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.
The Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa
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.
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.
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.
Genuine Education Network
The Genuine Education Network (GEN Program) is currently working with Tsuruoka City to help connect professionals from around the world to teach the core values of Tsuruoka's food culture and disseminate it to an international audience through its Cultural Bridge Creators program.
The CBC program recently brought 7 culinary professionals from around the world to study and experience first-hand the culinary arts of Tsuruoka through a week-long program from August 16th - August 22nd.
You may learn more about their program in the following posts.