Various local cuisines rooted in each region exist all over Japan. “Kiritanpo”(pounded rice skewer) of Akita Pref., “Miso-katsu”(pork cutlet with miso sauce)of Aichi-city, “Seri-nabe”(hotpot of Japanese parsley) of Miyagi pref. and so on… The metropolis Tokyo, of course, has the special local cuisine handed down since the Edo period. “Fukagawa-meshi” is a Tokyo local cuisine, said to be one of the 5 great Japanese rice cuisines. Let us introduce its origin and varieties. You can enjoy utterly delectable “Fukagawa-meshi” at FUKAGAWA-JUKU, the well-established Fukagawa-meshi restaurant. They told us about their passion and recommended menu of Fukagawa-meshi.
What is Fukagawa-meshi? One of the Japan's 5 Greatest Rice Cuisines
”Fukagawa-meshi”is known as a local cuisine born in Tokyo. The majority of Tokyo citizens may have heard its name, but have never to tasted it.”Fukagawa-meshi” is seasoned rice or bowl-rice cooked with clams, and chosen as one of Japan's 5 greatest rice cuisines.
Fukagawa-meshi originates from a Fisherman's Tradition
Fukagawa meshi (Photo courtesy: FUKAGAWA-JUKU)
Fukagawa-meshi was born in the Edo period (1601-1867). It is a local food that was born in the Fukawaga area. At that time, the Southern Edo area was called “Fukagawa-ura” with wide-spreading sandbars. People used to catch various shellfish such as clams, Aoyagi(yellow clams) and Hamaguri(hard clams), when the sandbars appeared at low tide. Fresh shellfish was available at a reasonable price in Fukagawa area.
Today’s Fukagawa area is well-known as a nice viewing spot for cherry blossoms.
Fishermen in the Fukagawa area had received orders from an Edo shogunate, granted the engagement with fishery in Fukagawa-ura. Fukagawa-meshi was born as their so-called “Ryoshi-meshi (Fishermen’s food)”. "Ryoshi-meshi” is a quickly prepared dish which fishermen used to cook with fresh seafood during their fishing and return to port. Local cuisine, such as “Buri-no-atsumeshi”(marinated yellowtail sashimi on rice) of Oita Pref and “Namero”(miso based fish tartar) of Chiba Pref., are also said to have originated from Ryoshi-meshi.
It is said that Fukagawa fishermen often ate rice with salted-water-boiled yellow clams which were caught in large amounts there in those days or with clear soup using clams and green onions. This Ryoshi-meshi has developed into the style to marinate the shellfish in miso or soy sauce based soup to enrich its taste. This is the root of Fukagawa-meshi.
Aoyagi (also called as Baka-gai)
The 2 ways to enjoy Fukagawa-meshi: Bukkake vs. Takikomi
Do you know that there are 2 ways to enjoy the ”Fukagawa meshi”? Clams and rice are used for both, but their roots are a little bit different.
One of them is Bukkake-style Fukagawa-meshi, having root in Ryoshi-meshi. Fresh clams are put into miso or soy sauce based soup and boiled in it for a while. Enjoy the style and eat it over rice.
Bukkake, to eat soup with clams on rice
The most simple style is to put green onions in the soup, just as the original Ryoshi-meshi. Nowadays, there are many Fukagawa-meshi restaurants in Fukagawa area, with various ingredients and soup flavors. Soup-on-rice style is generally called “Bukkake”.
The basic concept of Ryoshi-meshi is to quickly cook fresh seafood and eat it on board. Another style of ”Fukagawa meshi” is “Takikomi” to cook clams with rice.
”Takikomi”with the taste of clams macerated into rice
Another style called “Takikomi” is said to have its root in a home-style cuisine in Fukagawa area. It uses fresh and reasonable clams caught in Fukagawa-ura, and rice soaks the savoring clam taste thoroughly. Bukkake is said to be born in the late Edo period. On the other hand, people have started to cook Takikomi with the start of the Meiji era. Takikomi was popular as mom’s home cooking at that time.
What are Japan's 5 Greatest Rice Cuisines?
