Shiroi Koibito

Meibutsu: Coveted Japanese Regional Specialties

Japan is a beautiful island nation with a diverse and unique culture as with any other country. The history and development of the nation has brought about many different prized regional specialties. Japan is divided into eight regions that groups several of the country’s 47 prefectures, except for the region of Hokkaidō, which is the same as Hokkaidō Prefecture.

Gift-giving

Gift giving is an important part of Japanese culture. It’s customary to offer your host family a gift, or give a gift when coming to someone’s house for dinner or special occasions. The gift giving tradition can be intricate, and it’s necessary to have a basic grasp of this custom when interacting with the locals.

Meibutsu or meisan, meaning “famous thing”, refers to a prized item from a specific Japanese region. Most cities and towns in Japan have their own specialty. Meibutsu can also refer to a specialized area of interest, such as chadō, denoting famous tea utensils, or Japanese knives that can indicate specific makers of the much-coveted blades. Famous regional specialties can anything from tokusanhin, a term used for Japanese specialty food products and Japanese crafts. These include handcraft by a group or an individual and, independent studio artists working with traditional materials and/or processes. Other types of meisan can also be supernatural souvenirs such as bitter powders that boast of medicinal wonders and even exotic animals.

A series of ukiyo-e woodcut prints, The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō, created by Utagawa Hiroshige after his travels along the Tokaido in 1832, depict meibutsu in The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō. Such meibutsu items include Aramatsu shibori, a stenciled fabric sold at Narumi (station 41), ubagamochi, a famous type of rice cake sold at Kusatsu and Kanpyō or sliced gourd from Minakuchi ( station 51).

Some popular regional specialties in more modern times include:

Shiroi Koibito

Shiroi Koibito.

Shiroi Koibito, Hokkaido Prefecture – these are made with white chocolate sandwiched between two delicate French cookies called cat’s tongues.

Magewappa

Magewappa.

Magewappa, Akita Prefecture – literally meaning “Bent-woodware”, Magewappa uses the Japanese technique of steam bending wood. A craft popular in Odate. The products are known for their straight grain, light yet rich color.

Edo kiriko

Edo kiriko.

Edo kiriko, Tokyo Prefecture – literally meaning “cut glass”, a manufacturing method founded by Kagaya Kyubei in 1834. He developed advanced glassware manufacturing methods using clear colors and delicate patterns cut into glass.