Divinely Dining Your Way Through Setouchi

Setouchi is the land that kisses the sea in Japan, region spanning seven stunning prefectures with over 700 islands in the Seto Inland Sea in between. Long celebrated as a soothing, authentic region, it has emerged as a unique culinary centerpiece of the country due to its diverse climate, seaside location and innovative chefs that put continual twists on traditional staples. All resulting in some of the quirkiest culinary experiences one can find anywhere.

Hidden sushi, anyone? Bara Sushi looks simple on sight but turn it upside down and you discover that it’s full of gorgeous ingredients hidden inside. The roots of this sushi date back to the lords of Okada during the Edo era, when extravagance was banned. The people of his territory were not convinced by this, so they put the fillings into the bottom of the bowl then put rice one top of the fillings. In the public, they pretended to eat just rice then turned it over and ate if no one was there. This is said to be the beginning of “rose sushi”. While the term ‘Bara-sushi’ is a generic term, it can be called different names, such as ‘Kakushi-sushi’ meaning Hidden sushi,’ Okayama bara-zushi’ or ‘Matsuri-sushi’, depending on the locality and the shop, but they all use variety of seasonal fish and seafood from the locals. The fish that is indispensable for this creation is Mamakari, native to the region’s waters.

Super hungry? Hail an Udon Taxi. The traditional Japanese noodle where it gets its name is a celebrated staple in the Kagawa Prefecture where there are more Udon shops than convenience stores and when onsite, you’ve got to try a ride in an Udon Taxi…these designated drivers take you to places not mentioned in guidebooks and that most tour guides don’t know. Along the drive, you’ll be regaled with stories of the history and culture of Sanuki udon, how to order and how to eat it, and other information that only a local driver with extensive knowledge of Sanuki udon can provide. In order to become an ‘udon taxi’ driver, you need to pass three tests: a written, practical and practical (actual udon making test). This is not an easy test to pass. There are English-speaking drivers, so if you want to experience the real Udon, you should definitely try the Udon Taxi! They’ll take you to some of the best places you won’t find in the guidebooks.

And, for dessert, Kibi Dango awaits. Popular in Okayama where it found its origins, this traditional Japanese sweet treat is made by rolling and steaming or boiling grain flour with water or hot water.

No visit to the Setouchi region is complete without a sip of Sake. Hiroshima is home to several famed breweries. From the end of the Edo period, sake brewing was difficult due to the area’s soft water, but with the advent of a method in the Meiji era, the Japanese Sake brewing industry flourished and today, its home to some of Japan’s best breweries, many available for a tour and sipping experience.

For more information on Setouchi, visit https://setouchitourism.or.jp/en/

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