Shizuoka is a prefecture rich with natural beauty, home to Suruga Bay and Japan's premier landmark: Mount Fuji.

Situated close to the middle of the country, the prefecture's coast brushes the Pacific Ocean. The southern part of Shizuoka has approximately 500 kilometers (311 miles) of coastline, outlining the Enshu-nada Sea, and the Suruga and Sagami Bays. In the north is Mt. Fuji, rising to over 3,000km (over 12,000 feet), as it takes its place among the range of northern mountains that run lengthwise from east to west. With Fuji's peak reaching a full height of 3,776 meters (12,388 feet) and the depths of Suruga Bay sinking as many as 2,500 meters (8,202 feet) below sea level, in addition to being blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, Shizuoka also boasts both the highest and lowest points in Japan.
Once you leave the mountains to the north, the region tends towards a temperate coastal climate with four beautifully distinct seasons, plenty of dry and sunny days during the winter, and light snowfalls on the plains.
The prefecture is divided into east, west, and central regions, although the eastern region is sometimes called Izu.

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A Place with Ties to Ieyasu Tokugawa

Images Sourced From: Shizuoka Tourism Association

Shizuoka Prefecture is a location with connections to Ieyasu Tokugawa, who started the Edo Shogunate. Ieyasu spent his youth as a hostage of the Imagawa in Sunpu, and returned to Sunpu in later years. Shines and temples linked to him remain to this day in Shizuoka, including Kunozan Toshogu Shrine where he was buried, and Shizuoka Sengen Shrine.
Shizuoka Prefecture first became what it is today in August of 1876(Meiji 9). Before that, at the time the abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures was enacted in 1871 (Meiji 4), it was three separate regions: blah (Izu), Shizuoka Prefecture (Suruga and Totomi), and Horie Prefecture (Northern Lake Hamana). In November of the same year, the Nirayama Prefecture became part of the Ashigara Prefecture, and a new Prefecture, Hamamatsu, was created in Enshu. Eventually, in April of 1876 (Meiji 9), what was once Izu was combined with Shizuoka Prefecture in conjunction with the dissolution of Ashigara Prefecture, and later the same year Shizuoka Prefecture went on to incorporate Hamamatsu Prefecture, thus giving rise to Shizuoka as we know it today.

Sitting more or less on the border between eastern and western Japan, Shizuoka's culinary traditions have been influenced by both, something that comes across in a regional taste for both cuisines. Among the various agriculture, forestry and fishery products Shizuoka produces are some of the best green tea, mandarin oranges, hothouse melons, wasabi, bonito, tuna, sakura shrimp and sardines, to name just a few out of a list of over 1,140 items. It's easy to see how they were able to cultivate such a varied food culture. Shizuoka is also bustling with manufacturing, boasting some of the best export volume and price for pianos, motorcycles, scooters and electric bicycles, and plastic models.
Broadly, we can divide the culinary culture of Shizuoka into Central, Western, and Eastern regions.
So, without any further ado, why don't we take a closer look at the food cultures cultivated in each of these regions?

<Central Shizuoka>For people from here, the taste of home is black hanpen and sakura shrimp

Images Sourced From: Shizuoka Tourism Association

Located, as the name suggests, in the central area of Shizuoka, this area is home to the prefectural capital Shizuoka City, as well as five other cities and two towns: Yaizu City, Fujieda City, Shimada City, Makinohara City, Yoshida Town, and Kawanehon Town. The fields of Makinohara are covered with tea plantations, the ports of Shimizu and Yaizu provide a healthy catch of tuna and bonito, with Yui bringing in sakura shrimp, and Mochimune accounting for the whitebait, with each one of them boasting either the number one or the number two spot nationwide for their specialty catch. It's a region truly blessed, when it comes to ingredients.
In Shizuoka City, you'll be able to find an Oden Town or an Oden Street, where you can sample the regional Shizuoka Oden. The black broth has been simmered with beef tendon, plus added daikon radish and black hanpen, and is known for being served with a liberal sprinkling of dashi.

