During the Edo period (1603–1868), Japan was governed by samurai, but this was also a time when mass culture––related to both samurai and commoners––blossomed. While Edo (now known as Tokyo) was the physical capital during this period, the Kaga domain (today’s Ishikawa Prefecture) was the most commercially and culturally prosperous region. Arts, crafts, and food traditions have been well developed and maintained in this area, and visitors today can see, taste, and experience this rich culture.
Artistically presented Kaga cuisine showcases the region’s plentiful harvests from both land and ocean.
People often use words like “gorgeous,” “lavish,” and “sophisticated” to describe the cuisine of Kaga. Dishes are prepared with seasonal, locally harvested ingredients and served in beautiful porcelain and lacquer plates and bowls that are carefully paired with the color, type, and texture of the foods. For example, the Kaga specialty Tai no Karamushi (stuffed and steamed sea bream) is presented as a whole fish on a large, vibrantly painted Kutani-yaki porcelain plate to make this meal especially festive. Also Jibu-ni (simmered duck and vegetables in a soupy sauce) is served in a shallow lacquer bowl with a lid to enclose the umami and the beauty in the bowl until the very last moment. This is part of having an omotenashi mind, which means you are “treating guests with supreme care.” Tourists can enjoy these Kaga dishes in the region’s ryotei, luxurious, traditional restaurants serving premium Japanese cuisine, often with entertainment provided by geisha.
Several ryotei are located in the historic district of Kanazawa, the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture.
The essence of Kaga cuisine is linked to the region’s natural bounty. Facing the ocean and surrounded by mountains, Kaga has an abundance of harvests. Also, the region experiences severe, cold winters, and people have developed culinary techniques to preserve ingredients longer and even make them tastier. The best way to savor this centuries-old tradition is to go to sushi restaurants. Needless to say, the region has great seafood, but it also produces quality rice and has pure water. Sushi chefs in Kaga use all these elements to create dishes that are timed to be at the peak of perfection right when they are eaten.
Wagashi and tea ceremonies are inseparable. Both highly respect seasonality and natural beauty.
Finally, you cannot leave Kaga without trying the region’s tea ceremony and wagashi (Japanese traditional sweets). The Maeda clan, who governed the Kaga domain during the Edo Period, helped the tea ceremony become established in the region, and ever since, this tradition––along with its accompanying wagashi––has been handed down. The beautiful, seasonally appropriate wagashi represents Kaga’s aesthetic sense, which will amuse both your eyes and palate. Kaga dishes are like works of art, which is reason enough to visit the region.
For more information about tourism in Ishikawa Prefecture, go to www.hot-ishikawa.com/en
Crafts That Shine in Kaga Cuisine
With striking colors and intricate patterns, Kutani-yaki is one of the most highly-regarded porcelain wares in Japan. It was created over 350 years ago and has developed into several styles while maintaining its essential aesthetic, combining elegance and gracefulness from the samurai culture.
Known for its elaborate decoration, the beauty of lacquerware in Kaga achieves perfection. There are variations depending on the origin of production, and notable lacquerwares include Wajima Lacquerware, Kanazawa Lacquerware, and Yamanaka Lacquerware.
Gourmet Promotions for Visitors
When you visit Ishikawa Prefecture, you can take advantage of gourmet promotions.
Hyakumangoku no Sushi
Participating sushi restaurants offer a special ten-piece sushi menu made with local fish. Each restaurant has different sushi, so you’ll want to try as many restaurants as possible to appreciate the flavors of Kaga sushi. One of the ten pieces is the sushi of the day, which is crafted with particular care.
This website gives you a list of sushi restaurants featuring fish from Nanao Bay, in the northern part of the prefecture. There is a coupon for a free piece of wagashi and tea.
Hyakumangoku no Takaramono
These ryoteis in Kanazawa City offer a reasonable prix fixe lunch and dinner. Lunch is 10,000 yen (about $95.50) and dinner is 20,000 yen ($191.00), including room and service charges.