5 Faves: Regional Specialties

It’s so much fun to travel around Japan on one’s stomach. Every single region has an edible specialty; sometimes all you have to do is go one town over and you’ll encounter something unique to that area. Here are a few of the tastier treats I’ve had during my travels in Japan.

1. Ikinaridango (Kumamoto Prefecture) РThis was one of my first treats after our move to Kumamoto. Ikinaridango takes a base of mochi (pounded rice) and stuffs in some sweet potato and anko (red bean paste). You can find it at the main tourist sites in Kumamoto (like Kumamoto Castle or Suizen-ji Garden) though there are a few dedicated outlets around the city that specialize in various flavors.

2. Chicken Nanban (Miyazaki Prefecture) – Fried chicken. Thinly cut cabbage. Heaps of mayonnaise. Yeah, there isn’t anything healthy about chicken nanban but you won’t really care once you have a bite. This specialty can also be found often in take-away bento lunches throughout Kyushu but it’s really best to eat it at the source. Just don’t get caught up counting the calories.

Chicken nanban ... finger lickin' good!
Chicken nanban … finger lickin’ good!

3. Zundamochi (Miyagi Prefecture) – I love me some edamame (boiled soybeans) but I have never had them pounded into a paste and sweetened with sugar. It’s a surprisingly agreeable taste and a popular one in Miyagi Prefecture. You can hardly go 20 meters in Sendai without bumping into someone selling mochi (pounded rice) with a bright green zunda topping.

4. Sata andagi (Okinawa Prefecture) – I’m not a big fan of donuts, but I make an exception for Okinawa’s sata andagi. Traditonally made from the island’s brown sugar, you can also find them in flavors as varied as mango, sesame and beniimo (purple sweet potato). The shape is more akin to a large donut hole and no matter the flavor, don’t expect a product as sweet as what they sell at Dunkin’.

Sata andagi for sale in Naha, Okinawa
Sata andagi for sale in Naha, Okinawa

5. Jingisukan (Hokkaido Prefecture) – I eat a mostly plant-based diet but lord, I love me some lamb. Always have. Which is why I adore heading to Hokkaido, where my first meal is always jingisukan. I have yet to see a really accurate explanation as to why this yakitori-style mutton cuisine is named after Mongolia’s most famous marauder Genghis Khan but in the end, I choose it for the taste and not the historical accuracy. You can find jingisukan joints all over Hokkaido’s cities

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