Hokkaido: dairy, especially cheese
If you head up to the Northern area of Japan you’ll get to Hokkaido prefecture. The capital is the chilly city of Sapporo, home to some of the most exciting winter festivals and the best dairy products in Japan. Though when compared to its European contemporaries Japan may not be know for its cheeses, Hokkaido does in fact actually produce delicious world-class cheese. A dish you cannot miss is the Hokkado cheese tart. It’s a warm bed of gooey sweet cheese lava contained by a crispy, buttery pastry and potentially the most delicious sweet you haven’t yet tried.
Kobe: Kobe beef
Kobe is probably the most famous beef in the world, and is a prized Japanese delicacy and probably the most widely-known regional specialty food in Japan. One of the many breeds of Wagyu, aka Japanese cattle, Kobe beef is always tender, and flavourful and marbled with fat. The most common way to enjoy Kobe beef is in shabu shabu (a soup filled with boiled meat), sukiyaki (Japanese hot pot) or teppanyaki, where the chef grills the meat in front of his guests.
Yokohama is arguably home to the most food museums in the country, one of which includes the ramen museum. It makes sense because it’s one of the most underrated ramen centers of the world. Legend has it that the first Japanese ramen shop actually opened here in Yokohama. Since its beginning the city’s ramen scene has developed a lot, so there is not just a museum but also a dedicated ramen festival that happens every year.
Okinawa: umibudo, little salty sea grapes
Okinawa is a fascinating island. It’s home to some of the most stunning beaches in the world and some of the longest living locals too, so they must be doing something right. The one food you really have try when you’re in the area is umibudo, also known as sea grapes. Considered a common snack, this strange type of seaweed consists of tiny little salty beads that bust and release a slightly salty taste of the sea.
Osaka: takyoyaki ‘octopus balls’
Sometimes considered Tokyo’s cool grittier cousin, Osaka has a lot going for it, but it’s their takoyaki that really brings the masses. Often referred to in English as ‘fried octopus balls’, takoyaki is the perfect on-the-go, after drinking, during drinking and everything in-between snack. It’s like a traditional form of fast food. Consisting of fried crispy batter containing tiny chewy pieces of octopus formed into golfball-shaped bites and covered in sauce and mayonnaise, they’re way more appealing than they sound.
Shimoda: seafood wonderland
Sitting on the southern point of the Izu peninsula about four hours from Tokyo is the humble port town of Shimoda. As well as being a scenic retreat from the manic energy of city life, it’s also where you’ll find some of the best seafood in the whole entire world. The town is home to a number of fish markets, while local restaurants specialize in squid, baked fish and kinmedai – a crispy golden eye snapper that’s quickly gaining a lot of popularity internationally.