The Chubu region is located in the center of Honshu, the largest of the four main islands of Japan. It is a region that has a large north-south orientation, lending to diverse characteristics in topography, from areas that experience heavy snowfall in the winter to coasts facing the sea where the fishing industry is active. In this article, we introduce the food of the Chubu region, all of which make use of the geographic diversity that this region has to offer.
Nature and Industry of Chubu
The Chubu region consists of the nine prefectures of Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, Nagano, Gifu, Fukui, Yamanashi, Shizuoka and Aichi, with the city of Nagoya, located in Aichi Prefecture, as the economic hub of the region.
Mount Fuji, which is registered as a world cultural heritage site, and the mountain range known as the Japan Alps dominate the geographic make-up of Chubu. As the Chubu region is divided by this large mountain range, the region is further divided into sub-regions known as the Tokai region, Hokuriku region, and Central Highlands.
The Tokai region faces the Pacific Ocean and has mostly sunny weather. The Hokuriku region faces the Sea of Japan and receives a lot of snow in winter. Shipping has been active since the Edo period in the Hokuriku region. The Central Highlands have a cold climate in winter and cool climate in summer. The region is also popular as a summer resort.
The Chubu region grows many types of agricultural produce, such as rice, tea, vegetables and fruit. In the following, we take a closer look at the food characteristics and famous dishes of each sub-region.
Specialty Products of Tokai
Within the Chubu region, Gifu, Shizuoka, and Aichi prefectures belong to the Tokai region.
Gifu Prefecture - Gohei Mochi
Parts of Gifu Prefecture receive heavy snowfall throughout the winter months. But this cold is emotionally offset by the abundance of natural hot springs where the Japanese go to bathe and warm-up. Okuhida hot springs is one such place where you can relax and enjoy the white snow.
Typical agricultural products in the region are tomatoes, spinach and chestnut. Hida is also famous for its beef cattle, with Hida branded beef growing in reputation for its excellent product.
Gohei-mochi is a rice cake made by pounding rice, putting it on a stick, coating it with miso and baking it. It is said to have been originally made by mountain workers as a snack for sake. The browned miso goes well with the rice.
Shizuoka Prefecture - Unaju (eel)
Shizuoka Prefecture is home to the famous Mount Fuji, which straddles Yamanashi Prefecture. Green tea, melons, strawberries and mandarin oranges are some of the local specialties. Harvests from the sea include tuna and sakura shrimp.
Unajyu is a dish of grilled eel with a sweet and spicy sauce made of soy sauce and sugar, served on a bed of rice.Shizuoka Prefecture is one of the largest producers of eel in Japan, and a large number of eels are cultivated in the area. There are many restaurants in Shizuoka Prefecture that serve unaju.
Aichi Prefecture - Miso Nikomi Udon
Aichi Prefecture is a place that has produced many warlords and had a great influence on the politics of Japan during the time of the warring states. The food culture of both Eastern and Western Japan can be found here.
In Aichi, Cabbage, broccoli and figs are among the top harvests in Japan. It is also known as the largest producer of clams in the nation. Miso-nikomi Udon is a dish of udon noodles cooked in a thick broth made of bonito stock and Hatcho miso. It is filled with ingredients like chicken, egg and green onion. Hatcho miso is made entirely from soybeans and is characterized by its darker hue than miso pastes from other regions. It is used not only in udon but also in a variety of dishes.
Specialty Products of Hokuriku
The Hokuriku region is made up of Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures.
Niigata Prefecture - Hegi Soba
Niigata Prefecture is a long and narrow prefecture with the largest rice harvest in Japan. It is also a prefecture known for harsh winters and a lot of snow. Hegi Soba is cold soba served in a square bowl called a "hegi" and contains seaweed called Funori.
Toyama Prefecture - Buri Cuisine
Toyama Prefecture is a snow country, designated as a "heavy snowfall area" where a large amount of snow falls in winter. In contrast, it gets very hot in the summer. Dried persimmons and large watermelons are local specialties. As for marine products, yellowtail, firefly squid and white shrimp are often caught here. "Buri-ryori" is a dish made from yellowtail. Himi's cold yellowtail is very famous in Japan. The freshest ones are eaten as sashimi. Other known dishes include Buri-daikon (yellowtail and radish) and Buri-shabu (yellowtail shabu dipped in hot broth).
Ishikawa Prefecture - Jibu-ni
Ishikawa Prefecture is home to Kenrokuen Garden, one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. There are two brands of vegetables that have been cultivated in Kanazawa since before 1945; known as Kaga vegetables, these include cucumbers and radishes, and Noto vegetables like broccoli and pumpkin. Jibe-ni is a dish of duck or chicken covered with potato starch and vegetables simmered in broth. Katakuriko is a powder made from a plant called katakuri and is used to thicken the soup. This dish has been popular since the Edo period and is prepared for celebratory occasions.
Fukui Prefecture - Echizen Crab Hot Pot
The entire prefecture of Fukui is also a heavy snowfall area. Miyazaki bamboo shoots are a specialty of the prefecture. As for marine products, the cherry blossom corps, which is caught in abundance in spring, is well known. Echizen Gani Nabe is a dish of male snow crab caught in the Hokuriku region, cooked in broth with vegetables and other ingredients. The meat is full of flavor, and the broth that seeps out from the meat is also excellent.
Specialty Products of Central Highlands
Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures are included in the Central Highlands.
Nagano Prefecture - Oyaki
Nagano Prefecture has a long topography that stretches from the north to the south. The prefecture is landlocked, with no oceans touching its borders.There is Kamikochi, a region where you can take a highland walk in beautiful nature, and Shinshu, famous for its apples and soba noodles. Incidentally, the average life expectancy in Nagano is the longest in Japan, already a country with an above average life expectancy globally. Oyaki is a dish made by frying seasonal vegetables, seasoning them with miso and other ingredients, and wrapping the vegetables in flour dough and baking them. The ingredients change with the seasons. There are many different variations of oyaki, including those using Nozawa vegetables, eggplant and walnuts, which are famous products of Shinshu.
Yamanashi Prefecture - Hoto
Yamanashi Prefecture, like Shizuoka Prefecture, is home to Mount Fuji.
Fuji. The area at the foot of the mountain is cool and receives a lot of rainfall. Taking advantage of this environment, grapes are actively grown in the area. The prefecture is also famous for its wine production. The cultivation of peaches and other fruits is also widespread.
Houtou is a dish of thick udon noodles made of wheat flour, cooked with vegetables and meat. Vegetables in a typical hoto dish include pumpkins, carrots, and mushrooms seasoned with miso. The glutinous noodle absorbs a lot of the soup and warms up the body during the long cold winters.
Foods that Reflect the Topography and Climate
The topography and climate of the Chubu region differs greatly depending on the prefecture or region, such as the presence or absence of an ocean, mountains with severe cold, and lots of snowfall. In the prefectures facing the sea, the cuisine is rich in marine products, while inland areas use wheat and other local ingredients. When you visit the Chubu region, be sure to enjoy not only the sightseeing but also the unique cuisine of the region steeped in tradition and local variation.