Yamagata is a place where spring, summer, autumn and winter can be clearly felt.
As such, all the food coming from this great nature will reflect their season and be of a delicious, high quality.
Dishes prepared with these natural ingredients will reflect both their season but also the uniqueness of their local region.
Imoni (taro stew) is a classic of Yamagata's autumn.
The soul food of people in Yamagata, imoni stews include taro, konnyaku, leeks, mushrooms and seasonal vegetables, with soy sauce and beef (inland) or miso and pork (Shonai area).
Imoni stew parties are held on the riverbanks to be enjoyed with friends, coworkers of local associations just like a barbecue in summer.
Speaking of winter soup, natto-jiru soup, made by crushing and dissolving natto (fermented soybeans) in miso soup.
It is a home-cooked dish that warms up a cold body on a cold snowy night but it can also be found in a few restaurants.
Tama konnyaku (konjac balls)
Yamagata's fast food, balls of konjac simmered in soy sauce and skewered, is commonly known as "tamakon".
Hippari udon noodles are popular in the prefecture in winter.
The noodles are boiled in a large pot and eaten by dipping them in a sauce often made of natto (fermented soybeans), canned mackerel, leeks, etc. with some soy sauce.
High quality ingredients
Yamagata's rice is delicious.
Yamagata's environment is ideal for agricultural and livestock products. It has a climate with a large difference in temperature between the seasons and day and night, along with clear streams with plenty of fertile soil and mountain nutrients. Yamagata's rice was born and raised in such a privileged land and developed through repeated research. Local rice brands like Tsuyahime, Haenuki, Koshihikari, Hitomebore offer a solid lineup of quality that has been continuously awarded “Special A” in the overall evaluation of “appearance”, “fragrance”, “taste”, “stickiness” and “hardness”. Recently, the Yukiwakamaru brand rice was launched in 2018.
Yamagata is an agricultural kingdom with prosperous vegetable production.
In addition to familiar vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, green beans, cucumbers, leeks, asparagus, green onions and red pepper, among others, some regions are also known for their local specialties like mottenohoka (edible chrysanthemum), yukina (snow vegetables) and dadachamame (green beans).
Cherries are famous in Yamagata, but that's not all.
It has the nation's largest La France pears and akebi (chocolate vine) production. Grapes, apples, blueberries, raspberries, plums, peaches, prunes, Japanese pears and Shonai persimmon, Yamagata is a "Fruit Kingdom."
You can stop at a farmer's market or at orchards to eat the fruits in the season on the spot. You will definitely become a Yamagata fruit fan!
Yamagata is known for its sansai (mountain vegetables) gastronomy.
They include warabi, taranome, zenmai, fukinoto, urui, etc. These mountain products are not only delicious when freshly picked, but also when pickled.
Sea breams in spring, oysters in summer, squids in fall and cod in winter... The mineral-rich rivers flowing to the Sea of Japan bless Yamagata with fresh and abundant seafood, as do the inland streams.
The mineral-rich rivers flowing to the Sea of Japan bless Yamagata with fresh and abundant seafood, as do the inland streams.
Yonezawa beef is the best of Wagyu beef. Its fine marbling and high-quality fat have a texture that melts in your mouth.
But it ’s not just that, Yamagata has a lot of brand meat, including Yamagata beef, Obanazawa beef, Sangen pork, Shonai pork, Yamagata sakurambo chicken...
Ramen & Soba
Soba is famous in Yamagata, but it is not the only noodle dish popular here as Yamagata leads Japan for the consumption and expenditure for ramen noodles.
There are a lot of local ramen such as Akayu ramen, Sakata ramen or Yonezawa ramen, and many interesting ramen varieties such as the chilled ramen or chicken offal ramen.
However, you can't ignore the soba noodles.
Yamagata's traditional soba noodles are abundant in variety and can be identified as such "countryside", "ichiawari (10%)", "ni-hachi (2-8)", "juichi (11)" soba style.
There are many "soba roads" and "soba places" in the prefecture, the most popular among them are the Three Soba Roads around the Mogami river basin of Obanazawa, Oishida, and Murayama.
In addition, "Ita Soba" served in a large plate-shaped wooden box and "Niku Soba", a cold variety with soup, are unique to Yamagata.
Japanese sake & wine
In a place where rice, water and the air are good, of course the sake will be excellent!
There are 53 breweries in the prefecture, which also boasts many first prizes in nationwide sake tasting contests and is known as "Ginjo Kingdom." There is a great selection of distinctive sake, ranging from dry and fragrant ones to sweet and fruity others.
If you come to Yamagata, make sure to taste some of its good sake!
Actually... there are lots of good wines in Yamagata!
Yamagata grows grape in its warm during the day and cool at night climate, along with its well-drained soil. High quality wine is made from these high quality grapes. Wine making using locally produced grapes has been done since the Meiji era, and there are now 14 wineries in the prefecture. Recently, the number of brands with good results in Japanese wine competitions has increased, drawing attention domestically and overseas.
Why do not you go out to the wineries for tasting tours to find your favorite wine?
Sweets & snacks
A delicacy that is ideal for snacks or side dishes.
Shiso roll is a classic summer treat of fried miso marinated with walnuts (sesame, peppers, etc. in some areas), wrapped in shiso leaves, struck with a few skewers and fried in oil. Rather than a dish as made by your mother, it has a certain nostalgia like a dish made by your grandma.
Come try this taste of the countryside with its rich flavor and appetite inducing taste?
Kujira mochi, Iga mochi, natto aburi mochi, tochi mochi, bero-bero mochi, shimi mochi, hatamaki, sasamaki... how many of those rice cake varieties do you know? All of them are Yamagata sweets and dishes made from glutinous rice or normal rice.
Also, speaking of rice cakes, it is common to eat them with anko red-bean paste or kinako, roasted soy flour, but in Yamagata, the nuta mochi (aka zunda mochi), a rice cake with green bean paste, and natto mochi, with fermented soy beans, are also classics.
Yamagata, a region where delicious rice is produced, traditionally has its own unique rice culture, and there are many unique rice cake products that can only be tasted depending on the region you visit.
A must-have companion on the table.
In Yamagata, which is snowy and has a harsh climate, pickles were an indispensable preserved food for the winter. Even today they are still a familiar sight on the table. Pickled green vegetables, pickled warabi, pickled eggplants, every region and season will offer various flavors of pickles.