When many people think of Japan, the first words that come to mind are often geisha, samurai, technology, and, of course, sushi. Japan has always prided itself on having an extremely robust and varied food culture, ranging from simple street food to high-end, multi-course feasts, and this unique and rich gastronomic culture can be found in every corner of Tochigi Prefecture. From delectable Tochigi wagyu beef that melts in your mouth, to the sweet yet savory taste of Yuba, juicy handpicked strawberries, or delicious sake, Tochigi Prefecture is a paradise for food lovers.
Tochigi Wagyu Beef (Grill & Steak Myogetsubo)
Tochigi wagyu beef is a brand that is only awarded to a small number of top-quality wagyu black cattle that are raised with the greatest care by specific producers inside Tochigi Prefecture. The brand is considered one of the best brands of wagyu beef, with the marbled and tender meat being considered a culinary work of art. And one of the finest places to experience this high-end Japanese delicacy is Grill & Steak Myogetsubo located in Nikko City.
Situated within the confines of Nikko’s UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site, which includes famous places such as Nikko Toshogu Shrine, the name Myogetsubo is the combination of “myogestsu” and “bo” that translates to something along the lines of “the priest's lodging of the beautiful moon.”
Featuring an interior of dark wood, Myogetsubo is an establishment that creates an atmosphere of ancient Heian Japan but is presented through a modern lens. Guests can experience the changes in the four seasons by watching the changes that the garden undergoes throughout the year, offering a different atmosphere every time you visit. It is the perfect atmosphere to enjoy some of Tochigi’s famous wagyu beef.
The Tochigi Beef Sirloin served at Myogetsubo is a grade 5 wagyu steak, which is regarded as the best of the best in terms of Japanese wagyu beef. The large amounts of marbled fat found in the meat are what make wagyu such a world-renowned delicacy, with the unique rice diet of Myogetsubo’s cattle accounting for the restaurant’s notoriety for its wagyu steak having such a rich and distinct flavor.
The Tochigi Beef Sirloin comes served to you on a hot iron skillet, sizzling to perfection right in front of you. After one single bite, you will have a whole new outlook on what the perfect steak tastes like. And what would some of Japan’s finest beef be without the right wine to pair it with? Myogetsubo’s wine list consists of both full-bodied cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir, expertly selected to bring out the richness in the flavor of the wagyu steak.
After indulging yourself in some of the essence of the Japanese referred to as umami, dessert is also available for anyone wishing to indulge their sweet tooth. Danish Arla Buko cream cheese and a French layered chocolate cake are two of Myogetsbo’s signature desserts, which are best enjoyed while sipping coffee and gazing out the windows at the spectacular garden found on the premises.
Yuba (Nikko Takaiya)
Once considered a divine offering fit for the gods of Shintoism and Buddhism, yuba is a Japanese cuisine produced from the skin that forms on top of boiled soy milk. While the origins of yuba can be traced back to more than 1200 years ago when a Japanese monk returning from China introduced it, today, yuba has become a special ingredient used in a wide range of Japanese gastronomic creations. In fact, yuba has become such culinary delicacy in Japanese culture that even specific regions of Japan have different ways of writing the word in kanji characters, with the term in Kyoto combining the characters for "hot water" and "leaf," while yuba from Nikko uses the characters for "hot water" and "wave" instead.
Located in Nikko City in Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko Takaiya is known as one of the finest locations to try authentic Nikko yuba. Nikko yuba differs from Kyoto yuba in that during the production process, the membrane is folded in half, effectively doubling the thickness of the yuba produced. Yuba is said to have been first introduced to Nikko at the present-day Rinnoji Temple, but, accordingly to one account, it wasn't until the Meiji era of Japan (1868-1912 CE) that Nikko yuba was sold directly to the general public. After its introduction, yuba quickly became a national favorite among the Japanese populace, alongside other soy-based foods such as natto, with many factories popping up around Nikko to meet both domestic and international demand. One of these yuba-producing factories, Ebiya, has long been considered one of the best yuba producers, even being allowed to provide its yuba to the imperial family of Japan, as well as the temples and shrines of Nikko, and it is the Nikko gozen yuba of Ebiya, created with the sacred waters of Mt. Nikko, that you will find used in many of the dishes on offer at Nikko Takaiya.
