One-of-a-kind gastro experiences in Fukushima’s Koriyama! [PR]

Fukushima’s Koriyama area, an easy journey of only 80 minutes on the Shinkansen from Tokyo, is home to a range of thriving initiatives to introduce its own unique ingredients and experiences to people at home and abroad. When journeying in the Koriyama area, we recommend you try its gastro experiences. This area is full of growers who are enthusiastic about reinventing food production, and they have set the tone for residents who are responding to their determination. The true charm of gastronomy experiences in the Koriyama area lies in the opportunity to come in contact with these producers. Also, the Greater Koriyama Area (an administrative area comprising Koriyama City and 14 other cities, towns and villages) operates a multi-lingual tourism website called “FUKUNAKA” that offers search functions for locations such as sightseeing spots, restaurants, bars, and accommodation, making it useful for searching for places to visit when traveling.

Munch on brand-name ingredients – an experience unique to Koriyama

Suzuki Farms dates back around 80 years. The farm also has a produce stand where fresh vegetables harvested from their own fields line the shelves. On the left is the third-generation owner, Koichi Suzuki. Beside him is the fourth generation to work the farm, his son Tomoya.

For gastro experiences in Koriyama area, let’s start with “Mankichidon” onions or “Sasagekko” beans, Koriyama’s brand-name vegetables given antiquated Japanese names or nicknames. There are currently 13 different types of branded vegetables for which production started in 2003. These veges have since become very popular at local farmers markets for demonstrating the true sweetness of vegetables.

According to a representative from Suzuki Farms (one of the main drivers behind the brand movement), the 1882 completion of Asaka Irrigation Canal — a large-scale development project to draw water from the Lake Inawashiro in west Koriyama City for irrigating the soil in the Koriyama area — made the region’s soil fertile overnight and is the cornerstone of today’s gastro experiences.

“Koriyama area has four distinct seasons which allows us to grow each vegetable at the optimal time. However, an even greater asset is the abundant enthusiasm with which Koriyama’s growers attempt new challenges,” he tells us.

In the Koriyama area, visitors can enjoy gastro experiences regardless of the season

A Best Table lunch plate replete with Koriyama’s brand-name vegetables

Koriyama locals are also getting behind the concept of eating brand-name vegetables from their region. At Italian restaurants Arigato and La Ghianda, diners can savor dishes containing these vegetables. Amongst these, one outstanding example is Best Table, a former French restaurant so committed to using Koriyama’s branded vegetables that it reopened after remodeling in 2018 with a new concept — seasonal vegetable café and bar. Its menu offers the opportunity to sample a diverse range of vegetables year-round.

Koriyama also hosts events for gastro experiences (held irregularly). At Food Camp, for example, a field is converted into a restaurant for one day only. There is also Kaisei Marché, a market selling high volumes of local produce from the plaza next to Best Table. Both events are always packed with visitors hungry to experience seasonal flavors.

In addition to Koriyama brand-name vegetables, Koriyama is also a thriving center for carp production. At Shogatsuso, guests can enjoy traditional carp dishes such as “Arai,” a preparation method where raw fish is served after dipping in ice water to harden the flesh. Interestingly, Koriyama carp were once farmed in the reservoir built for irrigation purposes as part of the Asaka Irrigation Canal development mentioned above. In recent years, restaurants in the Koriyama area using carp have increased as the movement to take another look at local ingredients has gained momentum.

Exciting experiences that attempt to recreate nostalgic scenes await you at sake breweries, orchards and the like

Visitors can tour the Japanese sake brewery at Niida-Honke (prior booking required)

There are many things on offer in Koriyama, but let’s take a look at experiences that will stimulate the senses. Niida-Honke, a Japanese sake brewery that makes its sake from organic natural rice (free from any agrichemicals and chemical fertilizers), also puts a lot of energy into creating non-alcoholic fermented foods derived from rice. The brewery is very welcoming to the community, offering tours of the brewing area (prior booking required), and holding regular events at the cellar.

Niida-Honke also makes sweets using koji or malted rice, a sugar replacement favored by the health conscious, and these confections can be tasted at the “sweets day” held monthly in the cellar. In April and September, they hold their own thanksgiving festivals as an expression of gratitude to the region with its abundant nature.

Hashimoto Orchards is home to an original apple variety, “Iwasekko,” and sells pure juice from all different varieties of apple.

Sukagawa City, just next door to Koriyama City, offers green tourism experiences that give visitors opportunities to communicate with locals.

Between June and July, Hashimoto Orchards host a cherry-picking experience where visitors can taste test seven or eight different varieties of cherries. These cherries are grown with compost containing Chinese herbal preparations in place of the standard agrichemicals, a practice in line with “Kampo Mirai Saibai” (Innovative Chinese Herbal Cultivation) that offers consumers peace of mind. Between September and December, Hashimoto Orchards also hosts apple-picking experiences, giving visitors the opportunity to try approximately 10 apple varieties. This orchard even has its own original apple variety known as “Iwasekko” that is delicious right out to the skin. We hope you’ll give it a try.

The Greater Koriyama Area features a variety of natural features with Lake Inawashiro surrounded east and west by huge mountain ranges. We hope you will try the high-quality ingredients cultivated with care by growers amidst this environment rich in nature.