Kumagaya - Local Foods and Cuisine

A taste of humble Saitama

By Sleiman Azizi    - 3 min read

Head one hour north from Tokyo and you'll come across the gateway to Saitama Prefecture, Kumagaya. A former trading stop on the old Nakasendo Highway, Kumagaya City retains its historical transport tradition by being the regional hub for Saitama and much of northern Japan.

Birthplace of the fabled warrior-come monk, Kumagae Naozone whose emotional tale of regret and penance has been immortalised in the moving Noh play, Atsumori, Kumagaya is also famous for its extravagant three-day Uchiwa Festival and kaleidoscopically detailed Menuma Shodenzan Kangiin Temple, the prefecture's first National Treasure.

Noodles, the go-to food

Kumagaya's rich history belies the humble nature of its local cuisine. Perhaps Kumagae's sombre penance lives on in the food as the ever rustic offering of udon noodles turns out to be Kumagaya's main go-to cuisine. Sourced from wheat grown in the area, Kumagaya udon is rich in flavour and heart, representing regional pride and a much respected resource.

Kumagaya's famous udon noodles, made with locally grown wheat. (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/norisa/11149394145/in/photostream/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Nori Norisa / CC BY 2.0</a>)
Kumagaya's famous udon noodles, made with locally grown wheat. (Photo: Nori Norisa / CC BY 2.0)

Buddhist piety

The signature dish of the Menuma Shodenzan Kangiin Temple is another low key cuisine, inari sushi. These deep-fried tofu bags of vinegared rice and picked vegetables are in keeping with with Buddhism's non-meat philosophy and reflect the piousness of the temple's original benefactor, Lord Sanemori.

Inari sushi, pious fare from Menuma Shodenzan temple. (Photo: <a href="https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%95%E3%82%A1%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB:Menuma_Inari-zushi_01.JPG" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">tak1701d / CC0 1.0</a>)
Inari sushi, pious fare from Menuma Shodenzan temple. (Photo: tak1701d / CC0 1.0)

Meaty morsels

Far removed from the piety of temple fare is the equally humble but completely carnivorous Kumagaya speciality, horumon, or tripe. Grilled over charcoal, the internal organs of beef or pork are an extremely delicious evening food, particularly at bars and street stalls where its saltiness goes hand-in-hand with a drink or two.

Grilled tripe, or horumon in Japanese, is tried and tested evening staple of Kumagaya (Photo: <a href="https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%95%E3%82%A1%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB:Horumonyaki_001.jpg" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Ocdp / CC0 1.0</a>)
Grilled tripe, or horumon in Japanese, is tried and tested evening staple of Kumagaya (Photo: Ocdp / CC0 1.0)

Rustic rolls of sweetness

Kumagaya's sweet tooth can be found in its famous gokabo. Made from techniques originating in the Edo Period, gokabo are sweetened rice cake rolls coated in roasted soybean powder. Delightfully rustic and rural, they have become the city's go to souvenir sweet.

The rustic delight of soybean powder and rice, gokabo is the quintessential Kumagaya sweet (Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gokabo.JPG" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Ebiebi2 / CC BY-SA 4.0</a>)
The rustic delight of soybean powder and rice, gokabo is the quintessential Kumagaya sweet (Photo: Ebiebi2 / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Local food here in Kumagaya balances out the city's extravagant festivals by remaining loyal to the area's local knowledge and humble tastes and is well worth the experience.

Getting there

Take the JR Takasaki Line to Kumagaya Station.

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Sleiman Azizi

Sleiman Azizi @sleiman.azizi

A Japanese Permanent Resident, I have over 400 published articles on Japan as well as 5 English language books written in a traditional Japanese style. I happen enjoy writing. Funny that...I'm also the Regional Partner for Tokyo, Japan's never ending capital, so if you've anything to say about Tokyo - or Japan in general - don't be shy and contact with me via sleiman.azizi@japantravel.com

Join the discussion

Elena Lisina a year ago
I like to try different dishes and like almost all in Japan, with little exception.
Kim B a year ago
Ah! Kumagaya is one of the stops on the Joetsu Shinkansen when I go from here in Niigata to Tokyo or vice-versa. Always find myself wondering what there is to do at the stops along the way - now I know it's a bit of a foodie paradise!
Sleiman Azizi Author a year ago
I think the same thing at pretty much every stop, local or bullet train, lol.