Revisiting Ibaraki's Autumn-Winter Flavors
Ibaraki Prefecture, which stretches along the Pacific Ocean, is known for its diverse nature. Along with the sea, expansive plains, forests and lakes have made Ibaraki a leading agricultural and fishery producer in Japan -- feeding its people, and Tokyo residents. On this trip, Japanese chef David Wells, originally from the United States, tastes his way through the area, enjoying the flavors of fall and winter. The highlights? Hitachi Aki Soba noodles in the prefecture's north, Hoshi-imo dried sweet potato on the coast, and Kan-shijimi clams in Lake Hinuma.

Hitachi Aki Soba noodles

The buckwheat brand "Hitachi Aki Soba" is known nationwide, and is featured in top soba shops. Its characteristics are sweetness and an especially rich aroma. The prefecture's north is especially suitable for growing buckwheat, due to its extreme daytime and nighttime temperatures, as well as sloping hills with good drainage. Every year, buckwheat flowers bloom in September and noodles are ready to eat from late November to December.

Hoshi-imo (dried sweet potato)

Steamed, dried sweet potato -- a gift of nature. Hoshi-imo production began in Ibaraki about 100 years ago, as steady side work during the farmers' off-season. Now, the prefecture is the country's largest. Once a preserved food, it is drawing attention as a health food in recent years.

Kan-shijimi clams of Hinuma

Hinuma, located in central Ibaraki, is a brackish lake where large quantities of seawater flow in. The lake is rich in nutrients, making it an ideal habitat for native Shijimi clams. In the cold months, the clams burrow into the lake-bottom making it difficult to collect them. The clam meat increases in sweetness and flavor. These winter clams, known as "Kan-shijimi of Hinuma" are a delicacy.

Access

It takes about 2 hours by car from Tokyo to Hitachiota, Hitachinaka or Hinuma on the Joban Expressway.