prefecture, Kansai (Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wakayama_nare_sushi.JPG" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">おむこさん志望 / CC BY-SA 3.0</a>)
Saba no narezushi, Wakayama prefecture, Kansai (Photo: おむこさん志望 / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Kanto

Home to the nation's capital in Tokyo, the cuisine of the Kanto region also includes Chiba, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Saitama and Tochigi prefectures. These seven prefectures offer interesting takes on common dishes and their own traditional foods have a reputation for being more robust in flavour with a blue-collar bent.

Natto, Ibaraki prefecture, Kanto (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/spilt-milk/370706033/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">yoppy / CC BY 2.0</a>)
Natto, Ibaraki prefecture, Kanto (Photo: yoppy / CC BY 2.0)

Kyushu

Located in the southernmost area of Japan, the cuisine of the Kyushu region comes from its eight prefectures - Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Oita, Okinawa and Saga. Courtesy of a vibrant history within the nation, these prefectures offer some surprisingly unique dishes that make full use of the region's climate and location.

Hakata ramen, Fukuoka prefecture, Kyushu (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/cityfoodsters/19318689832" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">City Foodsters / CC BY 2.0</a>)
Hakata ramen, Fukuoka prefecture, Kyushu (Photo: City Foodsters / CC BY 2.0)

Shikoku

The cuisine of the Shikoku region comes from its four prefectures - Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi and Tokushima. The local foods from each one of these prefectures is marked by a flavour that is deceptively simple. Fresh seafood is a strong feature of the region and a tendency towards buckwheat rather than rice goes well with the region's love of citrus fruit.

Sanuki udon, Kagawa prefecture, Shikoku (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/62068690@N00/2829513453" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Ryosuke Sekido / CC BY 2.0</a>)
Sanuki udon, Kagawa prefecture, Shikoku (Photo: Ryosuke Sekido / CC BY 2.0)

Tohoku

In the far north of Honshu island can be found the cuisine of the Tohoku region. The region's six prefectures - Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata - feature a culinary heritage that is tightly bound to their famous cold winters. Heartwarming soups, hotpots and stews are a mainstay as well fascinating techniques of food preservation.

Gyutan yaki, Miyagi prefecture, Tohoku (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/infinity-d/6887701212" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Yuichiro Haga / CC BY 2.0</a>)
Gyutan yaki, Miyagi prefecture, Tohoku (Photo: Yuichiro Haga / CC BY 2.0)