Japanese cuisine is not only renowned for its unparalleled flavors and refinement, but also for its diversity across different regions. Each province offers a unique set of dishes, giving rise to the concept of regional cuisine and meibutsu, which are local culinary specialties that are popular across Japan. From the delicate flavors of Kyoto’s kaiseki cuisine to the hearty, seafood-based dishes of Hokkaido, Japanese cuisine is a gastronomic adventure that is enjoyed by people all over the world. It is also known for its emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients and balanced nutritional value, making it not just delicious, but also healthy.
In this article you have a chance to discover culinary specialties of Japan by region:
Culinary specialties of Hokkaido
This typical dish from northern Hokkaido is made up of grilled pieces of lamb and accompanied by vegetables. Its name “Genghis Khan ” or “jingisukan” in Japanese is directly inspired by the ruler of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century. Why ? The meat cooks on a frying pan in the shape of a Mongolian soldier’s helmet.
This specialty of the city of Ishikari is a Japanese fondue made with salmon. Since Edo times, salmon fishermen have prepared this dish in a pot by adding vegetables and miso for seasoning.
The best Kaisendons are eaten in Hokkaido . This is a traditional dish of donburi (bowl of rice) in which several varieties of fresh sashimi are placed such as fish eggs, tuna or raw prawns… which vary according to the seasons. In the spring, you can enjoy snow crab, salmon in the fall, sea urchins in the summer and scallops in the winter.
Culinary specialties of Tohoku
Originating from Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture , this grilled beef tongue dish is a real treat. The meat is cut into thin strips and then seasoned with soy sauce, sake, sesame or yuzu.
Soba or noodles made from buckwheat flour have been a favorite dish of the Iwate region for centuries. The origin of wanko soba dates back to the time of Nanbu Toshinao, nearly 400 years ago. The city of Hanamaki then received the lord of the Morioka domain and offered him its local specialty: soba. Not knowing if the dish was going to please him, he was first served a small bowl. Nanbu Toshinao asked for a second, then a third until he was full. Since then, the tradition has been to serve wanko-soba portion by portion until the guest is satisfied.
Aamori Prefecture north of Tohoku is known for its big tuna and cod consumption, especially in winter. Jappa -jiru is a typical miso soup from the Aomori region, which uses leftover cod like the head, viscera and bones. “jappa” meaning “leftovers” in the dialect of the region. This anti-waste soup is cooked with salmon fillet as well as Chinese cabbage, spring onion ( neigi ) and Japanese radish ( daikon ).
A culinary specialty of Fukushima , gyoza enban is a set of fried pork and vegetable dumplings, shaped like croissants. Unlike traditional Japanese gyozas, the batter is even crispier.
Culinary Specialties of Kanto
Udon Himokawa is a variety of pasta with a width of up to 15 cm, served in a broth. This is a traditional dish from Gunma Prefecture .
In the local cuisine of southern Chiba , namero is the fisherman’s meal. It is a kind of tartare made up of various fresh fish, just seared on the fire (mackerel, horse mackerel, bonito…). Everything is seasoned with ginger, miso and onions.
Monjayaki is a variation of okonomyaki, an omelet pancake, originating from Kanto . This Tokyo specialty is eaten directly off the stovetop.
If you visit the capital, don’t miss the famous Edo Bay sushi , which has crossed borders.
Culinary specialties of Chubu
Located between Kanto and Kansai, the Chubu region occupies a central position on the island of Honshu. If the territory offers exceptional mountainous landscapes such as the Japanese Alps or Mount Fuji, the regional cuisine of Chubu is just as remarkable.
This dish from Fukui consists of breaded and fried slices of pork, cooked with an egg and placed on a bowl of rice.
Inago no tsukudani
One of Chubu’s regional specialties is a dish of rice paddy locusts cooked in soy sauce and mirin ( tsukudani style ). Originally, this Japanese dish was served in times of famine in the mountainous regions of Nagano and Fukushima . Today, it is loved by locals and adventurous tourists for its nutty taste.
A specialty of Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture, hitsumabushi is a kind of unadon (grilled eel and rice dish). Its particularity lies in the way it is eaten: plain, sprinkled with wasabi and other condiments, or with rice soaked in broth (or green tea).
Culinary specialties of Kansai
In the heart of Honshu Island, Kansai cuisine is famous for its delicacies and street food. The regional cuisine offers many delicious dishes to the delight of locals and tourists.
This local Osaka dish is a kind of Japanese pancake that is cooked on a teppan (plancha). The batter is made from flour, dashi broth and Japanese yam to which eggs, tenkasu (tempura balls), pork belly and other ingredients are added. Once cooked, the pancake is covered with sauce, nori seaweed and katsuobushi (chips of dried bonito).
These small octopus-filled dumplings are one of the most popular dishes in Japanese street food . This culinary specialty originating from Osaka is often served in yatai (mobile stalls) during traditional festivals.
A favorite of the Kitsune (messenger of the goddess Inari), fox noodles are a vegetarian dish made from udon and fried tofu, served in a broth.
Kaiseki ryōri (Kyoto)
A local specialty of Kyoto , kaiseki ryōri is the meal served in ryokans (traditional Japanese inns). These are several small dishes served at the same time on the table. Kaiseki cuisine is a local and seasonal cuisine with different types of cooking and very careful presentation.
Culinary specialties of Chugoku
Southwest of Honshu, the region of Chugoku known for its history has a rich and diversified gastronomy .
It is a very famous local winter dish in Hiroshima . It is a stew made with oysters and vegetables such as Chinese cabbage and tofu cooked in a miso broth.
A specialty of Izumo City (Shimane Prefecture), Izumo Soba are dark noodles made from buckwheat flour. Their particularity lies in the fact that the entire seed is used to make flour. This dish already existed in the Edo period to fight famines.
These are Japanese pastries in the shape of balls, made with a dough of rice and millet flour. In the past, Kibi dango were offered at the Kibitsuhiko jinja shrine in Okayama .
Culinary specialties of Shikoku
In the south of the Japanese archipelago, between the Pacific Ocean and the Inland Sea, the island of Shikoku is best known for its great pilgrimage and its festivals. However, local specialties such as tataki bonito, Kagawa udon or Kochi beef are very popular in the region.
In Kagawa regional cuisine , sanuki udon is a very fresh dish consisting of noodles served with tuna and seaweed.
Katsuo no tataki
Tataki is a Shikoku-specific cooking method that grills food on the outside while keeping it raw on the inside . The Katsuo noTataki is a piece of grilled bonito then cut into strips.
Sudachi is a kind of lime grown in the northeast of Shikoku Island in the Tokushima region . This citrus fruit with a powerful taste accompanies many Japanese dishes such as soba, fish, or meat and goes wonderfully with soy sauce.
Culinary specialties from Kyushu and Okinawa
In the south of Japan, the island region of Kyushu and the island of Okinawa have many culinary specialties intimately linked to their culture . Fruit trees, shiitake, vegetables, meat and seafood, local products are particularly varied!
In Fukuoka Prefecture , Hakata ramen is a very famous dish that is the pride of the locals. It is a noodle soup soaked in pork bone broth.
This is a dish originating from Nagasaki cuisine that dates back to the Meiji period: a noodle broth with fried pork, vegetables and seafood.
The island of Okinawa is famous for its centenarians, its relaxed lifestyle and its healthy and tasty cuisine. Among the typical dishes of the region, the champuru is a mixture of tofu, vegetables and pork, served with rice and a dash of sauce. There are many variations of it. In Okinawa, champuru is often made with bitter cucumber ( goya ).