Black hanpen have an entirely different appearance and texture than the more common white hanpen fish cakes, with a darker color and a distinctive semicircular shape made by boiling fish paste from mackerel, Japanese Jack Mackerel, sardine, and other fishes. As far as Shizuoka is concerned, black hanpen is the hanpen of choice. In addition to being used as an ingredient in Oden, it's also eaten deep fried. In Shizuoka City, fried black hanpen is a favorite of all ages, from adults to kids, and considered a hometown flavor.

Dishes made with the sakura shrimp which can only be caught in Suruga Bay are regular features of everyday fare. A tempura fritter made with sakura shrimp is a staple made in kitchens across the Prefecture, not just the central region. Such sakura shrimp kakiage, as they're called are fragrant with the aroma of their signature ingredient and are often served atop rice bowls or, in the case of New Year, soba noodles. Another sakura shrimp dish, 'Okiagari,' is a hotpot dish said to originally have been eaten by the shrimpers themselves over sake as they mulled the day's catch. It's a bit like sukiyaki, with tofu and green onions simmered together with the sakura shrimp in a sweet broth.

In the Edo Period, Shizuoka's central region featured some stops from 'The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido,' and today you can still tell what some of the favorites of the travelers along that road at must have been. The yam soup from the Mariko-juku was made by grating wild yams, blending that with a mix of miso and dashi broth. Typically served over barley rice, it's well known as a hearty, rejuvenating meal. Nowadays, it's a favorite among home cooking repertoires.

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Another popular dish is Abekawa Mochi, or mochi made by pounding in kinako along with the rice, and this is another food that's now simple and standard fare for home cooks in the regions. The fresh mochi, or sometimes mochi that's been grilled and then lightly boiled, is eaten together with a mix of sugar and kinako powder. The Abekawa bridge is lined with shops offering Abekawa mochi, a hit with the tourist crowd.

<Western Shizuoka>This region, which has breathed deep of a spirit of development, has given rise to flavors that blend the old and the new.

Images Sourced From: Shizuoka Tourism Association

The region is made up of seven cities and one town: Hamamatsu City, Iwata City, Kakegawa City, Fukuroi City, Omaezaki City, Kikugawa City, and Mori Town. Sandwiching the Tenryu River, the Mikatahara and Iwatahara plateaus sit to the west and east, respectively, while to the south the coastline runs all the way from the Enshu-nada Sea to Omaezaki. Hamamatsu Lake is a brackish lake (meaning, a mix of salt and freshwater) famous for its unagi eel farming.

In the same region, manufacturing for goods like cars, motor scooters, and instruments, is flourishing. The area is the birthplace of famous companies like Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and others, as well as playing host to instrument makers like Yamaha, Kawai, and Roland. Plus, the warm climate allows for the cultivation of crops such as tea, melons, and mandarin oranges, with Hamamatsu Lake providing oyster, seaweed, and eel farming and whitebait fishing happening in the Enshu-nada Sea.
The area gets powerful seasonal winds known as the Enshu Seabreeze, and this combined with the long length of the day create a particularly good environment for making dried sweet potatoes, making it possible to get characteristically soft and sweet hoshi-imo. And, when it comes to fermented foods, the Enshu region is known for hama-natto. Lacking the sticky strings of your typical natto, the beans are dry and distinct, soft and the color of strong miso. They're also called Daifukuji natto, as it's said that the secret recipe has been handed down through the years at Daifukuji Temple in Hamamatsu City.

Images Sourced From: "Shizuoka Side Dishes" Open Port

Suruga Bay, which faces the southern part of the region, is so rich in plankton that it's one of the best places in the nation for catching whitebait. The Fresh Whitebait Bowl, made with fresh raw whitebait on top of warm rice, sprinkled with scallions and seaweed, is a hit among tourists and a simple stable of home kitchens.

