Which Japanese food is your favorite? Sushi? Tempura? Yakitori? Yes, they all are super delicious and hard to choose from. Those kinds of Japanese food, you might have already had most of them even if you’ve never been to Japan. But have you tried local food which are not usually in a traveler’s book? Many Japanese food have been loved by a wide range of people worldwide from a very long time ago with their history. But there are still many Japanese food, which not so many people haven’t discovered, and even lots of new ones keep coming up. I’m introducing seven lesser-known local Japanese food from Kansai Region, where I live.
The Kansai Region
The Kansai Region consists of seven prefectures, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hyogo, Wakayama, Shiga, Mie. (The definition of “Kansai” is a little vague. Some people include other prefectures in it.) It is the second-largest region in Japan after the greater Tokyo area. Kansai is like a holy place of cheap and delicious food so-called “B級グルメ (B-kyuū gurume)”.
A typical way for travelers to enjoy Japan trip in Kansai is to visit historical places or traditional buildings and enjoy local food at lunchtime. You can find a lot of famous restaurants serving already well-known Japanese food, and most of them would satisfy you at an affordable price. However, if you are an experienced Japan traveler or a weirdo who wants to try something different from others, I recommend trying the following cuisines.
Local Food In Each Prefecture
Osaka – Kasu Udon
You must know Udon noodle. Yes, it’s one of the most famous Japanese food. But have you ever tried “Kasu Udon”? Kasu Udon is not so well-known even by Japanese people because it is always overshadowed by other extremely famous food such as Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, Kushikatsu. But Kasu Udon is so underrated, and it actually deserves a little more recognition. The noodle itself is the same as udon, but the soup is different. Standard udon has light flavored soup as it’s made of seafood stock and say sauce only, but Kasu Udon has a thick flavor as the broth is made of beef tripes deep-fried in lard. If you want to have solid taste udon, this is for you.
- Kasuya Houzenji
Kasuya is a pioneer and the most famous Kasu Udon speciality restaurant. It is almost everywhere in Japan. But the one in Houzenji is easy to access as it’s located at the center of Namba, Osaka.
- yakinikuhorumon ryuunosu
Local Osaka people say this is the best place to have Kasu Udon. This is Yakiniku restaurant but their Kasu Udon is really popular.
Kyoto – Ham Katsu
Tonkatsu is a famous Japanese food, but what about Ham katsu (ham cutlet)? Tonkatsu is usually served as a main dish. Whereas, people eat Ham Katsu for a snack, especially kids. But don’t underestimate it, even adult people get addicted to it. Since it’s not oily compared to Tonkatsu, you’ll devour it once you have a bite.
- Kyogoku Stand
You may find Ham Katsu anywhere in Japan, but Kyogoku Stand restaurant in Kyoto is one of the best. This is an Izakaya-style restaurant, so you can enjoy various types of other food as well.
Nara – Kuuki Cake
Kuuki Cake is not the name of the dish but the cafe’s name in Nara. They use local ingredients and seasonal fruits. As the name “Kuuki (= air)” says, their sweets have a very soft and fluffy texture. They have “Kuuki Swiss Roll” and “Kuuki Pudding” as well. The cafe is located in a very convenient place as it’s just next to Nara Deer Park.
Hyogo – Akashiyaki
The appearance of Akashiyaki is identical to Takoyaki, but the taste is different. While Takoyaki is made of various ingredients and served with sauce on it, Akashiyaki is very simple. Its dough is made of flour and egg, and it only has octopus inside. We usually don’t eat it as it is, but dip it in seafood stock. Because of its simple recipe, you can enjoy the taste of the ingredients themselves. Akashiyaki won the Golden Awards of B-1 Grand Prix in 2016.
It has been chosen first in the Akashiyaki ranking by the people of Akashi city in 2017.
- Akashiyaki Tsukasa
This is a very famous Akashiyaki speciality restaurant located in Kobe with more than 50 years of history. You can stop by during Kobe trip.
Wakayama – Tenkake Ramen
Wakayama has its own style of Ramen called “Wakayama Ramen”, which is already widely known. However, local people also enjoy another home-style Ramen “Tenkake Ramen”, and this is B-grade cuisine! It is very simple Ramen with light flavor but Tenkasu (= tempura bits) is on it. It was introduced on a TV show as “Wakayama’s soul food for those who know”. You can have it only at one restaurant “Green Corner“.
Shiga – Biwako Bass Burger
Shiga has Japan’s largest lake “Lake Biwa” famous for a bass fishing spot. However, the local residents were suffering from the destruction of the ecosystem caused by invasive species. At the same time, people were looking for a way to promote The Local Production Local Consumption Model. And that’s why the Bass Burger was made. Bass fish is usually not edible, but lots of people enjoy the unique cuisine, and it doesn’t have a strong smell as such. Do you wonder how the taste is? You should give it a try!
- BIWAKO DAUGHTERS
It is a shop for processed food made from fish caught in Lake Biwa, but they are also famous for Bass Burger.
Mie – Yokkaichi Tonteki
Yokkaichi city has the largest population in Mie prefecture and famous for Tonteki (Pork Steak). Yokkaichi Tonteki is a sautéed thick slice of pork with garlic and brown sauce. It is a hearty and nourishing dish loved by the people in Yokkaichi. It was nominated for B-1 Grand Prix as a representative of Mie’s B-grade cuisine in the past.
This is the most famous Tonteki restaurant chosen for B-1 Grand Prix. It’s expected to be packed with people at lunchtime.
Yokkaichi Tonteki is famous for its large portion. But you’ll be shocked by its outstanding appearance among the others.
There are still many cuisines that haven’t been introduced to the people coming from overseas. I hope you can discover your favorite dishes next time you visit Japan!