Chinatown, Kamakura and Beyond

Foodie hotspots: Yokohama, Odawara, Kamakura, Hakone, the Shonan coastline, Yugawara and Oku-Yugawara hot-springs, Misaki.


Foodies Look Out For: Kenchinjiru soup; seafood; soba noodles; shojin ryori vegetarian temple cuisine; luxury mountain inns at Hakone; Yokohama Ie-kei ramen.


The Basics: Kanagawa prefecture with its large coastal urban settlements, especially Yokohama, is an easy visit from Tokyo. Its less populous mountainous areas have long been a favorite retreat for Tokyoites during the sweltering Japanese summers. The ancient Buddhist center that is Kamakura is sleepily pleasant, and discreetly rich. Don't confuse Hakone with Hikone (Shiga), or Kanagawa with Kanazawa (Ishikawa). It happens even to the best of us.


Foodies Go Kanagawa: Kanagawa is rarely at the top of anyone’s foodie travel list, unless the idea is to sample the myriad Chinese and Sino-Japanese dishes on offer in Yokohama’s famed Chinatown, or else if you fancy braving the crowds to drop by the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. This isn’t entirely fair, however, as the prefecture has far more to offer the curious foodie than that.

Take for example the humble soup dish, kenchinjiru. It may not look special, but with a 700-year history, vegetarian friendly ingredients of burdock, carrot, tofu and lotus root, and its low cost, what’s not to like? Originally created by the Zen monk Rankei, in Kamakura, in its pure form it is strictly vegetarian, but non-meat eaters beware that it is not uncommon to prepare it with the Koza or Yamauri pork that originates here.

For truly authentic Shojin-ryori, Hachinoki in Kita Kamakura, that cuisine's heartland (Kyoto might beg to differ). For 'Chinese temple cuisine' check out Rinrin.

The fresh seafood from the Shonan coastline is excellent, as are the soba noodles such at those at the famed Momijitei in Oku-Yugawara, and the Oyama tofu cuisine of the high mountains in Tanzawa-sanchi to the west of the prefecture (try Aokikan). Misaki maguro tuna, Odawara’s kamaboko fish paste, shirasu whitebait domburi rice from Shonan and Kamakura’s Daibutsu manju are other local treats. The Oku-Yugawa hot-spring area is a great place to sample a whole variety of Kanagawa dishes. Try Shoutousou and Fukiya are both excellent.

Fans of wagashi Japanese sweets heading to Kamakura should check out the lovely300+ year-old Chikaramochiya located not far from the Goryo shrine, west of Hase station and Goro Kamakura on Komachi-dori.

Hakone, in Japan's Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, west of Tokyo, has long been a place of refuge for the capital's moneyed citizens in search of a quiet retreat from the trials and tribulations of city life. It is a mountainous town known for its onsen hot-springs, upmarket ryokan, and iconic views of Mount Fuji. One would say that amongst all its famous inns, Gora Kadan, the former residence of Imperial Prince Kaninnomiya Kotohito has to be the best known. Ginyu, Kowakien Tenyu and Kinnotake are other high-class alternatives. All take their food seriously, but at that price, of course, they should.



The Kanagawa Budget Gourmet

It's amusing to ponder the US military types living in and around the bases at Atsugi and Fujisawa chomping down on the likes of Atsugi Shirokoro Horumon giblets, and Fujisawa's raw shirasu whitebait. Yokosuka Kaigun Navy Curry sounds much more up their street. This from the website of the founding restaurant, Yokosuka Navy Curry Honpo: "Our restaurant is themed from the Japanese battle ship Mikasa. Enjoy your curry while listening to music which actually played on the battle ship during Meiji era”. The Mikasa, by the way, was named after Nara's sacred mountain, but was built in... Barrow-in-Furness. There's also, surprise surprise, a Yokosuka Navy Burger, but reviews are decidedly mixed.


The Ramen Professor Recommends: Sanma-men is the crunchy, light bean sprout ramen favored in Kanagawa. It comes with pork, hakusai Chinese cabbage, kikurage cloud ear fungus and, of course, moyashi bean sprouts.

Yokohama Ramen, featuring long-simmered thick pork bone broth combined with soy sauce and – mostly but not exclusively - wavy chijirimen noodles is a nationwide hit. Its star shop, Yoshimuraya boasts that 1500 customers a day wait outside its doors. of its many Ie-kei ‘sister shops’ Suehiroya and Sugataya are two of the best. If you want similar tastes without the crowds, try to find the original Suzukiya Ramen, near Sugiyamajinja shrine, about ten minutes walk from Kami-Hoshikawa station in Hodogaya Ward, Yokohama.


FGL Favorite Tipple: We suggest you try Kumazawa Shoten's Shonan Beer, a big hit with the surfer crowd down at the beach. If you prefer sake, try Sakaminada or Izumibashi's junmaishu-only selections.


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