Trends in Japan > J-food > Chiba Offers Delicacies From Land And Sea
Mild Climate and Fertile Farmland Make for Rich Pickings
(December 4, 2007)

Fabulous futomakizushi. (C)Bousou Emaki-Sushi

Chiba Prefecture, population 6.1 million, lies just east of Tokyo and occupies a large peninsula lapped by the Pacific Ocean to the South and East and Tokyo Bay to the West. The region is blessed with a mild climate and rich, fertile expanses of farmland, making it one of Japan's most prolific regions of agricultural production. The values of Chiba's leek, daikon radish, and spinach harvests are the highest in Japan. The waters around Chiba are also teeming with sea life, producing a mouthwatering harvest that yields the nation's top haul of spiny lobster, as well as bountiful catches of sardines and bonito.



Fillings are placed on the rice. (C)Bousou Emaki-Sushi


An iris pattern. (C)Bousou Emaki-Sushi


Characters made with futomakizushi. (C)Bousou Emaki-Sushi

A Feast for the Eye and the Palate
A local specialty of Chiba Prefecture, futomakizushi (large sushi roll), brings together Chiba's best ingredients from the land and the sea. Cherished at special occasions and gatherings for generations, rolled sushi (makizushi) from Chiba is a sumptuous work of art that, when sliced, reveals a splendid array of colors. Even today, communities and families in the Chiba region proudly carry on the tradition of making this culinary delight.


Chiba Prefecture's official flower, the rape blossom.

People across Japan are fond of makizushi (sushi roll) which generally comes in two sizes, large futomakizushi and thin hosomakizushi. Makizushi is made by placing cooked white rice mixed with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt on nori (a sheet of dried laver). Thin cucumber sticks, tuna, or other fillings are then placed in the center of the rice, and the nori and rice are rolled around the fillings.

Chiba-style futomakizushi is made by laying down a sheet of nori or a thin layer of omelet, over which is spread cooked white rice. Then reddish or pink rice that has been colored with red shiso (beefsteak leaf) and umezu (plum vinegar) is laid over the white rice, along with kanpyo (dried gourd strips) flavored with soy sauce or sweet rice wine. Popular fillings include asari no tsukudani (Manila clams simmered in soy sauce, sweet rice wine, and sugar), shiitake mushrooms, and green vegetables. The fillings are arranged in a uniform way over the length of the roll so that when it is cut, each slice has the same appearance.

Futomakizushi can be made so that when cut, the fillings reveal vivid patterns including seasonal flowers, animals, kanji characters, cartoon characters, or even people's faces. Skilled futomakizushi artisans in Chiba are able to create designs of almost anything. Fun as well as tasty, futomakizushi is a food of celebration that brings joy to many people.


Rakkasei miso.

Paradise for Peanut Lovers
Chiba is known throughout Japan as the nation's number-one peanut producer. Peanuts (rakkasei in Japanese) are of course delicious simmered or roasted, but people in Chiba usually enjoy them boiled. The peanuts are simply boiled in salted water while still in their shells. Combining well roasted peanuts with sugar, miso, and sake, meanwhile, yields a nonperishable food called rakkasei miso that is a favorite of many people in the Chiba region. The wonderful fragrance of the peanuts complements the miso, resulting in a perfect accompaniment for rice or green tea.


Kikkoman facility in Noda City.
(C)Kikkoman Corporation

Bringing Soy Sauce to the World
The Chiba region has been a major center for the production of soy sauce, Japan's signature seasoning, for centuries. Soy sauce production flourished in this region for a number of reasons. First, huge quantities of the soy beans and wheat required to make the sauce were harvested in the Kanto Plain. Also, the large rivers in the area were ideal for transporting the salt used in soy sauce production. Chiba's proximity to Edo (present day Tokyo) with its masses of consumers also contributed greatly to its booming soy sauce trade.


Part of Chiba’s vast coastline.

Today, Chiba is Japan's top soy-sauce-producing prefecture. Modern soy sauce production facilities in Chiba continue to make their sauce with soy beans that are slowly fermented and aged to give them a deep, rich flavor and a distinctive fragrance. Kikkoman Corporation, with a history of soy sauce production that spans nearly 400 years beginning in the Edo era, calls the city of Noda in Chiba Prefecture its home. Kikkoman is now known all over the world, and soy sauce from the company is exported to over 100 countries.

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