A UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy
Why did Tsuruoka become a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy?
Diversity and preservation of seeds
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.
forged by faith
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-worshipping spirituality led to new culinary practices that spread down the mountains into the homes of the people living in the plains.
Sharing ancestral knowledge
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. Our farmers and chefs regularly teach centuries-worth of knowledge to share the benefits of ancestral agriculture.
Giving colors, shapes, and tastes to history
Our chefs 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.
Tsuruoka's Unique Dishes
Dewa Sanzan's Shojin Ryori
Dewa Sanzan's Shojin Ryori is a Shinto version of the original Buddhist Shojin Ryori. This version of the Shojin Ryori went through many adaptations after the Dewa Sanzan shrine converted to Shintoism in 1869.
It is a "food of survival" for the pilgrims of the Dewa Sanzan that aims to provide them with enough nutrients during their harsh trainings in the mountains; while paying tribute to the beauty of Nature by enhancing the natural taste of the ingredients it fathers.
Where to eat:
Kitamaebune Gozen Course
Kitamaebune Gozen is a menu invented by Chef Suda Takashi from Okimizuki Restaurant (Kamo Aquarium). It is based upon the different ingredients and recipes imported from Kyoto and other Southern cities by the Kitamaebune boats since the 17th century (a Japanese Heritage since 2017).
Conger eel tempuras, Moso bamboo soup, grilled bamboo, and fugu fish... This menu is an ode to Kyoto's culture and its benefits in the Northern regions.
Where to eat:
Did you know that Tsuruoka was the only city in Japan to have soft, colorful sweet beans cakes for the doll festival called Hinamatsuri? Actually, in other parts of Japan, those sweets called "Hinagashi" are hard candies meant to decorate the room for the festivities rather than being eaten. In Tsuruoka, our confectioners made them easily edible and enjoyable by reinventing the texture and the taste of those beautiful cakes: the Tsuruoka Hinagashi.
Where to eat:
There are four hot spring towns in Tsuruoka. While they are all located in the same city, each has a very different environment, history, and specific recipes.
Go to Yutagawa for dinners full of turnips, bamboos, and vegetables, go to Yunohama or Yura for dozens of varieties of seafood on your plate, and go to Atsumi to taste the delicious fish from the river.