Foodie hotspots: Aizu-Wakamatsu, Kitakata, Fukushima city, Ura-bandai, Goshikinuma, Koriyama, Ouchi-juku, Koshi hot-springs.
Foodies Look Out For: Mountain fare; soba buckwheat noodles; local soups; mochi; tamari shoyu; Kitakata ramen; sake.
The Basics: Alas Fukushima is etched into the global consciousness due to the tragic effects of the earthquake and tsunami of 11th March 2011. Today, many of its residents go about their business as usual, but inbound tourism has been decimated, and the Prefecture is struggling to rebuild its reputation. The Aizu district, especially Aizu-Wakamatsu, Ura-Bandai, and Kitakata in the Northwest part of Fukushima, furthest away from the Hamadori coastline, are faring best as tourists return.
Foodies Go Fukushima:
Tohoku’s southernmost prefecture, Fukushima, has a long, distinguished culinary pedigree, most noticeably in the historic castle town of Aizu-Wakamatsu, with its sake and soba makers, and producers of tamari-joyu wheat-free shoyu, and nearby Kitakata, best known for its ramen made with thick, wavy noodles that are made in the town. Its broth is a mix of shoyu and chicken broth.
The traditional, ceremonial fare of Aizu-Wakamatsu is kozuyu, a soup containing scallops, root vegetables, kikurage wood ear mushrooms, ginko nuts and shiitake mushrooms. Soba buckwheat is a favorite all across the Prefecture, but especially in the North and West, where it is eaten, dramatically, not with chopsticks but with a big, green, negi scallion stalk. Kiriya Gongentei in Aizu and Ryoshukubo Sanjo in Inawashiro are especially fine.
Wappa-meshi is white rice cooked with wild plants and river fish, steamed, and served in beautiful wooden lunch boxes which are locally called ‘wappa’. Try it at Takino in Aizu-Wakamatsu.
Yamo-do-ryori, literally meaning ‘mountain man food’, originated in Hinoemata village, and includes sansai mountain vegetables, noodles and yakimochi toasted glutinous rice. Mochi lovers will also want to seek out shingoro, balls of glutinous rice mixed with sesame seeds and potatoes and roasted sumibiyaki style, over a charcoal fire.
One of the finest places to try this rural fare is Ryokan Daikokuya at Koshi Onsen hot-springs, in the south of the prefecture near to the border with Tochigi. If you are planning to visit the beautiful Goshikinuma lakes at Ura-bandai, the local fare on offer, fusion-style at Pension Alvin is highly rated.
Ouchi-juku, in Minami Aizu district, is a perfectly preserved, old postal town. Its buildings, which date back to the Edo Period, mostly have thatched roofs, and are still lived in. It’s a great spot to try local, country cuisine, especially the soba eaten with a scallion. Find the latter at Misawaya and Yamatoya.
The Fukushima Budget Gourmet
The Kitakata Ramen Burger is unique to Fukushima (some might say that's a good thing!). Find it at the Kitakata no Sato Furusatotei restaurant. The wholly unfortunate radium tamago - eggs boiled in radium-rich hot-spring water is another local gem. Fukushima also rivals Utsunomiya and Hamamatsu in its gyoza consumption. Check out Terui, masters of the gyoza arts since 1953.
The Ramen Professor Recommends: If you are in Kitakata, you may wish to check out the Ramen Museum and Shrine. Yes, you read that right. Most of the info is in Japanese, but at least you can clamber into a giant ramen bowl for a souvenir photo. As for the ramen itself, the rustic Maruya Shokudo and Shanghai are two local favorites. Marufuku in Fukushima city is excellent, with good gyoza too.
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