Akita Prefecture is located north of Tokyo and known mostly for its rice farms and sake breweries. In February, the locals throw a huge festival to celebrate demons and scare children called the Namahage Sedo Festival. It’s also a nice place to escape from big cities with nature trails such as the Shirakami Sanchi. After you’ve had enough demons and hiking, chow down on these local Akita delicacies.
1. Kiritanpo (pounded rice)
Kiritanpo is Akita’s pride and joy. It’s made using cooked rice pounded until soft enough to shape into a cylinder. Then, the rice is skewered with Japanese cedar, toasted over an open hearth, and finally slathered in mother-watering sweet miso paste.
It’s delicious on the go or as a festival food, but you can also skip the miso and serve it in a hot pot with meat and vegetables. Ideally, the chewy snack is eaten in winter after a trip to Akita’s Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival.
2. Iburigakko (smoked radish)
Iburigakko is a simple dish with a big flavor. The locals take every-day daikon (radish) and smoke it over a hearth for a few days. Before it’s served, it’s pickled in fermented rice or salt.
This smoking method is unique to Akita, as the rest of Japan typically sundries daikon. Akita’s style came about as a necessity from needing to smoke food to preserve it. Today, iburigakko is famed for its unique smell and savory taste.
3. Inaniwa udon
Not all udon (wheat flour noodles) are alike. Inaniwa udon noodles are medium-sized and come from Akita’s own Inakawa-machi. They’re hand-kneaded repeatedly and then left to dry for a few days which gives them a unique, stretchy texture.
It’s a long process, but it’s worth it once you’re slurping down nice and chewy noodles. Whether it’s served hot or cold is entirely up to your preference.
4. Hatahata fish
Hatahata is a species of fish that migrates to Akita’s coast during winter. This was considered a blessing back in the day when food was scarce. At a glance, the fish look a bit slimy since they live in muddy sand and don’t have scales. Akita locals just see that as a bonus because those traits make the fish really easy to catch and cook.
These flavorful fish are prepared in every way imaginable—broiled, fried, pickled, you name it. Even the roe (eggs) that come from the fish are considered a (very salty) delicacy.
5. Babahera ice cream
You can’t make the trip to Akita and skip babahera ice cream! This homemade ice cream shaped into a rose is just as beautiful as it is tasty. The texture is more similar to sherbet than regular ice cream.
Its name comes from the folks you typically see selling it from pushcarts, baba (old lady), and hera (ice cream scoop). Flavors vary, but banana is the most popular.
Have your sushi and eat it too, with our Famous Food in Japan series.