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Views Matsuri Days (3): A Guide to Hakata and the Yamakasa Festival
Eating with the Locals in Hakata
A Chinese Perspective on Kyūshū’s Traditional Street Food

Hakata’s ties to the Asian mainland can also be seen the city’s proud street food traditions. Two members of the editorial team visited the city to sample some of the best-known examples of North Kyūshū’s cuisine.

Traditional Food Stalls: Great Food and Great People

“Nakachan,” one of Hakata’s many lively street stalls. (Located at Mitsukoshimae on the Watanabe-dōri in Fukuoka-shi.) The owner, Nakagawa Yōichi, is in the center.

No trip to Hakata would be complete without a visit to the city’s food stalls—one of the biggest and best-known collections of traditional street food in all of Japan. Wafting into the nighttime air from behind the simple curtains of the stalls come the inviting aromas of food being prepared on iron hotplates and the sounds of laughter and lively conversation. Hakata by night is abuzz with all the energy and excitement of the Asian street stall experience. It was raining on the night we visited, and most of the customers were committed regulars. We had only just started our exploration of Hakata’s street food scene, and here we were already squeezing in among the experts!

Read more: “Eating on the Streets of Hakata”

The Chance to Make Your Own

Tomonō Atsushi, instructor at the Karashi Mentaiko Dōjō (Fukuoka Kankō Kaikan Hakata, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi).

Ask anyone from Hakata to name a few of the local specialties, and one dish that’s sure to come up is karashi mentaiko, pollock roe marinated in spicy chili pepper. When my Chinese colleague said she loved mentaiko, I knew we had to stop by the Karashi Mentaiko Dōjō, where visitors can create mentaiko to their own specificiations. Those who have passed through the Dōjō’s doors include everyone from groups of children on school trips to TV celebrities with camera crews in tow. Apparently at least one couple used the shop’s service to make their own karashi mentaiko to hand out to their wedding guests as gifts.

Read more: “Making Our Own Karashi Mentaiko

Motsunabe: Hakata’s Filling and Nutritious Hot Pot

The “motsunabe” is brought to the table overflowing with fresh vegetables that gradually sink into the soup as the stew cooks in front of you.

I asked my colleague if there was anything she couldn’t eat. I needn’t have worried. “The Chinese eat anything,” she replied with gusto. “If it flies in the sky, and it’s not a plane, we eat it. If it’s in the sea, and it’s not a ship, we eat it!” I suggested motsunabe, a popular stew made in a hot pot (nabe) filled with soup, vegetables, and pork or beef offal (motsu). As one of the best-known local dishes, it seemed a promising choice—especially as even my omnivorous colleague admitted she hadn’t tried it before. We visited a restaurant called Hakata Akachokobe, diagonally across from the Kushida Shrine, one of the most important Shintō shrines in Hakata. The pot that was set down in front of us was brimming over with cabbage and chives. A small burner was lit underneath the pot, and we watched as the vegetables slid into the bubbling broth before our eyes. A sprinkling of garlic on the top, and the soup was ready to taste. We spooned a helping onto our plates, and the tender offal rose at last to the surface. So, I asked, how does it taste? “Delicious. And much lighter than I expected.”

  • [2012.11.13]
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  • The Decorative Glories of Hakata’s Festival FloatsThe Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival dates back around 770 years. Among the unique attractions of the festival are its displays of intricately decorated floats. We talk to one of the men responsible for crafting these brightly colored works of art from scratch each year.
  • Fukuoka: The Ancient Gateway to JapanFukuoka is the largest city in Kyūshū. From ancient times, the city’s proximity to the mainland has made it an important gateway for cultural influences from China and Korea. Two members of the editorial team visited the city in search of traces of its ancient links to the continent.
  • The Oiyama Race: A Rite of Passage for Men in FukuokaHeld on July 15 every year, the Oiyama race is the climax of Fukuoka’s two-week Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival. For participants and spectators alike the event kindles a community spirit.

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