Feasting on Chestnuts in the Kiso Valley
Japanese chestnuts, or kuri in Japanese, are a popular treat which are in season around Japan in autumn and winter. The spacious and mountainous Nagano Prefecture offers the perfect environment for kuri which become ubiquitous in the region from the end of September onwards. With Kiso Valley brimming with opportunities to put kuri to the taste test, follow the rich smell of chestnuts being roasted and you’re sure to be in for a treat.
Autumn in Japan is synonymous with chestnuts. The Japanese pride themselves on using seasonal dishes to define each season and the Japanese kuri are no different. While many ingredients can be found out of season, kuri remain one of the rare treats that is only grown within Japan and hits the menus once the weather starts to turn cold. Kuri are slightly smaller and more bitter than the European chestnut, which go by the French name of marron in Japan, but are just as tasty roasted up on an openfire from a street stall.
Chestnuts are used to jazz up all types of food from savoury rice dishes to sweet desserts. As a popular souvenir to bring back from Kiso Valley, several shops around the post towns put on impressive displays of chestnut-laced snacks. The roboku cake from Sawadaya sweets shop in Tsumago is a fluffy sponge cake mixed with adzuki beans and complete with a chestnut center which comes wrapped in elegant packaging.
The most famous of the chestnut sweets is kuri kinton which is found in shops all the way along the Nakasendo post towns. This blend of sweet potato and sweetened kuri is one of the nation’s favourite chestnut desserts, and makes its way onto most families’ tables during the New Year festivities which take place over the first few days of the new year. Almost equally as popular in Japan is the French chestnut cream dessert Mont Blanc which, of course, is available at many cafés in the area.
Those brave enough to walk the Nakasendo but in need of a bit of motivation should add kuri ice cream to their list of must-trys in the Kiso Valley. Found in several shops, including right next door to the Tsumago Honjin, this soft cream promises a delicious fusion of flavours thanks to the chestnuts being roasted and sweetened. Other chestnut dishes worth looking out for are kuriko mochi which are sticky rice cakes coated in a sweet, sticky chestnut sauce, and chestnut rice which makes a warming, wholesome dish during the cold Nagano winters.
- Facility Name
- Nagano Pref. Kisogunnagisomachi Aduma Terashita 805
- Information Sources:
- NTT DIRECTORY SERVICES