To recap– In September, a friend and I traveled to Takayama, about 3 hours from Kanazawa. Located in Gifu near the border of Nagano, the old towns of Hida (飛騨） and Takayama (高山）are a food tourist’s paradise. Since the town is quite small, most of these foods can be found in stands or restaurants near Takayama Station and nearby morning markets.
Mame Snacks (豆）
In Japan, mame, peanuts (rakkasei, 落花生) covered in a flour-based batter, are sold as snacks (especially as beer snacks). (Mame just means beans, so the name is pretty vague.) In Hida-Takayama, they are a handmade local specialty, so I picked some up at Utsuboya (打保屋), a store specializing in Hida’s traditional snacks, for my Norikura hike. I got a mixed bag (okonomi mame, お好み豆）of flavored coatings, including yomogi (mugwort), matcha, and soy sauce. My favorite was sesame, but sesame makes everything better.
Takayama is also famous for miso. The miso used in hôba-yaki is mild enough to be eaten straight. At the morning market, we sampled different types of miso at Kouji-ya (こうじや). I opted for a three-pack of flavored misos: sesame, plum, and yuzu. So far, I’ve only opened the sesame one, and it is amazing on vegetables–no mirin needed to cut it, as it’s sweet (like white miso) and runnier than the regular stuff. I would eat this with a spoon, but I’ve been using it as salad dressing or on blanched veggies on rice.
Mitarashi Dango （みたらし団子）
Mitarashi dango are glutinous rice dango (dumplings) covered in a sticky soy-sauce sugar glaze and served on a skewer. Normally they’re drenched in the glaze and can be rather messy, but in Takayama, the glaze was very light and toasty rather than gooey. At only 50 yen a skewer, it was a good deal, too!
There are a couple local breweries in Hida-Takayama. I tried two: the lighter Kölsch (ケルシュ)from Korikori no Kuni and Alto (アルト) from Hotaka Brewery (穂高ブルワリー). (Both brands carry both types.) The Kölsch is based on traditional brewery methods in Cologne/Koeln (ケルン), Germany, and is honey-colored beer with a hops-y aroma and not a lot of bitterness. I don’t usually go for the lighter beers, but this wasn’t bad. I preferred the Alto, a brown beer based on those made in Dusseldorf. The beer is supposed to have a good balance of sweetness and bitterness and a hint of caramel in the hops. Not the best or the darkest beer I have had in Japan, but one I would buy again. (The winner is still Minoh’s Imperial Stout.) You can get these beers at most omiyage shops in Takayama, but you can also order them online at their respective websites.
The historic shopping area of Sannomachi (三之町) in the south of Takayama’s “old town” boasts seven nihonshu breweries founded in the Edo period, and you can sample many of their wares for free. I picked up a fall seasonal nihonshu called Hiyaoroshi (ひやおろし) from Oita (老田酒造店); it has a dry, crisp flavor to it. The brewery is famous for it’s Onigoroshi (鬼殺し, ogre-killing) nihonshu, so-called because their alcohol had a reputation as being strong enough to do such a thing. Apparently this place also serves soy-sauce ice cream.
There’s a lot of Takayama’s food and restaurants that I haven’t gotten to sample yet. I think a return trip is in order!