5 Famous Foods You’ll Find In Shizuoka
You think you know wasabi? You have no idea.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Shizuoka Prefecture? That white-capped mammoth called Mount Fuji, right? Even if you come to this Central Japan prefecture to slog to the top of Japan’s highest mountain, you’re bound to be starving afterward. Here are five of Shizuoka’s most famous foods (…and drink) to replenish your energy stores.
1. Green tea
Many people are aware that Kyoto is the matcha capital of Japan but did you know that Shizuoka produces over 40 percent of the green tea grown in the entire country? Several varieties of quality green tea are grown here, fed by the region’s tea-friendly topography, climate and spring water.
Green tea was first introduced in Shizuoka in the 1200s by a monk called Shoichi Kokushi who brought back tea seeds from China. If you like to smell and taste tea leaves up close and personal, there are many tea tours across the prefecture. Head to the famous tea plantations of Makinohara to get the total tea experience, from leaf to cup.
2. Sakura ebi (sakura shrimp)
Yui Harbor and Oigawa Harbor in Shizuoka are the only two locations in the entire Japanese archipelago where fishermen catch these tiny critters. Both areas overlook Suruga Bay, Japan’s deepest bay and home to this rare shrimp famous for its delicate sweetness. The shrimp are only caught twice a year and then sun-dried to preserve their shrimpy goodness.
Head to Shizuoka in spring or fall to enjoy fresh sakura ebi prepared in many ways — boiled, pickled, fried in batter in the form of tempura or kakiage, in soups, or sashimi style. Yui also hosts a sakura shrimp festival annually on May 3 when you can try as much sakura shrimp as you like.
Shizuoka is pretty well known for its regional spin on oden, a typical Japanese comfort food especially popular during the winter months. While locals in the rest of the country enjoy oden eggs, fishcakes and vegetables in steaming bowls of dashi (Japanese soup or cooking stock), this prefecture serves its version on a stick.
Shizuoka oden is unique because its dashi is robustly flavored with beef tendon stock and strong soy sauce and topped with aonori seaweed, karashi (Japanese mustard), and dried fish powder. There’s an oden festival in Shizuoka City (Japanese) every March. Aoba Oden Alley, Oden Yokocho Alley, and Umi Bozu Izakaya in Shizuoka City are some places where you can try this local delicacy.
Who doesn’t love these pan-fried dumplings with a cold beer? Hamamatsu city in Shizuoka is famous for its version of the izakaya (Japanese pub) staple as well as the invention of the gyoza-wrapping machine. In Hamamatsu, these little flavor pockets are filled with minced pork, leek, and cabbage, arranged in a tightly-packed circle, and served with a bundle of crunchy bean sprouts.
In fact, gyoza consumption in this city is the highest in the country, surpassing the original record holder, Utsunomiya in Tochigi Prefecture. Grab a Hamamatsu gyoza map from Hamamatsu Gyoza Society (Japanese) which lists over 100 places to try this regional specialty.
No list of famous foods in Shizuoka would be complete without wasabi. Can you imagine Japanese food without the green pungent stuff? In fact, Utogi, which is north of Shizuoka city, is the birthplace of wasabi cultivation in Japan. Today, the prefecture produces the majority of the wasabi sold in the country and overseas.
Wasabi can be grown in water (sawa wasabi) or in soil (hatake wasabi). Shizuoka grows a lot of premium sawa wasabi in water sourced from Mount Fuji. If you’re looking to try some of the freshest and most delicious wasabi in all of Japan, head to Utogi or the Izu Peninsula. Be sure to sample the strange yet delightful wasabi ice cream in the onsen town of Shuzenji.
You may think you know wasabi from the stuff you get in packets at cheap sushi shops, but until you’ve tried it freshly ground, you have not tried wasabi! Luckily, Shizuoka can fix this!