In 2014, Tsuruoka became the first UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy designated in Japan. The excellence of Tsuruoka’s cuisine lies in many aspects of the city’s traditions. Agriculture is still nowadays a very important industry in Tsuruoka, where our producers put all their efforts into growing “heirloom” vegetable and fruits species. There are more than 60 heirloom species of vegetables and fruits cultivated in Tsuruoka. Through the centuries, Tsuruoka's producers have developed the knowledge that allows them to detect and select the seeds that present the best genetic features to resist climatic changes and diseases. Moreover, many of our farmers refuse to let go of the ancestral ways of producing their vegetables, such as the slash & burn technique to preserve the original taste of their products, such as the Atsumi-kabu (Atsumi’s red turnip). Our farmers and chefs regularly teach centuries-worth of knowledge to share the benefits of ancestral agriculture.
But agriculture isn’t the only factor that contributes to the uniqueness of Tsuruoka’s cuisine. The Dewa Sanzan, the "Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa," have been a holy site of Shugendo for more than 1400 years now. This old nature-worshiping spirituality led to new culinary practices that spread down the mountains into the homes of the people living in the plains. On top of that, our chefs always strive to find new ways to convey our region's history through the language of food. Chef Ito Shinkichi has been developing new shojin-ryori menus for more than 15 years. In 2021, Chef Suda Takeshi invented the 'Kitamaebune menu,' a menu that tells the history of the Kitamaebune boats.
Learn more about Tsuruoka’s gastronomy