Images Sourced From: Fukuroi Tourism Association

Meant to recreate the dishes of the past in the hopes of kindling interest in the region. Called Tamago Fuwa-Fuwa, or 'fluffy eggs,' this dish was one of the offerings available at the Fukuroi-juku during the Edo Period. Fukuroi's Tourism Association set out to create some new famous foods for the region and revived this one, pulled from the pages of Edo Period literature. It can be made with nothing more than eggs and broth and is just as fluffy as the name implies. Recipes have been published so that people can try cooking it at home.

<Eastern Shizuoka (including the Izu Region)>Water-Rich Cuisine, from Fuji Snowmelt to the Sea

The region is made up of eleven cities and nine towns: Fuji City, Numazu City, Gotemba City, Susono City, Shimizu Town, Nagaizumi Town, Oyama Town, Atami City, Mishima City, Ito City, Shimoda City, Izunokuni City, Higashiizu Town, Kawazu Town, and Kannami Town.
Starting with the symbol of Japan itself, Mt. Fuji, the region is blessed with rich natural beauty encompassing mountains and seas. The closest part of the prefecture to the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, the area is full of natural hot springs and therefore, unsurprisingly one of the most popular tourism destinations nationwide. In June of 2013, Mt. Fuji was named as World Heritage Site due to its status as an 'object off worship and inspiration for the arts,' and in July of 2015, the Nirayama Reverbatory Furnace in Izu was also registered as a World Heritage Site for its status as one of the Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining. In April of 2018, the Izu Peninsula itself was designated as a Yunesco Global Geopark.

In terms of agricultural output, the area cultivates a variety of fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, wasabi, brassica, mandarin oranges, and persimmons. In recent years, new foods have been developed, such as the Mishima croquette, made with the local potato variety, drawing tourists from the Tokyo area looking to have a taste. Not only that, but the Tanna area of Kannami Town, dairy is booming, and they're focusing on dairy products to great effect.
Even when it comes to the fishing industry, there's a lot of fishing for splendid alfonsino centered around the Shimoda and Inatori areas, with the waters also sending forth a variety of other fishes, such as tuna, mackerel, Japanese jack mackerel, spiny lobster, and turban shells.
The mizukakena, or brassica, cultivated mainly in the fertile region of Gotemba, fed by snowmelt from Fuji, was first cultivated in the Meiji era, when seeds were brought over from Niigata. Now, they're a traditional spring green. They're often pickled and eaten plain as a snack or added to Ochadzuke, having become a must-have food for the locals.

Images Sourced From: "Shizuoka Side Dishes" Open Port

In the same city, you can also find Gotemba Soba, a soba made without water, by blending wild yams and potatoes, before taking chicken stock and simmering carrots, shiitake mushrooms and chicken for the broth. It's often eaten during official events over the New Year holidays.

The Izu Peninsula is a producer of splendid alfonsino fish, and locals often prepare them at home, either as sashimi or cooked whole as a golden eye simmer. In addition to those two old favorites, recent years have seen many new dishes developed, and products that are even loved by a generation not quite as fond as fish can be found in rest stops, supermarkets, and gift shops.

Images Sourced From: "Shizuoka Side Dishes" Open Port

There's also the traditional Izu local cuisine, dolphin miso soup. Nowadays, dolphins are the beloved focus of conservation efforts, so there's not much hunting of them going on at all. In the past, pretty much any household could afford to head out to their local fish market and pick up some dolphin meat, to grace their table in a miso soup alongside burdock root, konjac carrots, and other ingredients.

Mago chadzuke was once known as a fisherman's meal, made by topping rice with minced Japanese jack mackerel and pouring either broth or hot tea over it, before adding soy sauce or wasabi for taste. Other variations use tuna or yellowtail sashimi instead of minced jack mackerel. It's easy to cook, and as the savory flavor of the fish is absorbed in the broth, it's the sort of home cooking that appeals even to children who don't care for raw fish.

Shizuoka's main local cuisine