Tochigi 栃木 is a land-locked prefecture in Japan’s Kanto region that is north of Tokyo and home to numerous world-renowned tourist spots and idyllic towns. Moreover, it is also a perfect destination when it comes to culinary tourism as the prefecture is blessed with farm-fresh produce and delicious local delicacies. Consider tasting these foods next time you visit Tochigi!
Nikko attracts visitors from all over the world with its World Heritage sites and gorgeous natural surroundings. Yet, another reason to travel to Nikko is to try the silk-like local delicacy called Nikko Yuba日光湯波 (soy milk skin) which originated as an offering to the Gods.
Considered a Buddhist vegetarian ingredient, Nikko yuba is an essential ingredient for New Year’s day dishes. The first rolled yuba, shinomaki yuba, was a temple offering and cooked after the festival for everyone to enjoy. Over time, however, it turned into not just a food for offerings, but also something that could simply be enjoyed at home. At present, different dishes using various types of yuba can be found at restaurants just a few steps from Nikko’s World Heritage sites. Yuba promotion is everywhere, making it easy for travelers to explore and find which yuba dish is their favorite.
Examples of different yuba cuisine are yuba ramen, yuba soba, yuba gyoza, deep-fried yuba or even the popular yuba sashimi dipped in dashi and soy sauce. The choices are endless indeed.
Sano ramen is a popular dish in Sano City, south of Tochigi, and what makes this ramen special is the exquisite manner in which the handmade noodles are prepared.
There are two secrets that contribute to its delicious flavor. First, the water for preparing the noodles and soup comes from clear spring water which is considered to be in Japan’s top 100 springwaters. Second, the handmade noodles are kneaded with a green bamboo pole to produce a wavy, chewy and smooth texture. They are then cooked in a clear soy sauce-based soup which gives the ramen a rich and distinctive flavor. It is absolutely a must-try food when visiting Sano City.
Utsunomiya is the largest city in Tochigi and is also known as the city of gyoza. Eateries selling these Japanese dumplings are everywhere, from Utsunomiya JR station to the outskirts of the city. They are perfect quick meal delights for both students and working people as they are cheap and easy to prepare. Utsunomiya gyoza, with its pleasant aroma, is filled with minced meat and vegetables such as cabbage and garlic chives. They can be cooked in a variety of ways such as boiling, grilling, and frying.
Utsunomiya also hosts the Utsunomiya Gyoza Matsuri every year during the first week of November. With over 20 restaurants participating and live music shows put on, it is an event that can be truly enjoyed by local and foreign food travellers alike.
Friendly reminder: As a precaution to prevent the spread of Covid-19, large events have been canceled. Always check official sites before making plans to go to an event.
Tochigi is famously known as the Strawberry Kingdom いちご王国
because it is Japan’s top producer of strawberries. Having abundant sunshine, fertile land, and a favorable inland climate, the prefecture is the perfect location for growing sweet and juicy strawberries.
There are two famous varieties of strawberries that are sold: Tochiotome and Skyberry. The brand Tochiotome とちおとめ is juicy and has a good balance of sweetness and sourness as a result of the winter sunshine. Being the smallest variety of strawberries, it is mainly used as a garnish for cakes and desserts or as an ingredient for ice cream and can be found mainly at roadside stations and cafes.
The second brand Skyberry スカイベリー(giant strawberry) was developed in 2014. With its huge size and sweet taste, it is considered a “luxury strawberry” and therefore commonly bought as a gift. Skyberry is also preferred by pastry chefs for strawberry shortcakes.
No trip to Tochigi is complete without trying the strawberry picking events held at various farms from December to mid-May. With an entrance fee, guests can pick unlimited strawberries! Time limits for picking may vary depending on the farm but nevertheless, it is a must-do activity for travelers who want farm-fresh strawberries.
Another local Japanese dish that is exclusive to Tochigi is Shimotsukare しもつかれ. This is a traditional, home cooked dish that is typically made by simmering a salmon head, vegetables, soybeans, and sake kasu (rice pulp from fermented sake). Common additional ingredients include grated raw radish (oroshi daikon) and carrots. For people who have never tried shimotsukare, the distinctive scent of the sake kasu can make the dish seem intimidating. However, don’t let yourself be dissuaded from trying it as it is the perfect winter food loaded with nutrients to keep you protected from catching a cold.
Shimotsukare, with its semi-liquid appearance, can be served hot or cold and can be eaten with rice or as a side dish. You cannot find this dish in restaurants so the only way to purchase them is in supermarkets and roadside stations.
In summary, one can never go hungry traveling to Tochigi. With its rich food culture and countryside charm, it is definitely a must-visit destination when traveling to Japan.
Make sure to book a call with our personal travel consulting team to get useful tips for your trip and discover more off-the-beaten-path destinations!
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