Japanese cuisine is famous for showcasing local and seasonal ingredients, and as a result, each region has its own distinctive culinary style and regional dishes. So take a foodie tour of the country by sampling each one of these traditional Japanese dishes from all 47 prefectures of Japan!
Wondering what regional souvenirs to bring back from your trip to Japan? Check out our article 47 Prefectures, 47 Food Souvenirs: Japanese Regional Omiyage!
Here's every Japanese prefecture and one of the top dishes to try in each!
Aomori Prefecture's specialty is senbei-jiru (literally "rice cracker soup"). This hearty stew is unique for adding rice crackers, which are broken up and added to a soy-based broth alongside mushrooms, root vegetables, and fish or meat.
Akita's distinctive rice cakes, kirtanpo, are made by shaping pounded rice into tubes around wooden skewers. These are grilled over hot coals and flavored with miso, before being added to hotpots. Sometimes they are served on the skewer, freshly grilled and glazed with miso sauce.
Iwate's wanko soba is an all-you-can-eat food challenge! Soba noodles are served fresh in tiny bowls, with each one instantly replaced as soon as it’s empty. Put a lid on your bowl to indicate you’ve finished, and count up your bowls!
This autumnal hotpot is so popular it has its own festival in Yamagata. Imoni made with taro, konnyaku, thinly-sliced meat, and vegetables all simmered in a soy sauce or miso-based soup.
Gyutan-yaki, Miyagi Prefecture's specialty, consists of thinly-sliced beef tongue grilled over charcoal. The meat is aged beforehand to give it a richer flavor and soft texture.
In Fukushima, negi soba is served with a long green onion that diners use as a utensil instead of chopsticks. Trying to scoop up noodles with it is definitely a unique experience!
The bite-size Utsunomiya gyoza in Tochigi can be enjoyed freshly grilled, fried, or boiled with various fillings including minced meat, vegetables, and garlic chives. Ease off the condiments to let the dumplings shine!
One of the highest quality noodles in Japanese regional cuisine, Mizusawa udon noodles from Gunma have a smooth, firm texture and translucent appearance. Try them served cold on a bamboo plate with a sesame dipping sauce.
These chilled noodles from Saitama are perfect for summer. Dip your thick Hiyajiru udon into the accompanying sesame, miso, and dashi soup, that’s topped with cucumber for ultimate refreshment.
This liquidy, savory pancake is made from a flour-and-water base mixed with ingredients such as meat, vegetables, and cheese. Tokyo's monjayaki are best enjoyed fresh off the grill with a tiny spatula.
This fresh minced fish dish is made using horse mackerel and sardine, combined with miso, shiso herbs, green onion, and ginger. Give namerou a try when you're in Chiba!
Niigata's hegi soba noodles are made using local funori seaweed for a green hue and slippery texture. Served in bite-size bundles on a wooden tray, the dish is visually appealing and delicious.
This award-winning ramen is named for the dark color of its soy sauce broth. Toyama's Black Ramen comes with slices of pork, shredded green onion, bamboo shoots, and plenty of pepper.
For the Gifu comfort dish keichan chicken is marinated in local miso and then grilled with cabbage, onions, and other vegetables.
Made with thick, flat noodles prepared in a similar way to dumplings and served in a miso-based soup loaded with seasonal vegetables, Yamanashi's hoto is deliciously filling.
This traditional dish has a layer of grilled eel served over a bed of white rice in a special wooden bowl. Hitsumabushi from Aichi is similar to unagidon, but it is eaten in a few different steps. First, try the eel on its own with the eel glaze, then try it with condiments, before finally enjoying it ochazuke-style, pouring a broth made of dashi and tea over the remaining rice and eel.
These little shrimp can only be caught in Shizuoka. After sakura ebi have been dried in the sun, you can enjoy them pickled, boiled, fried in batter, or prepared as sashimi.
Kyoto’s refined multi-course extravaganza is as much a work of art as a meal. Made with strictly seasonal ingredients, each small dish is beautifully presented and perfectly balanced in a kaiseki ryori meal.
Mie's Ise udon noodles are thicker and softer than normal udon, while the concentrated soy sauce broth is slightly sweet and acts as more of a dipping sauce.
Wakayama ramen comes with a rich, thick soup made using pork broth, often topped with freshly-caught seafood from the waters surrounding the prefecture.
Tottori is famous for snow crab, so their local specialty kanimeshi features chunks of crab meat flavored with sake, soy sauce, and mirin, and mixed with steamed rice.
The dark and earthy Izumo soba noodles from Shimane are made using the entire buckwheat grain, and served with the sauce poured on top rather than on the side.
Barazushi translates as "scattered sushi," and consists of a whole mix of different vegetables and seafood heaped on top of a single bowl of rice. Be sure to try it when you're in Okayama.
There are three varieties of Tokushima ramen – brown, yellow, and white – distinguished by the color and richness of the soup. It comes topped with a raw egg for extra creaminess.
Katsuo no tataki is Kochi's specialty dish. Bonito tuna is grilled over a straw fire for an extra smoky flavor, then the seared meat is cut into thick, juicy slices and coated in a soy sauce and citrus dressing.
The indulgent Hakata ramen has a milky broth thanks to the collagen-rich pork bones used, and thin straight noodles with an extra firm texture. It is a type of tonkotsu ramen that originated in Fukuoka.
Chanpon is an eclectic dish from Nagasaki, consisting of ramen noodles topped with pork slices, vegetables, and seafood, in a rich and creamy broth made with pork and chicken bones.
One for adventurous diners, Kumamoto’s signature dish basashi is thinly-sliced raw horse meat served in a similar style to sashimi and popular for being low in fat.
Chicken is widely consumed in Oita, and toriten chicken tempura is particularly popular. This regional Japanese food is made from bite-sized pieces of chicken seasoned with sake, garlic and ginger then deep-fried, it’s wonderfully moreish.
Miyazaki's specialty is jidori no sumibiyaki. Top-quality chicken is grilled at a high heat over a charcoal fire, giving the meat a smoky flavor, juicy texture, and distinctive blackened exterior.
Kagoshima’s famous satsuma-age fish cakes are made from a minced fresh fish paste sometimes mixed with vegetables and other seafood, and fried until a rich golden-brown.
Okinawa's goya champuru is a stir-fried dish that mixes goya (bitter melon) with tofu, eggs, pork, noodles, and all sorts of other ingredients from different cultures to create something uniquely Okinawan.
This is only a small selection of the wealth of regional Japanese food, so get out there and see what else you can find – there’s no better way of exploring this fantastic country!