Japan Sea Coast Dining

Foodie hotspots: Tottori, Yonago, Kurayoshi, Daisen, Kofu, Kotoura, Sakaiminato, Misasa hot-springs.


Foodies Look Out For: Crab; horse mackerel; coolest ekiben station bentos; beef stock ramen; Wagashi Japanese sweets; sake.


The Basics: Famed for its sand dunes that cover a 30 square km are near Tottori city, Tottori is Japan's least populous prefecture, largely agricultural in nature. It is often known, along with Shimane and parts of northern Yamaguchi by the old name of San'in. The main cities are Tottori and Yonago.


Foodies Go Tottori:

To be perfectly honest, Tottori doesn't spring to mind when one thinks of Japan's vast cornucopia of local culinary delights, but let's not forget that it is perched on the Japan Sea coast, and that is never a bad thing! Often known by the old district name of San'in, the main cities are Tottori and Yonago.

            Topping our things to eat in Tottori is matsubagani. From late autumn and into the cold winter months it is available all along the San'in coastline. A fun place to try is at the Sakaiminato Fish Center in the very West of the prefecture, and at the adjacent seafood specialist restaurant Sakana no Koba. Kanimeshi, crab on rice, and kanijiru soup are humble but splendid dishes. Quality ryokan inns offer it in many imaginative forms. In the dead of winter, kaninabe hotpot with fresh ingredients, simple as it is, is absolutely unbeatable.

            The other local marine fare of fame is the saba horse mackerel. Personally we like it prepared in the simplest way possible, as shioyaki, salt grilled with a hint of shoyu soy sauce and something citrusy.

            Daisen okowa is the sticky rice dish, stuffed with chicken, renkon burdock root, shiitake mushrooms and seasonal vegetables, best in Daisen and Kofu districts. Look out too for the local Tottori pears, and rakkyo, Japan's take on 'pickled onions'.

            Wagashi Japanese sweets fans must check out Tottori Hougetsudo, with their funky, 21st Century take on the genre with square mochi premium chocolate cubes, 'Square but Daifuku' and Suna ga Oka fermented butter treats. We like these!


The Tottori Budget Gourmet

Tottori gives us the splendid ekiben station bento set by the name of Ge Ge Ge No Kitaro Donburi. Named after Shigeru Mizuki's legendary anime character series, this must be one of the finest local foodie souvenirs available. For 1350 yen you get a genuine Arita-yaki plate, inscribed with the cartoon characters, and lunch in the shape of Kitaro's dad, Medama Oyaji. Find it, and smile, at Tottori Station.

            Ago katsu kare, from Kotoura-cho, is ago flying fish paste on pork cutlets in a curry roux. Find it at Gure-n. San'in champon is the local take on the Nagasaki dish. Tottori tofu chikuwa a unique - very low calorie! - mixture of tofu and fish paste, itadaki 'fishermen's inarizushi' and Tottori horumon yakisoba - beef offal noodles, no less - are other options.

            Misasa Onsen, the area's famously (low dose) 'radioactive hot-spring' offers Misasa tochimochi zoni, a soup with glutinous rice containing, horse chestnuts. Visitors should be aware that on our last visit, the small community sadly sported many 'Foreigners go home' signs, posted by a local extremist. It is certainly not the default mode, thank goodness, but it is unfortunately visible - in Japanese, only. Just so you know. Don't let it spoil your dinner.


The Ramen Professor Recommends: Tottori gyukotsu beef bone broth ramen is found in the Western central area of the prefecture in Kurayoshi city. We like Sumire Inshokuten, with its 60 year history, and Ramen Koga (don't believe the strange character reading on Google maps, btw). In Tottori city, Su-ramen, ie, 'ramen without any ingredients', has a history dating back to the 1950s, when a local decided to combine udon-style dashi broth with wavy Chinese chijirimen noodles. Despite the name, it is absolutely fine.


FGL Favorite Tipple: Fujii shuzo, located right in the heart of Misasa hot-spring has a nice line in koshu aged sakes. Kimitsukasa, the very humble Hiokizakura and Umetsu Shuzo's splendidly named Fure- (sounds like 'Hooray!')  are all worth a look.


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