Regional Foods in Japan: Hokkaido

Jan 2nd, 2009 | By | Category: Regional Foods of Japan

Today I am proud to introduce you to Etsuko (or Et-chan, as she is called by her friends) who writes a great blog called Tokyofoodcast. She has a passion for sake and Japanese food and has offered to write a series of guest posts for the The Nihon Sun about Japan’s regional food specialties.  Fridays in January will be Foodie Fridays at The Nihon Sun and the series will cover the nine regions of Japan.   Take it away Et-chan…

Japan looks quite large on a map, but when you look at the total landmass, Japan is quite small – it’s about the same size as California. The over 3,000 islands that make up the Japanese archipelago are spread up and down the edge of East Asia, but the area that many people actually visit is confined to a much smaller area of the country.

The Kanto-Kansai axis from Tokyo to Kyoto is about all most visitors see and could be compared to the New York to Washington D.C. corridor in the States. Despite its small size, there is an amazing variety of food available in Japan. Such variety comes from many things: a long, continuous history, rugged geography, regional political rivalries down through the ages, and even modern food policy that brands products in association with specific areas.

Local food customs mean a lot to the communities which produce them. Many Japanese travel far and wide to experience special dishes in season. During the winter, travelers migrate to the  coastal seaports along the Japan Sea such as Sakai Minato in Tottori or Kasumi in Hyogo for crab.  During the summer gift-giving season, buyers pluck cherries from Yamagata, and in the winter they splurge on amazing apples from Aomori. The tradition of giving these kinds of fruit in season ties the metropolitan masses in their concrete boxes to the basic rhythms of the agricultural countryside.

The Regional Foods in Japan series will introduce you to regional cuisines to watch out for while you are traveling in Japan. You may be able to find these dishes in Tokyo or other big cities, but since people always want an excuse to travel, I’ll tell you it’s different and more tasty when you actually go to the source!

Let’s get started with…


Ishikari nabe – A winter hot pot dish believed to have started as a fisherman’s meal near the Ishikari river, where salmon return in the fall to winter. The original style calls for an entire salmon from head to tail, chopped up and cooked in a pot with cabbage and green onion. The broth comes from salmon bits and kombu placed in the hot pot, then miso is added. Finally, a sprinkle of sansho, Japanese black pepper, adds some zing to the soup.

Izushi – A form of sushi that initially served as a method of food preservation and is quite different from the famous nigiri style we see today. Fresh salmon or other fish is fermented with steamed rice and vegetables such as julienned carrots, daikon and ginger over a period of one to two months.   Hokkaido is particularly famous for this salmon variety.

Ishikari-nabe Japanese Food

Izushi Japanese Food

Image Credit: Ishikari-nabe & Izushi

If you are planning a trip to Hokkaido be sure to taste these regional specialties and learn about more things to do and see in the region by reading Japan: A Closer Look at Hokkaido.

Check back next Friday when I will tell you about the regional foods of Tohoku & Kanto.  In the meantime please visit me at Tokyofoodcast to follow my foodie adventures in Japan and learn more about Japanese food and food culture .

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  1. Damn i’m hungry now, looks delicious :(

  2. […] first series of articles I contributed, Regional Foods in Japan, will be posted on Fridays in January 2009. You will see the selection of the foods I listed in the […]

  3. Thank you for starting with Hokkaido! These two dishes are on my list for when we land on the 4th of Feb!

    Can’t wait to see the rest of your posts Etsuko-san!

  4. I am aware of these dishes. A lot of elderly people in Date city in Hokkaido eat this. Not a popular taste for most foreigners. Wouldn’t recommend trying it. If anything, try the corn and black beans and taraba gani. You won’t be disappointed. Most people only eat what’s in the above pictures during the winter anyway.

  5. Danielle,
    I thought you might enjoy Madam’s post on her food experience in Sapporo. Enjoy your trip!

    Taraba is also my favorite! Hokkaido has too much to offer, don’t you think? I can go on and on with things I love from Hokkaido: baun uni, Akkeshi oysters, salmon, ikura, hotate, crab, lamb, corn, and list continues.

  6. […] The Regional Foods in Japan series by Etsuko of Tokyofoodcast started last week with a look at the regional foods of Hokkaido and will continue on Fridays throughout the month of January at The Nihon […]

  7. @Tokyofoodcast – No. It doesn’t have that much to offer in terms of “local specialty.” You can fish for oysters,salmon, and hotate from any corner of Japan. People are mainly attracted to Hokkaido for two things:
    Kushiro Blue Fin and three of the top domestic crabs I mentioned previously. And then there’s mutton.

  8. […] Hokkaido […]

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  10. that lookes beautifil

  11. […] Regional Foods in Japan: Hokkaido […]

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