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Ainu Traditional Food of Hokkaido!

Surrounded by the ocean, and encompassing vast areas of land, Hokkaido boasts thriving fishery and agricultural activities leveraging these natural resources. Through wisdom to enjoy the taste of local products and willingness to spend long and severe winter, Hokkaido’s unique food culture has been created. After the Meiji era, people who migrated from various parts of Japan to Hokkaido brought along the specific tastes of their hometowns, and some of these have taken root in Hokkaido while gradually changing their forms.

Nenju Gyoji-cho (annual event book) in which annual events were written on a daily basis (in the early Meiji era) (Hokkaido Museum collection)

Cuisine eaten on celebrative occasions in Matsumae

In the Edo period, rice could not be produced at Matsumae, a castle town of the Matsumae clan, and people’s dietary habits mostly depended on foodstuffs obtained through trade with the main island of Japan.

Nenju Gyoji-cho (annual event book) written in the early Meiji era by the Kondo family, chief retainers of the Matsumae clan, describes how rice, soup, cooked food served in a pot, cooked food served in a bowl with a lid, food served on a plate, salted salmon, other salted fish, namasu (a dish of raw fish and vegetables seasoned with vinegar), nishin-zuke (pickled herring and vegetables) and fish sushi were served on New Year’s Eve, and salted salmon, nishin-zuke and izushi (fermented pressed sushi) were typically served as plate dishes.

The typical dishes relished on New Year’s Eve and the New Year’s Holidays in the southern parts of Hokkaido and the areas along the Sea of Japan coast include nishime (food simmered in soy broth), kujira-jiru (whale blubber soup), salted salmon, namasu (dish of raw fish and vegetables seasoned in vinegar), chawanmushi (steamed egg hotchpotch), seasoned herring roe and slices of raw fish.

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