In September 2014, Gunma prefecture made the “’Prefecture in Support of Sukiyaki’ Announcement”.
Gunma prefecture is home to the top-quality Joshu beef, the largest domestic producer of konyaku (devil’s tongue starch jelly), the Shimonita leek known throughout Japan, and it also produces fresh shiitake mushrooms, hakusai (Chinese cabbage), shungiku (chrysanthemum greens) and all other ingredients needed to make sukiyaki.
With the registration of Tomioka Silk Mill and related sites as World Heritage in June 2014, Gunma believes that sukiyaki would be a dish both hospitable and suited to demonstrating the virtues of the region to visitors from outside the prefecture and around the world, and now as a prefecture, they strongly recommend Sukiyaki.
As Gunma is blessed with much sunny weather throughout the year and soil with good drainage of water, wheat has been a thriving industry from long ago. As the wheat-producing capital of Japan, Gunma has developed many wheat-based products, and “okkirikomi” is the best representative of these.
Okkirikomi is a dish made with thick, fresh noodles stewed together with various vegetables and mushrooms. As the fresh noodles are made without salt, the flour they are dusted in melts into the stew, making a thick soup. Vegetables such as carrots, leeks, shiitake mushrooms, potato and taro are added to the often soy sauce-based soup, however there are soups that use a mixture of soy sauce and miso paste, or miso paste only.
Grilled manju are said to have been loved by many as a food of the masses since the Edo era. They are made by sticking white steamed manju (soft cake buns) on skewers, basting them in a secret sweet miso sauce, and roasting them until it turns to brown. Some stores also sell the buns filled with sweet bean paste.
Gunma is the nation’s leading wheat-producer and Takasaki town is famous for being a “Pasta Town”, boasting one of the highest rates of pasta restaurants per capita in Japan. Takasaki pasta dishes are known for their large portion sizes, and are popular as a meal that will really fill you up. What’s more, Takasaki is the birthplace of soup pasta.In every November, the town comes alive with the “King of Pasta”, a event where the Italian restaurants in Takasaki compete on the basis of the flavor and appeal of their pasta dishes.
In Kiryu, if you say “katsu-don” (pork cutlet on rice), it’s got to be a sauce katsu-don. The flavor of the katsu’s crunchy fried breadcrumbs with a special sauce is simple but delicious.
Much loved as a local dish from long ago, “himokawa udon” is unique for its noodles, which are wider and thinner than normal udon. The noodles make for a smooth mouthful. Some stores offer noodles up to 10cm wide – quite a sight to see!