The Local Cuisine of Shirakawa-go
Gifu might have a wide variety of local cuisine, however the isolated geographic location of Shirakawa-go prevented produce from surrounding cities to be brought into the village. That being said, Shirakawa-go locals have always been extremely self sufficient and the village has a long-established farming industry with locally grown mountain vegetable patches and rice fields. Since the recent tourism boom, some gassho style houses opened as restaurants allowing you to enjoy freshly made local meals beneath the aged thatch roofs. Perfect for warming up from the freezing winters in Shirakawa-go with a cup of coffee or a homemade curry lunch set at Ochiudo Cafe.
As there are many museums and sights to see in Shirakawa-go, we like the selection of local on-the-go snacks to try in the village. As the majority of visitors are in the village between the hours of 9am to 5pm, most eateries are only open for lunch, and can fill up pretty fast especially on crowded days. However, there are many take-out bites available at little stores lining the main streets of Shirakawa-go. Some snacks are more seasonal, such as the gelato made from doburoku (unfiltered rice wine) at Gelateria Yoze. In the summer, this tiny stall offers delicious gelato in a wide variety of flavours, from Japanese chestnuts to Hida sake.
There are stalls selling Hida beef based snacks like Hida beef onigiri (rice balls) or steaming Hida beef croquettes. Although this small village is not brimming with eating establishments, it has no shortage of dango shops. Dango consist of mashed rice dumplings served on a stick, and can be savoury or sweet depending on the customs of the region. Gohei Mochi is a savoury snack made from pounded white rice glazed in miso paste and is popular in the area stretching around Gifu, Nagano, and Aichi prefectures - and Shirakawa-go is no exception.
Tochi (Japanese horse chestnut) is a Japanese treat that only grows in colder areas with clear water streams such as Gifu, Niigata and Nagano. In Shirakawa-go we found a charming shop that sells tochi mochi (pounded rice cakes flavoured with Japanese chestnuts). The friendly-faced woman that runs the store with her husband also offers tea ceremonies held on tatami flooring around an irori hearth. Although tochi mochi is considered a sweet, the chestnuts make the snack quite bitter so it can also be enjoyed with ice cream. Tochi mochi is actually not a very common snack, and the recipe has been passed down for generations and is only available at specific spots around Japan, such as in Shirakawa-go.
The Northern Gifu region produces some of the best soba in Japan due to the cold mountain surroundings and high quality spring water. In Shirakawa-go there are a couple of great soba restaurants producing handmade soba with a range of toppings such as sansai (wild mountain vegetables) or Hida beef. At Nomura, the soba noodles are handmade and accompanied by takikomi-gohan, a wild vegetable rice dish. Located inside the Gassho Zukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum, Soba Dojo has a delicious signature dish, the Hida Beef Shigure Soba, which is sold as a lunch set for around 1,000 yen. Although, Michelin star cuisine might not be the draw for visitors to Shirakawa-go, you will not go hungry with the range of interesting snacks and local eateries available in this quaint village.