THEMES

Flavors of Wakayama

Embracing local ingredients and ancient traditions, whilst creating new ones along the way.

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A Fruit Kingdom

Since feudal times, local farms in Wakayama have cultivated premium fruit. During the Edo Period (1603 - 1868) the tenth Lord of Kishu, Harutomi Tokugawa, would have prized Sanbokan Mikan tangerines delivered to Wakayama Castle. Wakayama prefecture is still the nation's top producer of premium fruit; so much so that it is often called ‘The Fruit Kingdom’ (Kajuokoku Wakayama). The tastiest of the region's fruit remains in Wakayama, which makes a visit to Wakayama a must for the fruit connoisseur.

A Fruit Kingdom

Since feudal times, local farms in Wakayama have cultivated premium fruit. During the Edo Period (1603 - 1868) the tenth Lord of Kishu, Harutomi Tokugawa, would have prized Sanbokan Mikan tangerines delivered to Wakayama Castle. Wakayama prefecture is still the nation's top producer of premium fruit; so much so that it is often called ‘The Fruit Kingdom’ (Kajuokoku Wakayama). The tastiest of the region's fruit remains in Wakayama, which makes a visit to Wakayama a must for the fruit connoisseur.

With temperate climates and fertile soils, there is always some fruit in season in Wakayama, and farms ready to welcome you to pick the fruits in their orchards. Fruit farms in the north and the central-west coastal regions produce original strawberry varieties, persimmons, Japanese ume plums, mandarins and oranges, peaches and more. In addition to the fruit itself, you will find fruit jellies and marmalades, liqueurs, fresh juices, and dipping sauces such as ponzu (the citrus-based soy sauce used in nabe hot-pot cuisine) which can be bought directly from the farmers, or found at local farmers' markets, roadside rest stops (michi-no-eki) and at omiyage souvenir shops.

With temperate climates and fertile soils, there is always some fruit in season in Wakayama, and farms ready to welcome you to pick the fruits in their orchards. Fruit farms in the north and the central-west coastal regions produce original strawberry varieties, persimmons, Japanese ume plums, mandarins and oranges, peaches and more. In addition to the fruit itself, you will find fruit jellies and marmalades, liqueurs, fresh juices, and dipping sauces such as ponzu (the citrus-based soy sauce used in nabe hot-pot cuisine) which can be bought directly from the farmers, or found at local farmers' markets, roadside rest stops (michi-no-eki) and at omiyage souvenir shops.

Ramen AKA Chuka Soba

Ramen, Wakayama's staple noodle fare, or chuka soba (Chinese noodles) as the locals call it, took off in a big way in the years prior to World War II. In those days it was eaten at outdoor stalls, but now the dish is served in seated indoor settings throughout the city. Wakayama ramen predominantly uses either a soy sauce-based broth (shoyu) or a pork and soy sauce broth (tonkotsu-joyu), as might be expected from the birthplace of Japanese soy sauce. However, many modern restaurants also serve their own original takes on the dish. Try a few and find your favorite: no trip to Wakayama is complete without at least having one bowl of the region's soul food.

Ramen AKA Chuka Soba

Ramen, Wakayama's staple noodle fare, or chuka soba (Chinese noodles) as the locals call it, took off in a big way in the years prior to World War II. In those days it was eaten at outdoor stalls, but now the dish is served in seated indoor settings throughout the city. Wakayama ramen predominantly uses either a soy sauce-based broth (shoyu) or a pork and soy sauce broth (tonkotsu-joyu), as might be expected from the birthplace of Japanese soy sauce. However, many modern restaurants also serve their own original takes on the dish. Try a few and find your favorite: no trip to Wakayama is complete without at least having one bowl of the region's soul food.

A Land of Seafarers

As a seafaring nation, it comes as no surprise that fish appears in all manner of Japanese cuisine (wa-shoku). Around the world, sushi, using mainly raw fish, is perhaps Japan’s best known cultural export. However, did you know that in Japan before refrigeration became commonplace, salted and sun-dried fish was much more common than raw fish?

A Land of Seafarers

As a seafaring nation, it comes as no surprise that fish appears in all manner of Japanese cuisine (wa-shoku). Around the world, sushi, using mainly raw fish, is perhaps Japan’s best known cultural export. However, did you know that in Japan before refrigeration became commonplace, salted and sun-dried fish was much more common than raw fish?

Wakayama Beef

The superlative Kumanoushi cow breed from Kumano, is a prime example of Wakayama's long history of animal husbandry. Livestock were used for transporting goods from Kyoto by pilgrims on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage during the mid-Heian Era (794 - 1185). Over the centuries, careful breeding created top grade Wakayama beef (kumano-gyu) which is renowned throughout Japan. Fine marbling gives it its succulent, melt-in-the-mouth quality. This variety of Japanese ‘wagyu’ beef is best eaten grilled, yaki-niku.

Wakayama Beef

The superlative Kumanoushi cow breed from Kumano, is a prime example of Wakayama's long history of animal husbandry. Livestock were used for transporting goods from Kyoto by pilgrims on the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage during the mid-Heian Era (794 - 1185). Over the centuries, careful breeding created top grade Wakayama beef (kumano-gyu) which is renowned throughout Japan. Fine marbling gives it its succulent, melt-in-the-mouth quality. This variety of Japanese ‘wagyu’ beef is best eaten grilled, yaki-niku.

