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  An Inquiry into
Aichi’s Culinary Culture


Aichi has developed as a grain belt since ancient times and is fortunate to be blessed with both the fruits of the sea and the riches of the soil. A rich culinary culture exists in this region. Given the prefecture’s position between the Kanto and Kansai areas, its culinary culture has evolved in a distinctive way. Aichi’s culinary signature features an originality not found anywhere else in Japan, and it is growing in popularity, recently making inroads even in Tokyo, the nation’s capital city. Indeed, Aichi cuisine is experiencing something of a nationwide boom. This feature showcases representative Aichi cuisine, and seeks to venture deep into the culinary culture of the region while also providing information on choice restaurants and other details.

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The eel is all charcoal-broiled. This long-standing kishimen restaurant still maintains the homemade taste of its noodles.
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Select restaurants
for sampling the tastes of Aichi


The dishes introduced here qualify as representative of Aichi's culinary culture. Each of the items is well known throughout Japan and also exceptionally popular. In fact, these dishes are a great way to acquire an understanding of this region. When you visit Aichi, we hope that you will make your way to some of these restaurants and sample the tastes of Aichi cuisine.

Tenmusu Shop
Kashiwa (chicken) dishes
Nikomi udon
Hitsumabushi
Miso katsu
Kishimen

The hospitality of Aichi’s culinary culture
Traditional tasting hatcho miso
Uiro, a Japanese confectionery representative of Aichi





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Tenmusu
Shop: Tenmusu Senju
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Tenmusu Senju’s tenmusu have
a reputation for tasting delicious.
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Tenmusu are rice balls containing tempura made of small seasoned shrimp. Formed by hand, Tenmusu Senju’s tenmusu are distinguished by their firm flavor and soft texture. The ingredients are simple, but because Tenmusu Senju is quite selective, it carefully chooses and purchases premium rice and shrimp. Ever since this establishment opened in 1980, its menu has consisted solely of tenmusu. It enjoys the patronage of a broad clientele consisting of men, women, and children of all ages. In conjunction with the forthcoming opening of Centrair, the new international airport that will begin serving this region of Japan in February 2005, Tenmusu Senju has decided to establish a branch within the airport. This is a Japanese fast food well worth a taste. A package of five tenmusu sells for ¥672 (including tax).

Location: 4-10-82 Osu, Naka-ku, Nagoya
Tel.: 052-262-0466
Open: 8:00 AM–6:00 PM (Seating for eating available within the shop 12:00 PM–2:00 PM)
Regular holiday: Tuesday and Wednesday
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Kashiwa (chicken) dishes
Restaurant: Kokekko Fujigaoka-ten

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Tebasaki dishes made from Nagoya Cochin
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Nagoya Cochin is a breed of chicken that was developed on the outskirts of Nagoya during the Meiji era (1868¥1912). Its meat is characterized by a springy texture and rich flavor. This breed was on the verge of extinction at one time, but the facilities of the Aichi Livestock and Poultry Breeding Center have taken over the supply of breeding hens. These birds are the only fowl referred to as Nagoya Cochin. Kokekko belongs to the Nagoya Cochin Promotion Association and is known for using only chicken certified by the association as 100% pure-bred Nagoya Cochin. Kokekko¬s abundant à la carte menu of kashiwa (chicken) dishes naturally has yakitori (chicken kebabs), and it also includes tebasaki kara-age (fried wingtips), sashimi (sliced raw chicken), and kamameshi (steamed rice and chicken). There are also three full-course options priced at "3,150, "4,200, and "5,250 (all including tax). An array of wines and other alcoholic beverages is available.

Location: 97 Akegaoka, Meito-ku, Nagoya
Tel.: 052-777-1053
Open: 6:00 PM¥ Regular holiday: Wednesday
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Nikomi udon
Restaurant: Yamamotoya Sohonke

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Oyako nikomi udon contains
chicken and egg.
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Nikomi udon is a dish that consists of plump al dente noodles in a broth made from hatcho miso and other ingredients. When gently bubbling nikomi udon is placed in front of you, the aroma of the miso serves to further whet your appetite. Yamamotoya Sohonke, a restaurant of long standing, opened in 1925. Its miso, an original blend of hatcho miso and sweet white miso, gives food a distinctive depth and flavor. Ingredients such as dried bonito, dried kelp, and shiitake mushrooms are used for the soup base, and the broth is said to still taste the same as it did long ago. Naturally, this restaurant does not use any synthetic seasonings. Regular nikomi udon is ¥892, while oyako nikomi udon, which also contains chicken and egg, is ¥1,312 (both including tax). The word on the street is that anyone who eats at Yamamotoya Sohonke three times will become addicted to the nikomi udon.

