Four Ways To Enjoy Local Herbal Cuisine in Hida Furukawa
As exciting as it is to take in the unique sights and sounds of Japan, no travel experience is complete without also experiencing local cuisine. Japan is famous for dishes like sushi and noodles, but these are standard culinary affairs, especially around popular travel destinations. Food is perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to visit hidden gems like the Hida region in Gifu Prefecture: in addition to the local views and traditions of the area, Hida is home to locally-sourced flavors unique to the region.
Hida boasts a number of delicious restaurants, but the people of Hida are especially proud of what they call medicinal herbs. This may sound a little strange to foreign ears, but don’t let the words fool you—Hida’s medicinal herb cuisine is as much about flavor as it is about health and well-being.
The phrase medicinal herb is used for a large number of local herbs found in the Hida region that claim to have positive effects on health. Hida is surrounded by nature with over 90 percent of the region covered in forest, so it’s not surprising that the people of the region have developed a deep connection with the environment. The large variety of herbs that grow in these forests have made their way into the local cuisine—cuisine you will not find anywhere else in the country.
Visitors can experience the connection to nature through various experiences in Hida, including everything from woodworking to cloth dyeing. But if you want to enjoy the cuisine, below are four of the best ways to do it.
Hiking the Asagiri Forest
What does hiking have to do with food? In Hida, the answer is a lot! Most of us have eaten meals that were sourced thousands of miles away in places we’ll never see in person. In Hida, however, the herbal cuisine is sourced in their own backyard and Asagiri Forest is the perfect way to see what that looks like. Asagiri Forest is a relatively small section of land just inside Hida’s surrounding mountains. There is a simple hiking path that leads through the woods, directing you by signs that explain the various plants and herbs found here, many of which show up in local food. The signs are in Japanese but armed with a smartphone you can probably figure out the meaning easily enough. Even if you’re not interested in the details, walking through the forest allows you to experience the bond between man and nature that the people of Hida have cultivated in their cuisine. This short hike will make your culinary experiences in Hida that much more meaningful.
Are you a coffee connoisseur? Although Hida isn’t packed with the popular coffee chains you may be used to, they have something even better—local cafes that incorporate local flavors into their coffee. FabCafe Hida is a perfect example.
At FabCafe Hida, you can order coffee that incorporates Japanese spicebush (called kuromoji in Japanese). This spicebush plant can be found all throughout the forests of Hida, including local hiking trails such as the path up Mt. Anbou. Kuromoji is said to be good for coughs and colds—but even if you’re feeling great—the flavor is sure to spice up your day.
Hida Mori no Megumi
If you want to enjoy a wide range of spices and herbs while learning about the various benefits they are reputed to have, Mori no Megumi in Hida Furukawa is the place to go.
Along with tasting delicious herbal teas, visitors can also create their own blend of shichimi. Shichimi is a well-known and well-loved spice in Japan used to flavor various dishes, especially noodle dishes like ramen or udon.
At Mori no Megumi, you’ll be putting the Hida-spin on this traditional Japanese spice. Everything from simple Japanese pumpkin to more exotic flavors like horsetail is available, with each spice’s flavor and possible health benefits explained before you begin. No matter what herbs you choose, you’ll walk away with a colorful self-made spice to add to your next meal.
As a visitor to the area, you may want to enjoy the local herbal flavors combined with the culinary expertise of the people who live here. Look no further than Busuitei Ohako.
The outside of the restaurant will immediately attract your attention with its distinctly European façade, but inside is the art of Hida’s medicinal herbs perfected by local chefs. The interior vibe is in tune with the nature that surrounds Hida, and the food perfectly matches this atmosphere. Each dish is carefully crafted using medicinal herbs sourced from the Hida region. Busuitei Ohako is the perfect spot to experience the full potential of Hida’s medicinal herbs in local cuisine.
If you enjoy organic herbal foods and nature, the Hida region of Japan needs to be on your next travel itinerary. It’s a no-brainer for anyone who wants to experience real Japan. Imagine wandering Japanese streets from the old days, but without the crowds of Kyoto. Imagine eating an organic culinary masterpiece, but without the price tag of the big cities. Imagine hiking incredible nature trails filled with the sounds of birds or sights of wildflowers, with no concrete in sight. This and more is available in Hida and is all a part of what makes it a true hidden gem of Japan.
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