Local Cuisine in Western Japan
A dive into Osaka's okonomiyaki and takoyaki, Nagoya's miso-katsu and many other distinctive regional dishes
Travelers in western Japan can look forward to enjoying a variety of local cuisine, each with its own unique flavors.
Western Japan tends to have a milder climate compared to eastern Japan. This affects the distinctness of the seafood and local produce in each area, leading to the uniqueness of regional cuisine. Special gourmet foods reflect the characteristic flavors developed in each locality such as Nagoya’s soybean miso, Osaka's wheat flour dishes, various ramen across Kyushu and island cuisine unique to Okinawa.
Tokai: Where the unique miso culture was developed
Hatcho Miso Paste, distinguishable by its deep reddish-brown color and flavor, is often used in Nagoya’s cuisine. Miso-katsu and Miso-nikomi Udon Noodles are popular dishes. Oden sauces are also made with miso. Kishimen (flat noodles) is also another specialty of Nagoya.
In Gifu, there is a dish called Hoba Miso, which is made by grilling koji miso on magnolia leaves.
Although eel can be eaten throughout Japan, Lake Hamana in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, is famous as the birthplace of eel farming. Some restaurants near the lake have been serving eel for more than 100 years.
Hokuriku: Enjoy soba noodles and fresh seafood from the Sea of Japan
Hokuriku is well known for its bountiful, fresh seafood, including Toyama’s trout sushi and white shrimps.
At Omicho Market in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa, one can enjoy the well-loved Kaisendon—fresh seafood served atop a steaming bowl of rice.
Fukui is also famous for its soba noodles. Its Echizen Oroshi Soba, with grated daikon-radish heaped on top of soba noodles, is an especially popular regional dish.
Kansai: Wheat flour-based dishes and cuisine made from a variety of local vegetables
In Kansai, wheat flour is often used in cooking. Osaka is known for dishes such as okonomiyaki—a dish with batter, cabbage and meat cooked on an iron griddle, and takoyaki—batter with octopus made into balls, and udon noodles.
Kyoto is famous for its unique vegetables such as kujo leeks, kamo eggplants, manganji chili peppers and shogoin radishes. Home-cooked-style boiled and pickled dishes made with these vegetables are collectively called “Obanzai.” Some popular obanzai dishes are kamo eggplant dengaku—baked eggplant topped with miso, wakatake-ni—a dish with wakame seaweed and young bamboo shoots, and a wide variety of pickles including suguki and senmaizuke.
Kobe beef from Hyogo and Matsusaka beef from Mie are world-renowned.
Chugoku: Enjoy an abundance of seafood from both the Sea of Japan and Seto Inland Sea
The Seto Inland Sea is home to delicious seafood including a white fish called sea bream. One of the specialties in this area is called Taisomen—sea bream eaten with somen noodles.
The region along the Sea of Japan is famous for its scrumptious seafood, such as crab from Tottori and blowfish from Yamaguchi. In the winter, many visitors flock to this area to enjoy the region’s seasonal crab.
Shikoku: Local cuisine created with abundant agricultural produce and seafood
As the locals eat a lot of udon noodles, Kagawa is nicknamed “Udon Prefecture.”
Tokushima boasts the highest share of sudachi citrus fruit in the country. Used as food flavoring like lemon and lime, it is famously eaten with somen noodles.
Ehime's Jakoten—fresh minced fish tempura—is a must-try.
Bonito is eaten on a daily basis in Kochi, and the most famous dish is seared bonito over a fire called “Katsuo-no-Tataki.”
Kyushu: Each prefecture in Kyushu has its own unique noodles and classic dishes
In the fun atmosphere of the multiple small food stalls that line the streets of Nakasu in Hakata, Fukuoka, one can enjoy Hakata ramen made with pork bone broth.
Topped with abundant vegetables and seafood, both Sara-udon and Champon are popular dishes in Nagasaki.
Meanwhile, Kumamoto's Taipiyen, which looks similar to Champon, features vermicelli-type noodles is an arrangement of a Chinese local cuisine.
If you visit Miyazaki, be sure to try the charbroiled chicken grilled over charcoal.
Okinawa: Cuisine made with distinctive ingredients such as pig feet and bitter melon
Okinawa has a particularly diverse food culture with dishes cooked with distinctive ingredients. Goya Chanpuru—bitter melon stir-fried with tofu is very popular. Pork is often used in meat dishes, but foods cooked with other parts of the pig such as simmered pig feet and soup made using their internal organs are also common.