In Japan, identity and cache are strongly tied to each region. People are proud of where they are from. People want to know where there food comes from. Regional tourism is big business. Many Japanese travel to other parts of Japan or dream of visiting certain regions. Each region has a reputation for certain characteristics and personality traits, like people from Osaka are known for being gregarious and funny because of its history as a merchant city long before Japan became more open to foreigners. Food and drinks vary from different cities and prefectures. Some products, like certain fish and seafood, are best from a particular region. Anyone heard of. Miyajima Oysters? They are from a small island called Miyajima that is adjacent to Hiroshima. Many other dishes and specialty items, like sake and baked goods, take a variety of forms and flavor depending on where they come from. Soup noodles like ramen are a prime example. The base of the soup (soy sauce, salt, miso, pork bone, black garlicky, etc.), type of noodle (skinny, chubby, straight, curly), and the toppings differ in each region. You can find many restaurants that specialize in cuisine from another region in Japan, kind of like a Texan BBQ restaurant in L.A.
What makes Japan unique? In the U.S., there is some regional variety, like shrimp and grits in the south and creamy clam chowder in New England. There is a whole subculture about the different ways to make barbecue (Memphis vs. St. Louis ribs). But Japan has about the same number of prefectures as the U.S.A. has states (47 vs 50) in the same land area as Montana. So imagine driving around a densely populated version of Montana and finding vastly different flavors and ingredients in each town. This will give you an idea of regional food in Japan. It is also a source of more cultural pride and emphasis than in American culture.
I personally have a crush on the food from Hokkaido and I’ve never even been there. Hokkaido is the most northern and the largest prefecture in. Japan. It is an island separate from the main island of Japan (home to. Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagano, Osaka, and so on). A picture of its outline is below and the icon of its map can be found all over items in a Japanese grocery store. Hokkaido is known for delicious dairy products, premium seafood, and excellent produce. When I shop in the grocery store, I look for this mark of Hokkaido. I will buy items just because they are from Hokkaido and I have not been disappointed. There are also restaurants and boutique food stores dedicated to Hokkaido food products and I hunt them down whenever I visit Japan. If you are ever in a Japanese grocery store, look for the map!
Today I am sharing my newest discovery from Hokkaido. It is a snowy white bun steamed to the texture of a cloud, airy and light. Inside, there is a gush of vanilla bean cream made from the prized Hokkaido milk. Delicious! Japanese sweets are less sweet than American desserts and thus perfect for my palate.
One day I hope to visit Hokkaido and eat delicious food straight from the hills and sea there. In the meantime, I will travel there in my mind with a one-dollar treat straight from my dream spot. Traveling is a wonderful experience, but it is not always permitted with time and money restraints. We can all get a little taste of somewhere else by trying new foods, reading, meeting new people from other places, and splurging our spare buck on a new treat. Wherever the day takes you, step a little out of the box and you may find something new in your own backyard, or grocery aisle.