Nikko Takaiya has been serving amazing food to its clientele dating all the way back to the late Edo period of Japan (1805 CE) when it started as a soba noodle shop, with the current building maintaining a deep appreciation for its tradition and history with timeless Japanese aesthetics. The restaurant features several unique rooms that can accommodate guests including a private tatami room, a Showa-era sukiya-zukuri-style “old room”, and a tatami banquet hall adorned with beautiful maple and cedar wood, making it an ideal location for both casual and formal engagements. While guests indulge themselves by eating yuba that meets the high-quality standards to be served to the shrines and temples, they can also enjoy the serene and calming scenery of a picturesque Japanese garden located outside the window that includes statues of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. As the seasons change in Nikko, so does the beauty and complexities of this garden, so no matter when you visit, a beautiful garden will be waiting to welcome you.
Nikko Takaiya offers full kaiseki yuba courses, with the lunch kaiseki yuba course being smaller than the dinner course. An example of a kaiseki course consists of an appetizer, soup, yuba sashimi, smoked rainbow trout, Taguri yuba, fried yuba, noodles, and dessert. Please inquire for hours of operation as reservations are required.
Strawberries (Ichigo no Sato Farm)
Tochigi Prefecture is a name synonymous with strawberries across Japan. The climate in Tochigi Prefecture, characterized by long hours of sunshine during the winter months and a significant temperature difference between day and night, makes it an ideal location for strawberry cultivation. In fact, the most popular strawberry variety in Japan, the "tochiotome," originated in Tochigi Prefecture. This is why Tochigi Prefecture is sometimes referred to as the "strawberry kingdom."
One of the most renowned strawberry growers in all of Tochigi Prefecture is Ichigo no Sato Farm. Located in Oyama City in Tochigi Prefecture, visitors at Ichigo no Sato Farm can not only purchase delicious strawberries on the spot but, with advanced reservations, they can also enjoy all-you-can-eat strawberries fresh from their strawberry fields. Visitors can experience strawberry picking from December to May when the strawberries are in season, getting the chance to sample one of Japan's favorite treats as fresh as it could possibly be. The farm doesn't stop at strawberries; they also grow cherries, grapes, blueberries, and peaches.
Ichigo no Sato Farm boasts a buffet-style restaurant called Ichigo Ichie on its grounds. Here, you can unwind and savor lunch while immersing yourself in the picturesque surroundings. This delightful eatery presents an extensive selection of homemade dishes, predominantly crafted from locally sourced ingredients from the farms of Tochigi Prefecture. And don't miss out on their exceptional desserts; I strongly encourage you to sample some of the cakes featuring fresh fruits grown right on the farm itself.
Sake (Daiichi Sake Brewery)
In recent years, sake, or "nihonshu," as it is referred to in Japanese, has exploded in popularity and relevance outside of Japan. Sake is a variety of rice wine produced by fermenting polished rice in a process more similar to beer than grape wine. In this process, the starch from the rice is converted into sugars that eventually ferment into the alcohol we can't get enough of. The practice of turning rice into alcohol is thought to have been imported into Japan from China around 500 BCE, with sake brewing known to have been practiced at the imperial court in the 8th and 9th centuries. However, Japanese sake itself is believed to date back to the introduction of koji mold into the fermenting process. With uses ranging from being an offering to the gods to being the primary beverage drunk when people socialized among their peers, sake has enjoyed a long and important place in Japanese society ever since its initial introduction.
The Daiichi Sake Brewery, located in Sano City of Tochigi Prefecture, is one of the most celebrated makers of high-quality sake still practicing traditional methods to this day. The brewery was first established in 1673 CE during the Edo period in Japan's history, and large remnants of this storied past can still be seen. The brewery itself has also been recognized as a national tangible cultural property due to its continued use of traditional methods during the sake brewing process. This, in conjunction with Sano City's famously mineral-rich water, results in one of Japan's most delicious cups of sake. The brewery has also been growing the rice used for its ingredients since its establishment, allowing the brewers to be selective about which ingredients are used during the sake making process.
