Setouchi is the soothing, authentic region of Japan spanning 700 islands and 7 prefectures surrounding the Seto Inland Sea. All that water plus a diverse climate yield some of Japan’s quirkiest culinary experiences.
Bara Sushi looks simple on sight but turn it upside down and you discover that it’s full of gorgeous ingredients hidden inside. The roots of this sushi date back to the lords of Okada during the Edo era, when extravagance was banned. The people of his territory were not convinced by this, so they put the fillings into the bottom of the bowl then put rice one top of the fillings. In the public, they pretended to eat just rice then turned it over and ate if no one was there. This is said to be the beginning of “rose sushi.” While the term ‘Bara-sushi’ is a generic term, it can be called different names, such as ‘Kakushi-sushi’ meaning Hidden sushi,’ Okayama bara-zushi’ or ‘Matsuri-sushi’, depending on the locality and the shop, but all use variety of seasonal fish and seafood from the locals. The fish that is indispensable for this “Bara-sushi” is a herring companion called “Mamakari” that is often caught in the Seto Inland Sea. The total length of this fish is about 10 to 20 cm, and the body is flat on the left and right like a leaf, and the belly is below the back. The word ‘Mamakari’ is derived from the fact that the fish was tasty, especially the pickled vinegar of “Mamakari ” was so delicious. Even so delicious then people ate up their own rice in the house, so they had to borrow (=Kari) some rice (=Mama) from a neighbor.
This traditional Japanese noodle is celebrated in the Kagawa Prefecture where there are more Udon shops than convenience stores. Tourists flock to sample from eatery to eatery, and it’s not unusual to see huge queues of people waiting in line at those most popular. If you want to eat Sanuki Udon locally, you’ve got to try the Udon Taxi…these designated drivers take you to places not mentioned in guidebooks and that most tour guides don’t know. Along the drive, you’ll be regaled with stories of the history and culture of Sanuki udon, how to order and how to eat it, and other information that only a local driver with extensive knowledge of Sanuki udon can provide. In order to become an ‘udon taxi’ driver, you need to pass three tests: a written, practical and practical (actual udon making test). This is not an easy test to pass. There are English-speaking drivers, so if you want to experience the real Udon, you should definitely try the Udon Taxi! They’ll take you to some of the best places you won’t find in the guidebooks.
Dango is a traditional Japanese confectionery made by rolling and steaming or boiling grain flour with water or hot water, traditionally found in Okayama, Kibi Dango has two meanings. One is dumpling sweets made from grain millet called “Kibi”, and Japanese millet has been a staple food in Okayama since ancient times. Also, in the famous fairy tale “Momotaro” in Japan, it is known that dogs, pheasants, and monkeys are given “Kibi Dango” to get companions. The current image of Kibi Dango, such as the Momotaro package, has been established as “Kibi Dango is Okayama / Momotaro.”
Hiroshima is home to several famed breweries. From the end of the Edo period, sake brewing was difficult due to the area’s soft water, but with the advent of a method in the Meiji era, the Japanese Sake brewing industry flourished. The area around the Nishijo Sake Brewery Street, where the sake breweries are lined up, has been selected as Japan’s 20th Century Heritage as the “Nirojo Sake Brewing Facility Group”. One of the most famous sake breweries is “Kamotsuru Sake Brewery” and “Kamoizumi Sake Brewery”, and “Daiginjo Special Gold Kamotsuru” of “Kamotsuru Sake Brewery” is also famous for being drunk by President Obama when he visited Japan.
Iya in the westernmost part of the Tokushima Prefecture has temperatures that differ between day and night, making it the ideal condition to grow the high-quality buckwheat used in Iya Soba–rough, thick short noodles found in so many of the region’s eateries.
-Text & images courtesy @trumarketing; Setouchi photo credit = Mitoyo Tourism Exchange Authority