From the morning markets to the countless restaurants and food stands, food plays an important role in the city and Takayama residents are very proud of their local cuisine. In the spring, over the last weekend of April, there is an annual festival to celebrate the area’s unique fare. The sight of crowds enjoying the many local snacks is set to the sounds of taiko drums and the cries of vendors selling their wares. Some of the dishes you can try are Hida beef takoyaki, mitarashi dango and smoked aka fish.
Hida beef takoyaki
Takayama Ramen, also known as Chuka Soba, is made from bonito flakes and a soy-sauce-based soup, topped with pork fillet, sprouts and menma (fermented bamboo shoots). What makes Takayama’s variation on this common dish stand apart is the uniquely thin and curly noodles, similar to those used in Chinese cuisine. There are plenty of ramen stores to choose from in the Takayama area, and you can even buy instant ramen from the souvenir shops. Nakatsubo is the city’s oldest ramen shop and has a reputation for producing Takayama’s best Chuka Soba. Run by a family who can speak a little English, Nakatsubo specialises in simple Takayama ramen with a choice of simple toppings like extra pork or spring onion. Nakatsubo rests on a corner in the Suehiromachi area on the station side of the Miyagawa river and is open from 11am until 11pm.
Japanese pickles are the essential side dish to most washoku (Japanese style) meals and the people of the Hida area pride themselves on their own version of aka-kabura-zuke, or pickled red turnips. They are easily identifiable by their bright pink colouring, which catches the eye as you walk through the Miyagawa morning market. Unlike elsewhere in Japan, the red pickles grown in Takayama are pickled with their stalks, which makes them all the brighter. You can enjoy munching on aka-kabura-zuke steaks either as a side dish in teishoku meals or as a palette-cleanser at sushi restaurants. Takayama has some of the best sushi in the area, and Matsuki Sushi is especially recommended. This family run sushi restaurant is renowned for its fresh fish which comes daily from the neighbouring prefecture of Toyama.
Aka-kabura-zuke(pickled red turnips)
- 本格江戸前寿司 松喜すし
Miso is an important condiment in the Hida area and is used in many dishes either as a topping or on its own as a side dish. Miso can be a great source of warmth and comfort during the long winters that hit Takayama’s mountainous regions. One of the best ways to enjoy miso is on a mitarashi dango stick. The thick mochi sticks combine savoury and sweet with their blend of red miso paste, basted in soy sauce and grilled over an open flame. Stalls selling these are mostly in the Old Town, while on Ichinomachi street you can find a miso store run by an elderly woman proudly selling homemade miso paste as well as other snacks like senbei (rice crackers).
Mitarashi dango stick
Hoba miso is possibly the most unique variant on Hida beef and consists of the meat, cooked in red miso paste, served on a Japanese magnolia leaf. From the onsen hotels in Okuhida to the gassho restaurants of Shirakawa-go, this dish is a favourite in most restaurants and usually comes accompanied by local pickles, Hida rice and local miso soup, making it the best way to connect with the best of what Hida’s cuisine has to offer.