I believe I’m not just speaking for myself when I say I absolutely love Japanese food! Central Japan has one of the most well-preserved Japanese culture in the entire country. Soup is slow cooked on charcoal fire, menus are handwritten, and food is served on plates that look like they are a hundred years old.
If you’re heading to Central Japan, here’s a list to make sure you don’t miss out on any awesome food!
1. Taste the real wasabi at a wasabi farm
Nagano is one of the few places that can cultivate wasabi. Wasabi cultivation is a highly complex matter. Most places don’t even serve the real wasabi due to the high price of such a rare plant. If you want to have a taste of the real thing, head to a wasabi farm.
Daio Wasabi Farm in Matsumoto accepts visitors. This might sound a little gimmicky but they sell all kinds of wasabi food such as wasabi ice cream and wasabi croquette.
2. Splurge on a kaiseki meal
Well, this can be said for anywhere else in Japan. Kaiseki is the Japanese idea of fine dining. It usually takes an hour to enjoy the full course meal. Menus are entirely up to the chef’s discretion and are seasonal. Part of the joy of having a kaiseki meal is feasting your eyes on the delicate food arrangements. If you are into food photography, you’ll be snapping away like mad! Kaiseki meals can be enjoyed at ryokans or specialised restaurants.
3. Have sashimi for breakfast
I know, this sounds a tad adventurous for the tamed stomach. I can’t say I wasn’t surprised to see sashimi served for breakfast while I was on a trip there. The Japanese sure love their raw food any time of the day.
4. Indulge in Hida beef
If you are a wagyu beef connoisseur, you would have heard of Hida beef. If you haven’t, doesn’t matter, I’ll fill you in on the juicy details. There are many grades when it comes to Japanese beef. I won’t bore you with the technical details. This prized beef basically needs to meet grade A or B to be certified as Hida beef. If you are a meat lover and you are in the Gifu Prefecture, you have to try this! I won’t say it comes cheap, but hey, we live to eat right?
5. Snack on street food at a festival
The people in Central Japan loves their local festivals. One of the things you can’t miss in a festival is the local street food. These finger food are so amazing, you will end up going for seconds. Skewers, also known as kushiyaki, are often sold. You can even have a taste of Hida beef on these skewers!
6. Try hoba miso
No, this is not like the miso soup you have been drinking. Hoba miso is a speciality of Takayama, and I hardly see this anywhere else in Japan. It tastes a little sweeter than regular miso, and is often roasted on a leaf with other ingredients such as vegetables or mushrooms.
7. Eat anything red bean
The Japanese loves red bean. There are many variations of this dessert, and can be served with green tea, rice cakes or even ice cream. This delicate dessert can be found almost anywhere in Central Japan. You are bound to find it in one of the traditional wooden shops that are everywhere!
8. Enjoy handmade soba
Handmade soba might seem like nothing special in Japan, but Nagano is home to Shinshū soba. This unique soba contains two parts wheat and 8 parts buckwheat. The proportion of ingredients gives the soba a nice texture and makes it healthy too!