Foodie Hotspots: Naruto, Tokushima, Iya, Sanagochi-mura, Kamiyama-cho, Handa, Komatsushima, Katsu'ura..
Foodies Look Out For: Zomeki local cuisine; river fish; udon and somen noodles; wasanbon sugar; sudachi fruit, wakame seaweed, Tokushima ramen.
The Basics: Tokushima is Shikoku's second largest prefecture, after Kochi. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries are its main industries. The all-singing and dancing Awa-Odori festival, held from August 12th to 15th as part of the Obon Festival of the Dead, attracts in excess of 1.3 million visitors each year.
Foodies Go Tokushima:
Tokushima prefecture’s Naruto is famous for its whirlpools and its wakame. The former bash the latter around, adding thickness and texture until the seaweed is perfect for making dashi. This features prominently in the local kaizoku-ryori ‘pirate food’ consisting mainly of whelk, abalone, shrimp and other fresh seafood. Prefecture-wide zomeki-ryori is a cuisine featuring local vegetables and seafood. Its odd name is a reference to Tokushima’s raucous, ebullient, dance-crazed summer festival, the Awa-odori. Zomeki is a dialect word explain the sound of the shamisen, zo meaning ‘noise’, and meki ‘frolic’. Seafood and sansai mountain vegetables are presented as though they are ‘dancing on the plate’ and usually include the ‘seven specialities of Tokushima’ although no one, including Tokushima city officials, could conclusively identify for us precisely what these are.
The inland lya region, famed for its scarily wobbly straw bridge - the Kazurabashi - crossing the ayu sweetfish-filled Iya-gawa river, specialises in Iya soba, plain, handmade, buckwheat noodles that border on the rough-hewn, and are unusually soft in texture. It has a kind of satoimo sweet potato and miso dengaku by the name of dekomawashi, in which the sweet potatoes are thought to resemble dolls. You can try it at the Ikoi Shokudo in Iya.
Donari town offers tarai udon thick noodles served in a large bowl and eaten with fish broth, while Handa is known for the excellent, thin summer noodles, Handa somen. Since the Edo period Tokushima has been a producer of wasanbon-to sugar. Refined, in both the literal and social sense, it is extracted from sugar cane and used in high-class confectionery.
Tokushimsa city, Sanagochi village and Kamiyama town all produce the wonderful citrus fruit sudachi, and Satsuma mandarin oranges are found across the prefecture, especially in Katsu'ura.
The Tokushima Budget Gourmet
Tokushima Don rice bowl; Take Chikuwa; Tokushima Burger; Naruto hosomen udon noodles; Tokushima ramen.
The Ramen Professor Recommends: Tokushima Ramen took the nation by storm when it hit the scene in 1999. Typically it features baraniku pork ribs, seafood and vegetables, with thin noodles in a broth seasoned with koikuchi or tamari soy sauce, often topped with a raw egg. This is the 'black/brown version' (kuro-kei or cha-kei) found prefecture-wide.
A 'yellow version' (ki-kei), with a chicken broth and vegetable base is popular in Tokushima city, whilst a 'white version' (shiro-kei), similar to a 'standard' tonkotsu pork broth ramen, is popular in Komatsushima city. Inotani, the store that started it all, is still one of the best of the 'black style' shops. It is in Tokushima city, near the Mishima shrine on the West side of the Okinosu river. Ramen Todai Omichi Honten is regularly voted best Tokushima ramen by local media. If you can't make it down to Shikoku, they have a branch in Kyoto, in the Ramen Koji complex on the 10th floor of the Kyoto station building. Okamoto Chuka in Komatsushima city is the most highly rated ‘white style’.
FGL Favorite Tipple: Try Narototai 'Red Snapper' Genshu, Tsukasagiku, Hisagotaiko -in business since 1948 - or Housui. Awa Ikeda-Miyoshi City hosts a sake festival each year in late February, this year on Saturday February 24th. Their Japanese-only website is here.