Location: 3-12-19 Sakae, Naka-ku, Nagoya
Tel.: 052-241-5617
Open: Open throughout the year
11:00 AM–3:00 PM; 5:00 PM–8:00 PM (Weekdays);
11:00 AM–8:00 PM (Saturdays and Sundays)
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Hitsumabushi
Restaurant: Atsuta Horai-ken Honten Horai-jinya

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A mouth-watering glaze covers the eel in Atsuta Horai-ken Honten Horai-jinya’s hitsumabushi.

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Hitsumabushi is a dish that pairs thinly cut charcoal-broiled eel with white rice. While there is not any hitsumabushi etiquette per se, it is commonly consumed in three servings. First, you take some of the eel and rice from the ohitsu (the container in which it is served), put it in a rice bowl, and eat it as is. You then add seasoning to it for the second serving. For the third, you pour a flavorful broth over the eel and rice and eat it ochazuke-style. (Ochazuke is generally prepared by pouring green tea over a bowl of rice topped with various ingredients.) The appeal of this restaurant, which opened in 1873, is the harmony between its secret sauce, which has an intense flavor, and the eel, which is savory on the outside and lightly done on the inside. Local residents as well as people from all parts of Japan come to this restaurant in pursuit of this taste. The price of hitsumabushi is ¥2,415 (including tax). Be sure to enjoy some when you visit Aichi.

Location: 503 Godo-cho, Atsuta-ku, Nagoya
Tel.: 052-671-8686
Open: 11:30 AM–2:00 PM; 4:30 PM–8:30 PM
Regular holiday: Monday (except for national holidays)
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Miso katsu
Restaurant: Yabaton

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Waraji tonkatsu makes a satisfyingly, sizeable meal and is a popular item on Yabaton’s menu.
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Miso katsu is a pork cutlet that you eat concerned with a sauce made from hatcho miso or another bean miso. Filled with flavor, bean miso is characterized by its mellow taste. The miso katsu of this restaurant, which opened in 1947, presents a particularly exquisite balance between the tender pork cutlet with a lightly crunchy texture and the smooth miso sauce. Even the plain taste of the pork fills your mouth with a firm flavor. The key to the taste is carefully selected pork and a specially made miso sauce. It is said that only a few chefs know the recipe for the sauce, which is a carefully guarded secret. Waraji tonkatsu, a pork cutlet dish that is a standard item on the menu and is served with white rice and miso soup, is priced at ¥1,575 (including tax). The restaurant’s abundant menu choices also include teppan tonkatsu (a pork cutlet grilled and served on a hot metal plate) and miso katsudon (a miso-sauce-covered cutlet served atop a bowl of rice).

Location: 3-6-23 Osu, Naka-ku, Nagoya
Tel.: 052-241-2409
Open: 11:00 AM–9:00 PM
Regular holiday: Monday (except for national holidays)
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Kishimen
Restaurant: Miyoshiya
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Miyoshiya's zaru kishimen
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Kishimen are Aichi’s trademark flat noodles. Miyoshiya is the créme de la créme in the realm of restaurants known for their kishimen. This venerable establishment, which opened in 1899, continues to preserve the same traditional homemade taste of its kishimen. The thin, seemingly transparent noodles are worth seeing. True to their appearance, they simply glide down your throat. Drawn by that, many people go out of their way to come to eat them. At seven o’clock each morning the restaurant begins to prepare the handmade noodles that it will serve that day. Its soup and broth are also made from scratch. Miyoshiya has always carried out its preparations with greatest care, a practice that underlies the restaurant’s popularity. A bowl of kishimen, a standard menu item, is priced at ¥330, while a serving of zaru kishimen (cold noodles), an option that offers the even more enjoyable sensation of the noodles gliding down your throat, is ¥590 (both including tax).