The brewing season usually runs from October to March, and the traditional cedar ball outside the brewery is a good indicator of how well the sake has matured. A green cedar ball is hung at the entrance of the brewery as a sign that the year's new sake has been successfully produced. Most recently, Daiichi Sake Brewery's Awa Sake has been winning awards at various international events, such as a silver medal at the International Wine Challenge 2022, Gold medal at the French Clas Master, as well as the best sake for food pairing at the Milano Sake Challenge. Awa Sake features an aroma of fresh citrus fruits with a crisp yet refreshing taste, similar to sparkling wine, making it an ideal companion for dishes like tomato and mozzarella caprese. In addition to their award-winning Awa Sake, their Tokubetsu Junmai Genshu Migaki, Junmai Daiginjo Yumesasara, and Junmai Daiginjo Yamada Nishiki are three of the other very popular sake varieties produced at the brewery.
For those wishing to visit the brewery in person, there is a Japanese-language brewery tour available upon request. Furthermore, there are English-language brochures available at the reception desk, which also contains a QR code for an English-language audio guide of the facility conducted by Nearby Tokyo. Please note that the audio guide is accessible via the Nearby Tokyo website, so a smartphone is required to take advantage of this feature.
The tour of the Daiichi Sake Brewery consists of an overview of the brewery, including its history, as well as a quick crash course on sake brewing in general. The brewery tour will take you through a gallery that demonstrates, in steps, the process of how sake turns from rice in the fields into delicious alcohol in your cup, before visiting the milling room inside the facility to see where the rice is polished down into rice that can be used to make alcohol. Because certain areas cannot allow visitors during the actual brewing season, what you can see in these areas will depend on when you visit. However, after the walking section of the tour is finished, they offer a paid tasting section in the concessions area. For a small fee, you can sample up to eight different kinds of sake, getting to experience some of Japan's most renowned sake directly from where it was made.
Tochigi Prefecture is a gastronomic paradise for food enthusiasts, offering some of Japan's best Wagyu beef, yuba fit for the imperial family, juicy and sweet strawberries, and award-winning traditionally crafted sake. Whether you are looking to savor the finest culinary delights Tochigi Prefecture has to offer or wish to delve into the intricate details behind these culinary wonders, Tochigi Prefecture ensures an unforgettable experience for those willing to make the journey.
Special Tour Information:
Enjoy luxurious experiences in Oku-Nikko amidst the fall foliage.
Spend 3 days at Lake Chuzenji and Nikko during the autumn colors season.
Nikko is renowned for its rich heritage of history and culture, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Shrines and Temples of Nikko. Nikko is a world-class sightseeing destination with abundant natural wonders, such as the Oku-Nikko wetlands, recognized as a Ramsar Convention wetland. With unique scenery depending on the season, Nikko is famous for spectacular views that attract many visitors from inside Japan as well as from abroad, especially during its spectacular fall foliage.
This special tour is a roundtrip journey from Tokyo that allows you to experience the fall foliage of Nikko like never before.
With the aid of a helicopter, you will be flown to Nikko, providing a stress-free way to view the amazing autumn colors all around you. After arriving at The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko, the site of the most recent G7 Meeting in Japan, you will then embark on a private tour with an expert guide to learn about and experience, firsthand, the rich history and natural wonders of Nikko, as well as enjoy dinner in a former embassy villa—a symbol of Nikko's image as an international luxury getaway. This special 3-day/2-night tour offers the unique feeling of "only now, only here, and only for you" to immerse yourself in the history, nature, and culture of this incredible place.
For More Information: https://www.jtbgmt.com/luxury/travel_style/detail/29
Tochigi Wagyu Beef (Grill & Steak Myogetsubo)
Strawberries (Ichigo no Sato Farm)
Sake (Daiichi Sake Brewery)
Trip Type: Food/Culinary
Tochigi’s Website & SNS
Related Articles from Tochigi
Special Tour Website