Shikoku is a fascinating region blessed with nature with both the sea and mountains. There are many places where idilic natural settings can be visited and enjoyed, but don't forget about the delicious cuisine. In this article, take a quick tour of the characteristics of Shikoku's cuisine and famous dishes of the region.
Nature and Industry of Shikoku
The Shikoku region consists of four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi, and Tokushima. It is located south of the Chugoku region at the western end of Honshu, the largest of the four main islands of Japan. Access to Ehime Prefecture from Honshu is possible accross the Shimanami Kaido Bridge, Kagawa Prefecture through the Seto Ohashi Bridge, and Tokushima Prefecture through the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.
The climate is mild throughout the year, especially in the eastern part of Kagawa and Ehime Prefectures, where there is little rainfall. In Tokushima and Kochi Prefectures, the forestry industry is active and productive thanks to the high rainfall. It is also where the famous Awa Odori festivals are held, where the energy and creativity of the locals are on full display. The area is also rich in nature, and some people visit to take photographs to capture its beauty.
Specialty Products of Ehime
Ehime Prefecture is known by its nickname, the Kingdom of Citrus for its production of citrus fruits. In particular, oranges and iyokans are very famous. The Iyokan fruit came to be called this way as a derivative name of Ehime Prefecture, which used to be called "Iyo". In the Uwakai Sea on the west side of Ehime Prefecture, amberjack, sea bream, and pearl are actively farmed.
Tai-meshi is a dish where sea bream and rice are served together. In Ehime Prefecture, there are different ways to make the same dish. In Imabari City, for example, the whole sea bream is cooked. In Uwajima, on the other hand, raw sea bream is marinated in a sauce made of soy sauce, mirin, and egg, and then topped with rice. Tai-meshi was developed as a way for fishermen to enjoy the taste of rice on their boats without the need of cooking the rice. Both types of tai-meshi are very tasty and people enjoy the differences in their home kitchens. In Japan, sea bream is considered a fish that brings good fortune, so it is sometimes served at celebrations and gatherings.
Specialty Products of Kagawa
Kagawa Prefecture, the smallest prefecture in Japan in terms of area, is known for its many sunny days and long sunshine hours. This characteristic has led to the development of salt production. The mild climate has also aided in the development of rice and wheat farming. Lettuce, onions, and cucumbers are grown as vegetables, and strawberries and oranges are grown as fruits. Olives grown mainly on Shodoshima are also well known.
Sanuki udon is made by kneading wheat flour with salt and water, stretching it thin, and cutting it into thin strips. Kagawa Prefecture was called "Sanuki" in the past, hence the name. Kagawa Prefecture is so proud of its udon that it calls itself the Udon Prefecture. In addition to wheat and salt, the prefecture also has iriko (dried sardines) for making soup stock and soy sauce from Shodoshima, which is a primary reason why udon production developed. One of the most famous dishes using Sanuki udon is Shippoku Udon. In this dish, vegetables and fried tofu are simmered in broth and poured over the boiled Sanuki udon. Abura-age is a thinly sliced tofu which is deep fried in oil. It is a delicious dish for the cold winter months.
Specialty Products of Kochi
Kochi Prefecture is the largest of the four prefectures in the Shikoku region, with more than 80% forested and some areas with native subtropical plants. Vegetable cultivation in plastic greenhouses is popular. One of the most famous activities is bonito fishing. Unlike fishing with nets, this is a method of catching fish one by one with a pole. In Kochi Prefecture, Sarahachi Ryori, a dish of sashimi, fried food, and simmered dishes served together on one large plate, is a traditional way to enjoy the local delicacies.
Katsuo no Tataki
Katsuo no Tataki is a dish made by grating three slices of raw skipjack and grilling it. By burning straw, the aroma of the plant is transferred to the bonito, adding a dimension to its taste. The skin of the bonito is hard, but it becomes edible when it is scorched. After the bonito is scorched, cut it into thick slices, sprinkled with salt, and pounded. This action is called "tataku" in Japanese, which is the origin of the name. To finish the dish, slices of garlic and spring onions are sprinkled on top. It is one of the most popular dishes in Sarahachi.
Specialty Products of Tokushima
Tokushima Prefecture is famous for the Awa Odori festival held in the summer. Mountains occupy 80% of the prefecture's area. Tokushima faces the Seto Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It is blessed with both rich soil and pristine water, making it an ideal environment for growing agricultural and marine products. Sudachi, a type of citrus fruit, is a specialty of the region. In terms of marine products, the area is famous for its hamo (pike), tachi-ho (flying fish), abalone and wakame seaweed.
Iya soba is a type of buckwheat noodle produced in the Iya region. Iya is a little unexplored region in the upper reaches of the Yoshino River. It is a place where one can enjoy beautiful scenery. Most soba noodles are made by combining buckwheat flour and wheat flour, but Iya soba is unique in that it is made only from buckwheat flour. Because it does not use wheat flour, the noodles break easily, but the aroma of buckwheat fills the mouth and the taste is pure. In Japan, this characteristic of being easily broken is associated with the idea of a broken marriage. For this reason, Iya soba is not served at wedding celebrations.
Foods Reflecting the Wisdom of the Locals
Even within the Shikoku region, the kind of crops and marine products developed depends on the characteristics of the land and bordering seas. The ingenuity and creativity of the local people have resulted in the specialty products of Shikoku that we know and love today.
These ingredients are then combined and prepared to make delicious dishes. It can be said that they were born from the wisdom of the local people.
When you visit the Shikoku region, be sure to taste the fruits of this wisdom that have been passed down and loved by the locals for many generations.