Local food is a big deal in Japan. "Local", however, doesn't really mean local in the western sense, that you try to eat food that is grown in a certain radius around your home town, as Japan doesn't have that much agricultural land that it could be self-sufficient with regards to food.
But wherever you go in Japan, even the smallest town seems to have a local specialty: Tokyo, for example, is famous for its sushi, Kyoto for pickles and sweets. Osaka is a foodie mecca, but most people will associate it with okonomiyaki (a kind of pancake meets omlet meets pizza) and takoyaki (fried octopus balls - not what you think). Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, has more space for cattle and is thus famous for its cream and butter.
But not only that locals are proud of their specialties, they are also a big part of tourism and travel in Japan. Shops at train stations sell lunch boxes that include the local specialties, so you can travel in style and enjoy them on the train. Souvenir shops don't only sell chocolates and toys, but local specialty food and you can imagine in that specific shape. This is also because part of Japanese culture is that if you travel, your family, friends, and particularly, boss and coworkers, expect you to bring a gift from your destination. Without the local food, you trip is practically invalid.
|all onboard the noodle train!|
Southern Japan is noodle country. So much that when I was travelling in Kyushu (the southernmost island), each train station platform had its own noodle stand instead of a kiosk or coffee place, where travellers could have a snack in between trains. Yes, not every station, every platform!
Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku, however, takes the cake, um noodle. In an attemot to boost the area's tourism, it informally renamed itself "Udon Prefecture". Udon are fat wheat noodles that are most commonly eaten in a soup, but can be stir fried as well.
Even on my trip from Honshu, Japan's main island, to Kagawa, the fact that it is, in fact, Udon Kingdom, became apparent. The only non vending machine food sold on the 3 hr ferry ride was... udon. In stock, in curry sauce, with meat, with vegetables. Even the seats of the ferry had an udon pattern to them! Oh and of course, there was also a little souvenir shop that sold udon, towels with udon print and more.
This is not where it stopped, though – the local convenience stores offered all kinds of udon dishes, and even the mascot of the local train company was... a dolphin eating udon!
Not to forget the udon restaurants themselves. When I was hiking up Konpira-san, one of the most scared mountains and temples in southern Japan, the streets leading uphill where crammed with restaurants, offering udon. I enjoyed a bowl of kake udon, udon in plain stock with some ginger and spring onion, in a small local place for just 200 Yen – around $2! In true Japanese style, I also left with a small dishcloth of rabbits eating udon and some udon themed souvenirs for friends.
Have you ever travelled anywhere with the main objective to taste the local food?
|so simple, so good!|