Just two hours north of Tokyo, Gunma Prefecturemakes for a perfect day trip or even a short weekend getaway. While traditionally revered for its snowy mountains, large ski resorts, and purifying onsens, they are low-key making some high-quality food up in Gunma.
It can get damn cold in Gunma, so locals like to warm up with this hearty simmered broth made with thick udon noodles. Okkirikomi is a simple dish that’s packed with flavor—the epitome of traditional Japanse cuisine. At its core, it’s just water and seasonal vegetables like daikon(radish), but the thick noodles absorb and carry all the flavors. The broth can be either soy or miso-based, but you can level up by combining both in one bowl.
2. Ginhikari (rainbow trout)
Fish is a staple of Japanese cuisine and practically every prefecture has its specialty. In Gunma, the prized fish is ginhikari, a next-level rainbow trout. These carefully farmed fish are allowed three years to mature which gives them a mouth-watering fatty texture. It can be served raw as sashimi, grilled, or even pan-fried.
3. Mizusawa udon
Wheat is a kind of a big deal in Gunma. The prefecture is one of Japan’s largest producers of wheat for noodle dishes like pasta, yakisoba, and udon. Gunma does not mess around when it comes to udon. There’s the thin tatebayashi udon, wide and flat himokawa udon, and Gunma’s pride and joy, mizusawa udon. Regarded as one of Japan’s highest-quality noodles, mizusawa udon is repeatedly matured to create a smooth, but firm bite.
Gunma took one look at Japan’s favorite wagashi(traditional sweet), and said, “hold my beer.” Seriously, their manjuare next level. These sweet dumplings are typically filled with red bean paste, which can be hit or miss with foreigners. There are literally hundreds of fillings to choose from though, including chestnut and sweet potato.
During the Edo period, a shop in Maebashi, Gunma started grilling manju and coating them with miso sauce. The result was a sweet and savory manju with a crispy shell and chewy center. Yakimeans grilled in Japanese, hence yakimanju. This treat is so popular in Gunma that there’s even an entire festival dedicated to them! Annually on Jan. 11, the town of Isesaki makes huge 55cm-wide dumplings and serves them to the hungry masses.
If you want a body like a Japanese supermodel, try adding konjac (sometimes spelled konnyaku) to your diet. It has virtually zero calories and is even gluten-free with a delightfully chewy bite. Konjac takes on the flavor of whatever it’s added to and can even be used as a meat substitute for vegans. It can take on pretty much any shape, but the konjac noodle called shiratakiis one of the most popular. A block of konjac dipped in savory miso sauce is a common festival treat all around the country. There’s even a konjac theme park in Kanra City.
Over 90% of all konjac in Japan is produced in Gunma due to the prefecture having ideal conditions for the konjac plant. It takes a green-thumb and up to three years to grow the delicate plant, and once you taste a sweet and spicy konjac cutlet or pair it with some wagyu beef for sukiyaki(simmered stew) you’ll understand why it’s worth it.
Wondering what else to eat around Japan? Check out more of our famous foods seriesfor ideas!