Recommended Food of Nagano
With a climate ideally-suited to growing many types of fruit and vegetable, along with a traditional food culture that stretches back hundreds of years, Nagano is home to some excellent cuisine and local produce. Here are some of our recommendations for food to try while in the region:
Made from buckwheat, ‘soba’ can be found throughout Japan with some region’s laying claim to the very best soba in the country. Nagano is one such place.
With a reputation for producing some of the best soba in Japan, many Japanese travel long distances to eat in the soba restaurants of Nagano, Matsumoto and Togakushi. Togakushi in particular is renowned for its soba, well-worth enjoying while in the area.
While most visitors are familiar with the noodles, international travelers are often surprised to discover the multiple uses of soba including in confectionaries and the particularly pleasant, soba tea.
This spicy root vegetable tends to divide opinion. Some people love it while others would happily leave it. Yet what many of us know to be wasabi is in fact coloured mustard made to imitate the real stuff. Actual wasabi has a subtle, less aggressive taste which can be used in many ways.
Located in the beautiful rural enclave of Azumino, Daio Wasabi Farm is one of Japan’s largest producers of wasabi. The farm itself is beautiful and well-worth visiting. You might just be surprised at the versatility of this much-used but misunderstood vegetable.
Nagano is one of Japan’s largest ‘miso’ producers. Made from fermented soybeans, miso is a staple of the Japanese diet.
With a wondrous variety of flavours, textures and uses available, visiting a miso brewery to sample and buy their paste is one of Nagano’s best food experiences.
Literally translating as ‘pickled thing’, ‘tsukemono’ are served throughout Japan as appetizers and garnish.
They come in all shapes, sizes and colours with tsukemono most commonly made from cucumber and radish. Nagano has a long history of producing tsukemono using the region’s many local-grown vegetables.
Though they can go somewhat unnoticed, the wide variety of tsukemono is worth exploring and enjoying.
The local beef is known for its soft texture and distinct, light aroma. Local cattle are fed apples to infuse the meat with pleasant odor and sweet after taste.
Highly sought-after, Shinshu beef is commonly served as steak, ‘sukiyaki’ and ‘shabu-shabu’.
Visitors to Nagano are likely to find oyaki everywhere they go. With an outer skin made from wheat and buckwheat flour, oyaki can be baked, grilled or steamed and have a wide variety of fillings including ‘nozawana’ (a delicious green leaf vegetable), ‘azuki’ (sweet beans), pumpkin, mushrooms, spring onion and many more!
Inexpensive, tasty and easy to eat, oyaki are a great snack while on the go.
Nagano produces some of Japan’s best rice. Blessed with a cool climate and abundant water, rice is harvested around September each year.
Visitors coming to the region in the later part of the year can enjoy the delightful flavour and texture of freshly cut and milled rice.
Visitors to Nagano will quickly notice that apples are everywhere. Home to a huge number of orchards, apples are part of Nagano’s identity as much as the mountains, snow, and monkeys. Indeed, the regional mascot is a green bear with an apple of its head – proof enough that apples are inextricably part of the region’s identity.
Apple season in Nagano runs from mid-September until mid or late-November (depending on the weather conditions of the season). Widely known varieties including San-Fuji, Akibae, Orin and Jonathan are grown in many orchards, along with local varieties including Shinano Sweet and Shinano Gold.
Fruit-picking in Nagano is a fantastic outdoor activity for visitors of all ages.
Rivalling the fame of Nagano’s apples are its enormous and sweet grapes. Traditionally grown for eating, Nagano is home to a burgeoning wine industry with vineyards spread throughout the region.
Much like apples, Nagano’s climate is ideal for growing grapes including the highly-prized Shine Muscat and large – very large! – Kyoho and Nagano Purple varieties. Picking your own grapes while in Nagano is one of the most enjoyable and delicious experiences you can have.
Nagano offers visitors so much to try! These suggestions are just some of recommendations as discussed on our ‘The Taste of Nagano: 18 Foods You Must Try’ page.
Of course, it goes without saying that whatever you choose to try while here, Nagano’s delicious food is best enjoyed with a warming bottle of local ‘sake’.