The Hokuriku region has the highest volume of snowfall of any inhabited and arable region in the world, so do try warming dishes such as hegi soba noodles and noppe stew. The area hugs the Sea of Japan coast so seafood is also a speciality of the region.

niigata sake brewery

Sake (Niigata)

Nihonshu (Japanese rice wine) is an alcoholic drink made from rice and seed malt, and brewed using traditional Japanese methods. Known throughout the world as sake, this tantalizing wine can be heated in the bottle to just the right temperature, or served at room temperature or chilled. Flavourful sake requires fertile land suitable for growing rice plus a plentiful supply of good, fresh water. The excellent sake produced in Niigata is due not only to the quality rice and water, but also to the coldness of the winter, which maturates the sake. Niigata has excellent master brewers, called echigotai, and the Niigata sake brands are famous nationwide, with a good selection offered in many pubs.

Hotaru-ika (firefly squid) ©Toyama Prefectural Tourism Association

Hotaru-ika (Toyama)

Hotaruika (firefly squid) are a small type of squid found in Toyama Bay. They are called firefly squid because of their luminescent body surface, which emits a bluish-white light just like a firefly when reacting to external stimuli. Normally, the squid live in deep water but they come up to shallower depths to spawn from April to May. Viewing shoals of firefly squid swimming in the Toyama Bay area is a spring traditions in Toyama. They can be eaten as sashimi, boiled or marinated in soy sauce, dressed with vinegar and miso or enjoyed shabu-shabu style (cooked in a pan at the table). When dried overnight and roasted lightly, the taste and flavour develops a mildly bitter tang. This excellent delicacy compliments sake perfectly.

Jibu-ni ©Ishikawa Prefecture Tourist Association & Kanazawa Convention Bureau

Jibu-ni (Ishikawa)

Jibu-ni is a typical local cuisine of Kanazawa. It is made using thinly sliced duck meat coated with flour or starch and simmered with fu (dried bread-like pieces of gluten), shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots and Japanese parsley in a soup made with stock, mirin (sweet cooking rice wine), sugar, salt, soy sauce and sake. The flour or starch coating holds in the flavour of the meat and thickens the stock. Grated horseradish is added as a seasoning before eating. The name jibu comes from either the name of the person who created this dish, or from the jibu-jibu sound made while cooking. Originally, wild duck was used; however, as it is rather rare and expensive these days, aigamo duck (a cross between wild and domestic duck) or chicken is used in most cases.