Cuisine Cultivated in the Nature and Climate of Two Seas and Five Different Regions

Hyogo Prefecture is located near the center of Japan, looking out over two seas. To its north is the Sea of Japan; the Seto Inland Sea is to its south, and it’s connected to the Pacific Ocean through Awaji Island. At 8401.02 square kilometers, it is the largest area in the Kinki region. In 1868, Hyogo Prefecture was established with jurisdiction over Settsu Province and Harima Province, after which it went through several reorganizations, finally being established in its current territory in 1963.
The climate is distinctly separated into two parts by the Chugoku Mountains, which run across the middle of the prefecture. The north gets a lot of rainfall in the winter from the Sea of Japan, and the south has a mild climate with dry, fair weather from the Seto Inland Sea.

Reporting Collaboration: Hyogo Prefecture Home Cooking Survey Group (Makiko Katayose, Kaoru Sakamoto, Harumi Sakuta, Noriko Tanaka, Shinobu Tominaga, Kozue Nakatani, Tomoko Hara, Sachiko Honda)

“Mythical Prawns” and “Liar’s Tofu”: Tottori’s Unique Ingredients and Culture

According to Japan’s Records of Ancient Matters, it is said that Awaji Island was the first to be born when the Japanese Islands came to be, and Japan’s oldest dinosaur fossil was found within the province. Hyogo also takes pride in having the most nationally-designated historical landmarks in the country, like castles, Japan Heritage sites, and burial mounds. Also, the 135th Meridian east, which marks Japanese Standard Time, runs through the province.

Hyogo Prefecture is made up of five regions of differing history and climate called the Five Provinces: Settsu, Tanba, Tajima, Harima, and Awaji; it cultivates a colorful food culture with roots in each region.

< Settsu Area >
Gateway to the Food of the New and Old Cultures of the International City, Kobe

mage Source: Kimiko Uyama

Settsu is made up of the Hanshin Area (Amagasaki City, Nishinomiya City, Ashiya City, Itami City, Takarazuka City, Kawanishi City, Sanda City, and Inagawa), and also the prefectural capital, Kobe.
Kobe is a city between the sea and mountains, where you can stand on the seashore and see the brilliantly green Rokko Mountains towering over the buildings. Since the Port of Kobe opened in 1968, it has become a cosmopolitan city that many foreigners visit. The “Former Foreign Settlement” was established as a place for foreigners to live and conduct business, and the old brick and stone buildings fit in easily with the more modern buildings, and blend together to create a beautiful townscape.

Image Source: Arima Onsen Tourism Association

Kobe City and Nishinomiya City’s coastal regions are home to “Nadagogo,” drinking spots typical of Japan. Made up of 5 breweries, this region has been famous for its production of sake since the Edo period. And, Kobe beef, particularly known as one of the highest-quality meats in the Western “beefsteak” category, maintains its quality by only using Tajima cows that meet strict requirements, according to the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association. At the same time, while the tingly-spicy, Japanese food enhancing Arima pepper had fallen out of style since Japan’s post-WWII economic boom, a project was started in 2009 to revive the tradition of the pepper, and efforts to achieve stable production are moving forward.

< Tanba Area >
Black Soybean Dishes Breathe In Everyday Life

Image Source: Kimiko Uyama

Made up of Tanba-Sasayama City and Tanba City, the Tanba area is a basin surrounded by mountains, subject to intense yearly and daily temperature variations. Tanba’s magical mists appear in the fall through the winter, wrapping up the distant mountains.

Image Source: Kimiko Uyama

Tanba-Sasayama City originally was created as Sasayama City, a union of four neighborhoods (Sasayama, Tan’nan, Nishiki, and Imada), but changed its name in 2019 to Tanba-Sasayama City. It’s a castle town with many streets from the past, like Sasayama Castle Ruins, Sasayama Castle Oshoin, and Okachimachi’s samurai residences. Tanba City was formed in 2004 with the merging of 6 neighborhoods.

In the Tanba area, local specialties include boar meat and various agricultural products like the Tanba-Sasayama black soybean, the Tanba chestnut, and yams. The black soybean in particular is known for its size and quality, and in February 2021, its traditional cultivation process was recognized as a Japanese agricultural heritage. Due to the Edo period’s water shortage, sacrificial rice fields were established, which were dug up, raised into tall ridges, and dried, instead becoming black soybean fields. It’s said that these processes are being overtaken by modern technology.
If you talk to people who have lived there their whole lives, they’ll tell you, “When I was a kid, we went to the shrine’s rice harvest festival every year in May and got rice and steamed black soybeans. We made black soybean rice and ate it while praying for our family’s health.” This custom still continues today. You can tell that the black soybean is rooted in Tanba-Sasayama’s food culture.

Also, boar meat, prepared as a boar stew, is known as the dish of winter. Tanba-Sasayama is the leading hunting grounds for boar in Japan, and is famous for the good-quality boar you can catch there. It’s eaten as a treat on New Years and other special days.

