The Tsuruoka UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy

Tsuruoka City is a rural city blessed by a unique combination of towering mountains, wide-open plains, bountiful coastlines, and very profound differences between the four seasons.  Centuries of co-existence between the local communities of this city and pristine nature has given rise to a unique and diverse food culture that has become globally recognized upon this city being designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2014. 

Tsuruoka and its residents have been making great efforts to preserve and document it's culinary culture and has also made strides to make its food culture openly available for visitors to study and enjoy.  

Learn more about the remarkable geographical dynamics and cultural history that has given rise to the culinary treasures of Tsuruoka City and the ways in which visitors can experience this booming food destination.

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The Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa

出羽三山 

Tsuruoka City is surrounded by rich and towering mountains that yield a rich course of mountain herbs, vegetables, and mushrooms throughout the seasons. 

 

This rich source food of has served as an alternative source of sustenance for the people of this region and has been deeply integrated into many of the local dishes of Tsuruoka. 

Among these mountains are the Dewasanzan (The Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa) that have been a sacred place of pilgrimage for Yamabushi mountain monks for over a thousand years.  

 

Centuries of religious training on these mountains have brought about elegant forms of shoujin-ryori, traditional monk cooking that utilizes the sustainable ingredients of the mountains.  

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You can experience this up close and personal on Mt. Haguro where you can harvest wild vegetables and prepare them into shojin ryori together with Yamabushi monks here in Tsuruoka City. 

 

Below is a video of a harvesting experience that we offer from the mountain lodge of Saikan at the top of Mt. Haguro where you cook alongside some of the most famous chefs of these mountains.  
 

The Expansive Plains of Shonai 

Tsuruoka is also renown for its innovation and production in agriculture.  The vast and open Shonai Plains have served as a major rice-producing region for Japan during the Edo Period.  Even today, this area continues to produce some of the highest quality rice in all of Japan, including the Tsuyahime brand of rice.  

This city possesses over 50 types of indigenous crops that are a result of both the unique geography and climate of this region and countless generations of selective breeding techniques.  This includes Dadachamame Soybeans which have a distinctive and rich aftertaste that is a result of the unique composition of the  soil and  microorganisms in the Shonai Plains. 

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The Hidden Japan offers farm to table experiences in Tsuruoka which allow you to meet the farmers and harvest the crops behind Tsuruoka's UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy designation. 

See a video on a harvesting experience of this region's famous atsumi kabu turnips below.

The Rich Bounty of the Sea of Japan

The Western portion of Tsuruoka City is lined with dozens of coastal communities that make their living by harvesting from the rocky coastlines and deep oceans and have provided this region with a wonderfully diverse and abundant supply of seafood.  

 

This includes delicious fugu (pufferfish) from the Sea of Japan, many varieties of kelp, and fish native to this part of the Sea of Japan. 

 

The harsh winters of this region have also led the people here to develop a large number of ingenious preservation methods that allowed their rich harvests in the warmer months to last through the year. 

Experience the bounty of the sea for yourself here in Tsuruoka by trying a sea to table experience where you can visit a fish market or go fishing and then prepare fresh with with local chefs! 

 

See our video below of a catch and cook off the coast of Shonai.  

To experience Tsuruoka's culinary excellence, see our culinary experiences and tours in the experience section of our website.