Location: 3-4-21 Nishiki, Naka-ku, Nagoya
Open: 11:00 AM–2:00 PM
Regular holiday: Saturday and Sunday
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The hospitality of Aichi’s culinary culture

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Yumiko Takami, a food coordinator residing in the city of Toyota, possesses a wealth of knowledge on Aichi’s local specialties.
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This sampling of Aichi cuisine has introduced tenmusu, hitsumabushi, miso katsu, nikomi udon, kashiwa dishes, kishimen, hatcho miso, and the confectionery uiro. Perhaps, upon seeing this array, some people will be surprised by its variety and originality. Aichi Prefecture, an industrial and economic stronghold, is also actually a region renowned for being one of Japan’s leading gourmet centers.

Favorable natural and geographical conditions have been in place in Aichi from the very beginning. Rice cultivation has flourished on the Nobi Plain, a fertile area nurtured by the Ibi, Kiso, and Nagara Rivers. Abundant fish and seafood come from Ise and Mikawa Bays. Simply put, Aichi is a repository of food resources. Even today this prefecture boasts Japan’s largest output of cultured eel. Nagoya Cochin, a breed of chicken developed on the outskirts of Nagoya, is known nationwide as premium poultry. This abundance of food resources has given Aichi a varied cuisine. Along with this, the source of the originality of this region’s cuisine is linked to the exchanges of people and things between eastern and western Japan that have always flourished in this area, such as when it was a base for traffic along the Tokaido Road, a highway running from Edo (present-day Tokyo) to Kyoto.

Tenmusu is a fusion of two of Japan’s representative foods—onigiri (rice balls) and tempura—while hitsumabushi presents a totally novel way to eat eel. Miso katsu and nikomi udon are also culinary hybrids, with one combining miso and pork cutlet and the other putting together miso and noodles. If you focus on the elements of Aichi cuisine, they are extremely ordinary. The ways of arranging them, however, are surprising, even for Japanese from other parts of the country.

But a kind of unique rationalism can also be glimpsed therein. There is a spirit that strives to take good things that already exist and, by ingeniously arranging them, create something even better. This spirit is something that is linked to Aichi’s industrial and economic fortitude. “Much of Aichi cuisine actually has a high nutritional value,” says Yumiko Takami, a food coordinator who lives in Toyota, a city in north central Aichi Prefecture, and is knowledgeable about such subjects as local specialties in Aichi.

“This is presumably because the spirit of simplicity and fortitude that was a clan tradition for the household of the Owari Tokugawa, the lords of this domain during the Edo period, still lives on today. The mental climate of Aichi favors dispensing with showiness and pomp and instead pursuing real achievements, and this is reflected even in its culinary culture,” she observes.

The people of Aichi are often described as being austere, earnest, and rational. Even in the case of combinations of ingredients that at first glance seem surprising, it is said, a sensible explanation lies behind them. “For instance, hatcho miso is made by steaming soybeans,” Takami remarks. “Boiling is frequently used for ordinary miso, but the steaming process makes it possible to trap nutrients. Items such as nikomi udon can be termed sensible dishes that permit the efficient intake of foodstuffs with that kind of high nutritional value.”

In recent years the cuisine of Aichi has even begun to make inroads into Tokyo, and its popularity has been climbing. The novelty of Aichi specialties is a factor. Even more than that, though, the sensibility of this food, coupled with the current health craze, appeals to many people. Aichi cuisine has reached the point where it is making a name for itself nationwide.

Be that as it may, the extent of this cuisine’s local popularity in Aichi is something to see. The restaurants visited for this article were crowded with patrons day after day. Some were tourists, but most were local people, including male and female office workers and families. The people of Aichi know their cuisine is something special, as can be seen from the frequency with which they urge visitors to try out this locale’s specialties.

“There is definitely no effort spared with regard to things that diners don’t see, such as preparations, and careful cooking is a characteristic of Aichi’s culinary culture. Granted, there are many dishes that look plain. But wholehearted hospitality lies within Aichi cuisine. I would be delighted if your magazine’s readers would understand that by tasting some,” says Takami.

