Okayama, located between Hiroshima and Hyogo, might have a tendency to be forgotten due to being surrounded by other, more famous areas of Japan. As it is a bit more rural, many overlook the prefecture’s potential as a stop on their trip through Japan. Okayama is a beautiful area filled with luscious nature, quaint towns and delicious food. In this article, we will introduce you to Okayamas’ wonderful food by listing 5 things to eat when visiting.
Chiya-gyu – Okayama Beef
You have probably heard of Kobe beef, the most well-known Japanese beef. But did you know that many regions in Japan pride themselves on their local beef? In Okayama, the local beef is called chiya-gyu, chiya beef, named after the Chiya area in Niimi in Okayama. Chiya-gyu is a type of Japanese black cattle, a descendant of the oldest tsuru ushi in Japan. Chiya-gyu is known as a fatty type of beef with a melt-in-your-mouth sensation. It is best enjoyed in hot-pots, like shabu-shabu or sukiyaki, so make sure to enjoy this local delicacy at a cozy eatery with friends or family.
Yakisoba is a popular street food across Japan, composed of stir-fried noodles, vegetables and meat or seafood. Hiruzen yakisoba is a speciality from the Hiruzen plateau in northern Okayama prefecture. It contains noodles and locally sourced cabbage and chicken, but what makes the dish stand out is the spicy yet sweet miso sauce that coats the noodles. This flavor-combination can’t be found anywhere else in Japan which results in people coming from all over the country to try this local delicacy.
Oyster-filled Okonomiyaki – Kakioko
The Hinase region lies right by the seaside and is famous for providing Okayama with fresh, delicious seafood. Hinase is perhaps most famous for oysters, a local favorite, which is typically enjoyed during the winter months. Oysters can be eaten both raw or cooked, but those seeking a true ‘Okayama-experience’ should seek out kakioko; Okonomiyaki filled with oysters. Okonomiyaki is a type of savory pancake originating in Osaka, typically filled with cabbage and pork or seafood. Kakioko is a regional take on the Osaka classic, filled with oysters to further elevate the savory pancake with a salty, seafood twist. Since winter is oyster-season, kakioko is best enjoyed in the winter, but you’ll find the popular dish year round all over Okayama.
Barazushi is an Okayama staple that has spread all over Japan, more commonly cooked at home than ordered out. Barazushi is a rice dish, typically served in a bowl where rice is topped with a mix of fresh fish and seasonal vegetables. The dish originates in the Edo period, when the lord of Chikuzen Okayama issued a thrift ordinance which ordered citizens to only have one bowl of soup and one side dish per meal. Barazushi was invented as a way to get around this rule by ‘hiding’ fish and vegetables under rice. However, nowadays the rice is at the bottom and the colorful fish and vegetables top the eye-catching dish. Barazushi can be found all over Okayama but is especially appreciated during celebrations such as local festivals.
Another regional favorite known throughout Japan are Okayama’s white peaches. These fruits are carefully grown to ensure that the texture is tender and juicy, with a distinct sweet flavor. Large-scale peach cultivation began in Okayama in the late 1800s when peaches were brought in from China and are now a known Okayama staple. Okayama peaches inspired the Japanese folk tale of Momotarou (the peach boy) and peach blossom is Okayamas’ prefectural flower. Peaches are typically in season from June to September, so if you find yourself in Okayama during the summer months, make sure to pick up a deliciously ripe fruit to enjoy. Other times of the year you can enjoy peaches, and other local fruits, in a parfait. Japanese parfaits are typically made with regional fruit, whip cream and sometimes ice cream. You’ll find them at cafes all over Okayama, so make sure to try one before heading to your next destination.
From tender meat to juicy peaches, Okayama has something for everyone. Make sure to stop by this hidden gem during your stay in Japan for the nature, culture and life-long food memories.
Feature photo credit: Kinki Nihon Tourism
Going to Hiroshima before or after your trip to Okayama? Book your local expert for an authentic adventure!
PIN THISFOR LATER