Gunma Prefecture is not only close to the Tokyo metro area, it is also blessed with arable land that takes advantage of geological features with a difference of elevation and long periods of sunlight. Many agricultural goods are produced that utilize this favorable location, and Gunma is known as one of the leading producers of vegetables in the country. In the north, highland vegetables such as cabbage are grown, and in the plains, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, spinach and so on are grown in both greenhouses and in the open air. Also, various fruits including ume (Japanese apricot) and blueberries, boasting higher amount of production in Japan, apples, pears, grapes, strawberries, cherries, and peaches are grown here. Many orchards for tourists and other places exist across the prefecture and visitors can experience the bounty of nature and the joy of harvest there.
In Gunma, cattle and pigs are raised with great care in the great nature and abundant water resource from Tone River system. The beef, most notably Joshu Wagyu Beef and Joshu Beef that are raised with advanced fattening technologies and unique feed that is adapted to the environment, is of the highest level in the country and its taste is highly regarded. It brings a whole new level of flavor when eaten as a steak or shabu-shabu, and the marbling is preserved in this exquisite product. Gunma is also one of Japan’s leading producers of pork, and many varieties of Joshu Brand Pork are produced that have flavors brought out by differences in the regions. If you visit Gunma, be sure to try the pork cutlets or the katsudon.
If you want to try various vegetables and beef that Gunma prides itself on in one dish, sukiyaki is unmistakably the best option. Shimonita negi (leeks) with strong sweetness, Chinese cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, shirataki noodles, etc. in the pot—the ingredients that are perfect for sukiyaki are all vegetables proudly harvested in Gunma or are products made here. Then if you add Gunma brand beef, which is considered to be one of the highest quality beefs in the country, it will be delicious for sure. If you use a local soy sauce as the main seasoning, then you have an All-Gunma Sukiyaki dish.
Ginhikari are a first-class rainbow trout that are specially selected and raised. The Prefectural Fisheries Laboratory spent ten years selecting fish and they established a bloodline. Normal rainbow trout reach maturity in two years and carry eggs or sperm, but it takes ginhikari three years to mature. Compared to ordinary rainbow trout, these fish contain higher levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosapentaenoic acid) which are useful in maintaining health, and they are also high in protein and low in fat. The colorful salmon pink meat is delicate and firm, so it can be eaten as sashimi. Only a limited number are produced, so these amazing fish are only seen in restaurants and hotels inside Gunma.
Yakimanju are a local delicacy of Joshu (Gunma) known as the place that has produced wheat since long ago. Plain steamed manju are put on a bamboo skewer and roasted with charcoal flame, while being basted with a sweet and spicy miso sauce. The hot, freshly roasted manju have a habit-forming taste because of its fluffy texture and a rich scent from the miso sauce. “It’s a manju, but it’s not an ordinary manju” – It is a delicacy that is extremely hard to explain to people from other places who have never eaten one, but every resident of Gunma knows this soul food. Every January, Isesaki Shrine holds a manju ritual that giant yakimanju is roasted.
Gunma is one of Japan’s top producers of wheat. Local cuisine from each region contains many different kinds of noodles. There is even support coming from outside the prefecture for flour-based noodle dishes, such as Mizusawa udon, one of three popular udon in Japan, Tatebayashi udon with its slightly narrow noodles that go down easy, Kiryu himokawa which is wide, flat noodles with a slippery texture and Okkirikomi noodles which are often made at home. There are many Italian restaurants and stores that specialize in pasta in Takasaki City, which is known as Pasta Town. In Ota City, you can enjoy the differences in taste of Joshu Ota yakisoba. Such a favor on various noodles of people in the prefecture indicates that Gunma truly loves noodles.
You could almost say that the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Gunma's food is udon, but soba is actually popular too. Up until now, the buckwheat for soba was primarily raised in cool areas with relatively high elevation, bur recently it is being grown more in the plains as an alternative crop. Facilities that let people try making their own soba and restaurants that use locally-made soba are appearing one after another.
Gunma prefecture is Japan’s third largest producer of milk in 2010. The fresh milk from cows raised in wide-open, natural spaces is changed into a variety of products that liven up dinner tables throughout Japan. Not only butter, cheese and yogurt but also gelato and soft serve are popular dairy products in Gunma. We recommend enjoying the lip-smacking good dairy products with idyllic farm scenery as several dairy farms are available in Gunma: Kouzu Dairy Farm which is Japan's first Western-style dairy farm and has been in operation for over 120 years, Ikaho Green Bokujo which the whole family can enjoy, and Tsumagoi Farm which is famous for the Aisai Bell.
Gunma Prefecture is one of the top ten producers of eggs in Japan. Sweets featuring rich, fresh eggs of Gunma, such as puddings, sponge cakes, and roll cakes, are items many confectionary stores in the prefecture make competing to be the best. How about heading on a journey to find your favorite sweets that could only be made in Gunma?
To make delicious sake you need the perfect climate, clean water, polished rice, and yeast… Maikaze is brewed with a new type of rice, “maikaze”, which is optimal for brewing sake created by Gunma Agricultural Technology Center, and “Gunma Kaze Yeast”, which is original to the prefecture created by Gunma Industrial Technology Center. Maikaze, the all-Gunma sake, has started on sale at once from fifteen sake breweries belonging to the Prefectural Brewers Cooperative Society since April 2012. Even though they use the same rice and yeast, each brewery brings out different flavors, which is the true joy of sake. This situation is perfect for those who like to enjoy comparing sake from different breweries.
Yayoihime are an original variety of strawberry developed over a span of ten years in the Gunma Prefecture. These strawberries are elegant light-red color, large, juicy berries, and have a delicate balance of sweetness and tartness. Yayoihime were given that name because they can be eaten even after March (called Yayoi in the traditional Japanese calendar), when other varieties of strawberry are not as delicious. Usually, Yayoihime can be enjoyed from December through May. Since they are delicious in early spring as well, they have become very popular outside of Gunma too. But, cakes, cream puffs, Japanese confectionery, and other local sweets that use these strawberries are a treat you will only find in Gunma.
Filled with natural splendor, Kawaba Village is located in the southern foothills of Mt. Hotaka, one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains. It has been famous for its bountiful rice fields since long ago. Yukihotaka, which is known as the legendary koshihikari, is grown with the utmost care here in Kawaba Village. Yukihotaka’s extraordinarily rich flavor comes from the mineral-rich natural spring waters of Mt. Hotaka, and the careful management of the people who grow and produce this rice. This flavor won a gold medal at the International Contest on Rice Taste Evaluation (the largest competition of its kind in Japan) for five years straight, from 2007 to 2011. Also, this rice is well known for being rice offered to the Imperial Household.
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