The 2005 World Exposition, Aichi, Japan, is slated to open in March 2005. If you take this opportunity to visit the prefecture, we hope you will be sure to try the cuisine. You should be able to sense the hospitality of the people of Aichi, we believe, in the warm flavor of their simple, unpretentious food.

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Traditional tasting hatcho miso
Kakukyu Hatcho Miso

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Hatcho miso ferments within these vats in Kakukyu Hatcho Miso¬s miso storehouse. The stones piled atop the vats serve as weights.
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Hatcho miso is an indispensable ingredient in such Aichi specialties as nikomi udon and miso katsu. Because it can be kept a long time and is conveniently portable, it reportedly was a favorite choice as portable rations for samurai during battles.

The name of this miso comes from the distance between Okazaki Castle, which is in Kosei-cho in the central Aichi city of Okazaki, and the village where the process of preparing the miso took place. The village was located hatcho, or eight cho, to the west of the castle. (A cho is a traditional Japanese unit of measurement roughly equivalent to 108 meters.) Okazaki Castle was the birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who established the Tokugawa shogunate in the Edo period, an epoch that continued for approximately three centuries (1603–1868). This region had been blessed with high-quality water since ancient times and was well suited as a site for making miso.

Hatcho miso is distinguished by the fact that, unlike miso consumed in other regions of Japan, it has a dark color and firm consistency. People therefore tend to assume that hatcho miso is salty, but it actually features a mellow, penetrating flavor. The secret to that taste is its ingredients—only soybeans, koji (a fermentation agent), and water—and a two-year fermentation period. Ingredients other than soybeans, such as rice and wheat, are used in ordinary miso, whose period of fermentation is no longer than about one year. Because Kakukyu is committed to natural fermentation, it produces hatcho miso without using any food additives at all. The company does not use a heat sterilization process either. As a result, its miso has a particularly good flavor, and Kakukyu receives orders from throughout Japan.
The company offers tours of its miso storehouse, historical museum, and other facilities. In addition to being able to obtain a first-hand feel for the traditional miso-making process of Kakukyu, which has been in business since the early Edo period, visitors can purchase hatcho miso. (Kakukyu Hatcho Miso is also available in department stores and other locations in Nagoya.)

Kakukyu Hatcho Miso
Location: 69 Aza Okandori, Hatcho-cho, Okazaki
Tel.: 0564-21-1355
Tours: 9:00 AM–4:00 PM Offered every day except for year-end and New Year holidays. Reservations in advance required

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Uiro, a Japanese confectionery representative of Aichi
Aoyagi Sohonke Co.

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Tools from the days when uiro was made by hand are still carefully preserved.
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Uiro is the Japanese confectionery of Aichi. With its delicate sweetness and chewy texture, uiro is addictive after being eaten just once. There are various theories about the history of uiro going back around 600 years. According to one theory, there was a man who came to Japan from China, where he had been appointed by the Chinese rulers to serve as a procurer of medicine, a post known in Japanese as reihoen uiron. Sweets made by his descendants in Japan reportedly came to be called uiro. While uiro is made in locations other than Aichi, including Kyoto and Odawara, the uiro of Aichi is famous throughout the country as Nagoya’s premier sweet.

Uiro is made from rice flour, wheat starch and, sugar. After these ingredients are combined and kneaded together, the dough is put into a mold and steamed. Although the ingredients are simple, the kneading process is quite difficult. It is said that the people who made uiro long ago had to spend 10 years mastering the technique.

Today, uiro is mass-produced at Aoyagi Sohonke’s Inuyama Plant and can be stored safely for a long time. Automated equipment injects uiro into film packaging at this facility in the city of Inuyama in northwestern Aichi Prefecture. This company, which began operating in 1879, is renowned for revolutionizing the uiro industry.

The company’s Inuyama Plant gives tours to groups of at least 15 people. Naturally, it is also possible to purchase uiro there. A visit to the plant will enable you to savor the depth of the history of uiro. (Aoyagi Uiro is also available at such locations as department stores in the city of Nagoya.)

Aoyagi Sohonke Co.
Location: 1-8 Aza Nakahiratsuka, Haguroshinden, Inuyama
Tel.: 0568-67-1271
Tours: Offered every day except Sundays and special holidays.
Reservations in advance required.




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