Kirby Cafe Tokyo
By Serena Ogawa
Explore new culinary frontiers in Japanese food culture
The Hokuriku area is blessed with a lush climate that provides optimal conditions for some of Japan’s finest foods. From delicious seafood sourced directly from the Sea of Japan to verdant fields perfect for raising livestock and growing Japanese tea alike, the rich bounty of the land is yours to taste. Add to that a diverse array of high and low dining culture that has sprung up around the natural ingredients, and the table is set for countless encounters with gastronomy to be treasured.
Sushi has an image of being Japan’s national cuisine, but there are numerous, regional ways to enjoy the dish. A relatively recent style is Niigata’s Kiwami style, which was first pioneered in 2007 as a way of opening up gourmet sushi to a wider audience. Featuring sea urchin, fatty tuna, salmon roe, and local seasonal fish at a fixed price, Kiwami style is a great introduction to the world of premium sushi.
Kaga cuisine is the taste of Kanazawa—not just including local ingredients and the Ono area’s distinctive soy sauce, but also the Kanazawa kogei artisanal crafts in the beautiful tableware. The result is a culinary ceremony that is a feast for the eyes as much as the palate. Enjoy Kaga in a traditional setting to match the cuisine, safe in the knowledge that you are following in the footsteps of the nobility and samurai of old.
Nagano is known throughout Japan for its delicious soba noodles. The prefecture's combination of highlands, which provide the perfect conditions for growing buckwheat, and crisp, clean water filtered through its volcanic mountain ranges is a gift for making soba. Enjoy cool water in spring and summer, as well as piping hot onsen through Nagano’s cooler seasons.
Enjoy picking seasonal fruits including Japanese pears, plums, grapes, peaches, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, and apples in orchards located throughout Gunma Prefecture. Make a date with delicious fresh Japanese fruit!
The fresh air and crystal clear waters of the Gifu Prefecture highlands are the habitat for Hida beef cattle, a type of Japanese black cattle, one of the prefecture's most celebrated culinary customs. That is not all either, the exceptionally juicy beef turns up in a huge range of different dishes: on top of rice as sushi, skewered, or in delicious steamed buns that take the succulence to another level entirely.
This is what childhood dreams are made of! The Totti Candy Factory’s signature item is oversized swirls of rainbow-hued candy floss, called wata-ame, while other treats include adorable animal-shaped cake pops and pick-and-mix candies. This colorful sweet shop is the perfect place to take a break during your visit to Harajuku, Tokyo’s center of kawaii culture. Tokyo is the place to be for checking out all the latest on-trend sweets, so if you have a sweet tooth be sure to indulge yourself on your travels.
Not all Japanese wagyu beef is created equally. Even if wagyu as a whole sets the bar very high, Omi beef cattle are on another level entirely. It is also the original brand beef, predating Kobe beef and others by centuries. Such a fine beef deserves a first-rate chef, so why not eat it teppanyaki style, where the chef cooks it to their own exacting standards before your very eyes? Sukiyaki and a range of other cooking styles are also popular dining options.
Saba (mackerel) is one of Fukui’s best-loved local delicacies. And there is no better place to eat it fresh than Wakasawa Bay, where the fish frolic in abundance. The hearty saba is skewered and then broiled whole without seasoning to let the delicious natural fatty oils come through. Enjoy with a pinch of salt or a dash of soy sauce for a rustic dish that is on a par with fine gastronomy.
For the authentic takoyaki (battered octopus) experience, you have to look to Aiduya, the oldest takoyaki store in existence. While commonly eaten elsewhere drenched in a variety of thick sauces, Aiduya’s takoyaki is eaten straight from the ball-shaped griddle. All the flavor comes from the soup stock-infused soft batter shell. If you are no fan of octopus, there are beef options available as well that are just as delicious.
With a history dating back to 1886, there is no better place to discover Japanese unagi (freshwater eel) than the storied restaurant Mandana. Their technique for keeping the eel firm yet succulent—and as fresh as possible—is a closely guarded secret, and the labor-intensive cooking method, which involves steaming before grilling, makes for the quintessential flavor of Saitama eel. The wetlands of Urawa created by the Arakawa River that cuts through the prefecture have made this an area where eels thrive and the gastronomic culture that now surrounds them is yours to savor.
The Bay of Toyama is a paradise for marine life, boasting both warm and cool currents, and an ecosystem that lets fish and other wildlife thrive! Those delicacies of the deep are yours to enjoy fresh from the bay, and the haul changes year-round. Don’t miss out on firefly squid and Japanese glass shrimp in spring through summer, yellowtail in winter, as well as a whole host of other delights depending on the season.
Sweets and chocolates infused with Japanese matcha (green tea) have become a global hit, bringing the flavor beloved in Japan for centuries to a wider audience. But these are no match for the real deal, which can only be enjoyed in the original hub of matcha: Uji in Kyoto. At Tsuji Rihei Honten, you can even grind the leaves into a powder yourself before enjoying your own work as a traditional bowl of tea accompanied by a contemporary parfait.
For more information on rail passes, routes, and everything you need to plan your Hokuriku adventure, please visit the Explore Japan website below.
Explore Japan Official Website
Visit the official Hokuriku Arch Pass website here:
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