Fukagawa-meshi, born in downtown of Edo and broadly loved by people, is one of the ５Great Rice Cuisines of Japan. These 5 were selected by the Imperial Household Agency in 1939, as typical Japanese rice cuisines within local foods all over Japan. It is also called, “the Japanese 5 Great Rice Cuisine”.
What are the rest of the 4 Great Rice Cuisines of Japan other than Fukagawa-meshi? Let's take a look over them!
"Chushichi-meshi" of Ogawa-city, Saitama Pref.
People have enjoyed “Chushichi-meshi” since the end of the Edo period. It is a local cuisine with the feature of simple but rich savor, which is served with green onions, wasabi and Japanese citron on rice to pour bonito soup in earthenware teapot.The general way to enjoy it is to put laver on the rice, but laver and dried bonito were expensive in those days. Chushichi-meshi was considered a feast back then.
The naming of Chushichi-meshi is taken after the chef, Chushichi Yagi. When Tesshu Yamaoka, the master of the sword and Japanese calligraphy, visited Ogawa area, Chushichi served this cuisine to him, who had loved to eat it. Chushichi-meshi was born in this episode.
Chushichi-meshi (Photo courtesy: @banicoco115）
”Sayori-meshi” of Kani-city and Mitake-city of Gifu Pref.
”Sayori-meshi” is a historic local food enjoyed in middle and Eastern Gifu, mainly in Kani-city and Mitake-city. It was also a feast to celebrate the autumn harvest. Though it is named after the "Sayori” fish, “Sanma”(pacific saury) is actually used for the dish. The season of Sayori is from late autumn to winter, and it cannot be used for the feast to celebrate the autumn harvest. Then, why do they call this cuisine Sayori-meshi in spite of using Sanma?
As a matter of fact, Gifu Pref does not have a sea, and people used to call thin long fish as “Sayori” in general. That is why Sanma, which is also a seasonal fish in autumn, was loved and called as “Saori”.
Sanma, gingko nuts and other ingredients are cooked with rice for Sayori-meshi. Fresh Sanma was not available in those days, people used the salted Sanma with longer storage life. Sanma’s salty taste matches very well with rice.
“Kayaku-meshi” of Osaka Pref.
“Kayaku-meshi” is one of the 5 great rice cuisines of Japan, also called as “Kayaku-gohan”. Kayaku-meshi actually refers to what is otherwise called “Gomoku-gohan” or “Takikomi-gohan”.
For “Takikomi-gohan”, mixed soup with bonito and dry kelp extracts is used to cook rice with carrots, burdock and fried tofu. It is one of the home-style food that is familiar all over Japan. In Osaka, people call this cuisine “Kyaku-gohan” and have loved it as folksy taste.
“Uzume-meshi” of Tsuwano-city of Shimane Pref.
“Uzume-meshi” is a local food born in Shimane Pref. “Uzume” means to “bury”, and it is served with ingredients buried and hidden under rice as its name stands for. You can enjoy Uzume-meshi in a unique way and pour soup on it and mix the rice together with the ingredients. When you open the rice, you will see a colorful display of chopped vegetables and meat. These ingredients are cooked and seasoned in light soy sauce in advance. By adding dashi soup, wasabi and Japanese parsley to it, the taste goes like simple but rich.
Uzume-meshi is said to be born in the middle of the Edo period, and there are many theories as to the origin of the name. Some say that people used to hide ingredients under rice to avoid being blamed by officers when they had to live humbly. Others think that people tried to bury meat under rice not to be found by officers because meat eating was forbidden in those days. Anyway, people took the trouble to bury and hide luxurious ingredients under rice, which seems to have something to do with their social status in the Edo period.
Uzume-meshi（Photo provided by：@banicoco115）
Savoring Fukagawa-meshi in its Birthplace, Fukagawa
Fukagawa-juku is a well-established restaurant serving this Fukagawa-meshi. We interviewed the restaurant to find out their passions, history, and recommendations on how to enjoy this cuisine.
FUKAGAWA-JUKU Main Store (Photo courtesy: FUKAGAWA-JUKU)
FUKAGAWA-JUKU has 2 restaurants, one is the main store located in Miyoshi, Koto-ku and the other is the Tomioka-Hachiman store within the premises of Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine worshipped in Tomioka, Koto-ku. They are well-known ”Fukagawa-meshi” restaurants. Throughout the day and night, and especially in the peak hour, many people wait in line to enjoy the superb Fukagawa-meshi.