< Tajima Area >
The Sacred Crab Site That Tourists Come To By A Special Train

Image Source: Hyogo Prefecture Official Tourism Site

Situated in the north of the prefecture, Tajima is an area made up of Toyooka City, Kami Town, Shinonsen Town, Yabu City, and Asago City. The summers are hot, and the winters are severely cold with lots of snowfall, but it is rich with abundant nature. Because it is in a mountainous volcanic zone, it has good-quality hot springs like Kinosaki Onsen and Yumura Onsen, and there are also national and prefectural parks here.

Also, because Tajima area fishing harbors like Shinonsen Town and Kami Town are on the Sea of Japan, they catch a lot of snow crab and firefly squid. Male snow crabs are called matsuba-gani and females are called seko-gani. The fishing season for males is from early November to late March, and for females it’s early November to early January. Every year when matsuba-gani fishing season starts, tour trains serving crab dishes run from the Kansai region, and many tourists come to enjoy all the crab dishes.

At the same time, there are regional foods even inland that are more loved now than during the Edo period. In Toyooka City, with its many soba shops, Izushi Town’s “Izushi Plate Soba” is served with green onion, grated radish, and egg on a small plate, so one person can eat a lot. Piling your plates up to about the height of your chopsticks is said to be one person’s portion.

< Harima Area >
Seafood That Reaches World Heritage Sites

Image Source: Kimiko Uyama

Situated in the north of the prefecture, Tajima is an area made up of Toyooka City, Kami Town, Shinonsen Town, Yabu City, and Asago City. The summers are hot, and the winters are severely cold with lots of snowfall, but it is rich with abundant nature. Because it is in a mountainous volcanic zone, it has good-quality hot springs like Kinosaki Onsen and Yumura Onsen, and there are also national and prefectural parks here.

Every year from February through April, when baby sand eel fishing season starts, the freshest sand eels are lined up at the storefront, and the wafting scent of soy sauce, sugar and ginger signals “kugi-ni” (simmered nails). The origin of the name is that the rusty-colored cooked eels look like warped out-of shape nails. Locally, sand eels are so established as a feature of spring that people say “When I smell sand eel, spring is here.”

Image Source: Kimiko Uyama

Within the prefecture, anago (conger eel) is said to be more liked than unagi (Japanese eel), which is opened up, skewered, covered in a sauce, grilled, and eaten as “grilled anago.” In Takasago City’s long-standing “Shimomura Shop,” they say everyone buys it for celebrations or gifts, and it’s an absolute must on a clear day.
Before, conger eels from the Harima sea boasted the leading catch numbers in the country, but their numbers have reduced dramatically in recent years. The local fishery cooperatives are focusing on aquaculture by doing resource protection initiatives like baby conger eel condition inspections and increasing the size of the trawls’ net holes.

Local Cuisine Born From Household Invention–“Without Waste or Boredom”

Image Source: Takasago City

Kakogawa City’s “Katsumeshi” is a Western-style dish consisting of a beef cutlet placed on a bed of rice, covered in a demi-glace sauce and garnished with cabbage, which is eaten with chopsticks. Himeji City’s “Himeji Oden” is oden eaten with a ginger-soy sauce topping. The day after eating that oden, using the potatoes that have been steeped in the leftover flavors to make okonomiyaki is called “Nikuten.” According to the Takasago Nikuten Group, who aim to make nikuten more popular, they say that since it’s home cooking, you can use leftover potatoes from other dishes besides oden, like nikujaga (a beef and potato stew).
This ingenious regional cooking helps us eat any ordinary food without waste or boredom.

< Awaji Area >
Colorful Ingredients and Cuisine Introduced to a Mythical Island

Awaji Island is a 55 km long, 28 km wide, and 216 km around slender island, composed of Awaji City, South Awaji City, and Sumoto City. Being in the Setouchi region, this area has warm winters and low rainfall.
It is recorded in the Chronicles of Japan and the Records of Ancient Matters that the two gods Izanagi and Izanami created Awaji Island before the rest of the Japanese Islands. Awaji Province was split into Hyogo Prefecture and Tokushima Prefecture by the Meiji Period’s abolition of the Han system, and while the whole island was incorporated into Tokushima Prefecture, in 1876, it became part of Hyogo Prefecture.
Awaji used to be Miketsukuni, which supplied the Imperial Court with food supplies, and even now offers various abundant agricultural and marine products.

Image Source: South Awaji City

The pike conger caught at Awaji Island are high quality and rich, and hail the start of summer. Since Awaji onions are harvested at the same time, hamo-suki makes the most of a broth combining the pike conger’s fat and the Awaji onion’s sweetness.
Harima Sea’s octopus, in their prime from June to August, are used in octopus dishes like boiled octopus, simmered octopus, dried octopus, and raw octopus.
”Chobo-jiru,” also introduced to the island, is a food made of beans and glutinous rice used to help wives recover energy after giving birth, and is also served during celebrations.
”Ibitsu Mochi” is generally known by the name kawashi mochi. Daimyo oak leaves aren’t native to Awaji, so the leaves of the Smilax china are used instead. They are mostly made during the Boys’ Day celebration in May, but they’re also eaten by farmers after rice planting or during breaks in the busy season.

Local cooking with roots in the various areas’ environments and lives are born, breathe, and fascinate both locals and visitors in the differing histories and natural features of the Five Provinces.

La principal cocina local de Hyogo