Shojin-ryori, Buddhist Vegetarian Cuisine

Shojin-ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine) is made using only vegetables and edible wild plants. It may sound simple, yet that could not be farther from the truth. With harmony always in mind, dishes are masterfully prepared by Shingon monks to bring out the inherent flavor of the individual ingredients to the full. Their seasonally-based gastronomy follows strict guidelines. Along with no meat or seafood, it also avoids the pungent foods such as garlic, scallions, onions, shallots and leeks. Call it a kind of soul food, a cuisine that is part of the striving for enlightenment. Specialties include koya dofu and its sesame-flavored relative, goma dofu. This refined cuisine can be enjoyed for lunch, or as part of a unique cultural experience – an overnight stay at one of the 52 shukubo temple lodgings in Koyasan.

Shojin-ryori, Buddhist Vegetarian Cuisine

Shojin-ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine) is made using only vegetables and edible wild plants. It may sound simple, yet that could not be farther from the truth. With harmony always in mind, dishes are masterfully prepared by Shingon monks to bring out the inherent flavor of the individual ingredients to the full. Their seasonally-based gastronomy follows strict guidelines. Along with no meat or seafood, it also avoids the pungent foods such as garlic, scallions, onions, shallots and leeks. Call it a kind of soul food, a cuisine that is part of the striving for enlightenment. Specialties include koya dofu and its sesame-flavored relative, goma dofu. This refined cuisine can be enjoyed for lunch, or as part of a unique cultural experience – an overnight stay at one of the 52 shukubo temple lodgings in Koyasan.

Impeccable Seasoning

Japan’s best kept secret may indeed be the rural areas of Yuasa, Arida and Hidaka. For more than 7 centuries, this region has produced some of Japan’s most important condiments; without them, Japanese cuisine would be altogether different.

Yuasa Soy Sauce / Kinzanji Miso

Impeccable Seasoning

Japan’s best kept secret may indeed be the rural areas of Yuasa, Arida and Hidaka. For more than 7 centuries, this region has produced some of Japan’s most important condiments; without them, Japanese cuisine would be altogether different.

Omiyage, a Japanese Tradition of Gift-Giving

The custom of taking back gifts from your trip (omiyage) is firmly rooted in Japanese culture. Watch out for regional omiyage – typically food, pre-wrapped and ready to give to friends and family – conveniently available alongside the memento variety of souvenirs. In markets such as Marina City in Wakayama City, a whole section of the food hall is dedicated to products ranging from dry goods to prepared foods. Regional highlights include: umeboshi plum salt-pickles, umeshu plum liqueur, Yuasa soy sauce and many more. Most markets offer tasting stations, where you can sample food as you shop.

Omiyage, a Japanese Tradition of Gift-Giving

The custom of taking back gifts from your trip (omiyage) is firmly rooted in Japanese culture. Watch out for regional omiyage – typically food, pre-wrapped and ready to give to friends and family – conveniently available alongside the memento variety of souvenirs. In markets such as Marina City in Wakayama City, a whole section of the food hall is dedicated to products ranging from dry goods to prepared foods. Regional highlights include: umeboshi plum salt-pickles, umeshu plum liqueur, Yuasa soy sauce and many more. Most markets offer tasting stations, where you can sample food as you shop.

Ekiben Train Packed Lunch Culture

Ekiben, the boxed meals sold at stations and on trains are part of the charm of train travel in Japan. Locals make sure to leave enough time to peruse and purchase regionally-inspired lunch boxes before boarding long-distance trains. Follow suit: you will discover that from packaging, to food design and ingredients, eating a packed meal is part of the fun of the train system in Japan. Wakayama's regional favorites include Kodai-suzume Zushi (sushi featuring juvenile sea bream cut to resemble sparrow birds) and Kaki-no-Ha Zushi (persimmon wrapped fermented pressed sushi) sold at JR Wakayama Station, as well as the Panda-inspired children's boxed meals sold at JR Shirahama Station, and the tuna set lunches available at JR Kii-Katsuura Station. Unlike the big city stations, foodstalls selling ekiben in countryside areas are fewer in number, and you may sometimes need a local to point them out to you.

Ekiben Train Packed Lunch Culture

Ekiben, the boxed meals sold at stations and on trains are part of the charm of train travel in Japan. Locals make sure to leave enough time to peruse and purchase regionally-inspired lunch boxes before boarding long-distance trains. Follow suit: you will discover that from packaging, to food design and ingredients, eating a packed meal is part of the fun of the train system in Japan. Wakayama's regional favorites include Kodai-suzume Zushi (sushi featuring juvenile sea bream cut to resemble sparrow birds) and Kaki-no-Ha Zushi (persimmon wrapped fermented pressed sushi) sold at JR Wakayama Station, as well as the Panda-inspired children's boxed meals sold at JR Shirahama Station, and the tuna set lunches available at JR Kii-Katsuura Station. Unlike the big city stations, foodstalls selling ekiben in countryside areas are fewer in number, and you may sometimes need a local to point them out to you.

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