FUKAGAWA-JUKU Tomioka Hachiman store (Photo courtesy: FUKAGAWA-JUKU)
Revival of Fukagawa-meshi from the brink of extinction
FUKAGAWA-JUKU was established 20 years ago, opening simultaneously with the Fukagawa Edo Museum in 1986.
Fukagawa-meshi has been loved by fishermen of the Edo period and families in Fukagawa area. While Tokyo bay reclamation has continued by urban development and water quality of Fukagawa-ura deterionates, the environment could not afford fishery anymore. Fukagawa fishermen has disappeared since they abandoned the fishing right in 1962. Accordingly, the culture of Fukagawa-meshi had gradually faded away.
In such a situation, Fukagawa Edo Museum opened in Koto-ku in 1986. Fukagawa-area has originally been crowded with worshippers and tourists, and the Fukagawa Edo Museum had soon become a good sightseeing spot, where people could enjoy the realistic exhibition of the townscape and life of Fukagawa in the Edo period.
Since then, the former owner of FUKAGAWA-JUKU rose up to revive the Edo culture, ”Fukagawa-meshi”. To revive the disappearing ”Fukagawa-meshi”, he conducted through hearing from local people who had ”Fukagawa-meshi” at home or as Ryoshi-meshi, succeeding to revive it.
FUKAGAWA-JUKU's dedication to serving delicious clams
They use fresh non-frozen clams at FUKAGAWA-JUKU. They are fastidious about the fresh condition of clams without any odor, never to keep the cooked food, and make each”Fukagawa-meshi” after receiving an order.
Only fresh clams are used.
Original blended miso paste with red and white miso is used for the Bukkake soup. It is an elaborate blend of miso created through their repeated trial-and error to bring out the taste and sweetness of the clams.
Put clams into the boiling soup (Photo courtesy: FUKAGAWA-JUKU)
In order to bring out the best taste, clams are put into the special miso soup to boil. When the taste of the clams dissolve into the soup and the rich aroma of miso soaks into the clams, the dish is completed with the finishing touch of placing green onions on top.
Put green onions in their elaborate soup made of the specially blended miso (Photo courtesy: FUKAGAWA-JUKU)
Complete to remain the good crunchy texture of green onions (Photo courtesy: FUKAGAWA-JUKU)
Since the clams are fresh, there is no need to use smell removers such as ginger. Put the cooked clams on hot rice to complete! If the clams are boiled for too long, they become hard and tough. On the other hand, undercooking the clams prevent the clams and soup from blending flavors. By this exquisite balance of timing, a rich ”Fukagawa-meshi” is completed.
Rich soup soaks into rice (Photo courtesy: FUKAGAWA-JUKU)
Takikomi-style Fukagawa-mesh named “Hama-matsu-kaze” has a gentle taste with the aromatic soy source scent. It is made by cooking clams, green onions and rice together. The oceanic taste of clams match very well with the scent of the seaweed flakes.
Enjoy both Bukkake and Takikomi Fukagawa Meshi in this set
Tatsumi-gonomi - ¥2,150 (Photo courtesy: FUKAGAWA-JUKU)
If you cannot decide whether to order Bukkake or Takikomi, please try our “Tatusmi-gonomi”, which you can enjoy each bowl of Bukkake and Takikomi.
“Tatsumi” is taken after “Tatsumi Geisha” active in Fukagawa area in the Edo period. It is said that they love to eat ”Fukagawa-meshi”. People with smaller appetites can enjoy the Tatsumi gonomi because it comes in small portions.
Enjoy the rich flavor of clams with Fukagawa-meshi
Fukagawa-meshi was born as fishermen’s food and revived by local people’s effort to hand over the Fukagawa’s history and tradition, despite its risk of extinction once. It is now brilliantly renown as one of Japan's 5 Great Rice Cuisines, representing Tokyo local food.
How about visiting Fukagawa and checking out its taste on your trip to Tokyo?