The Finest Ayu Cuisine, using Fish from One of the Most Beautiful Clear Streams in Japan
Region： Maze, Gero
Have you ever heard of sweetfish, or ayu in Japanese, which is a very popular Japanese dish? Sweetfish is a delicious fish that you must try when visiting Japan, though there are few places remaining where you can eat it. Wild sweetfish is precious as it can thrive only in clean, clear streams. The Maze region in Gero is one such place where you can taste top-quality wild sweetfish. Would you like to enjoy rich Japanese food culture in Maze?
The delicacy of sweetfish preserved by local residents of Maze
Maze is a small village off the beaten track in Gifu Prefecture, located in the Chubu region of central Japan. It is close to major tourist spots in Gifu such as Gero Onsen, one of the top three hot springs in Japan; only a mountain lies between them. Crossing over the mountain, the beautiful natural landscape will set your heart racing.
At the entrance of the village, you will see the banner reading “Sweetfish in Maze is the best in Japan”.
The Maze region is richly endowed with nature and you can appreciate the delicacy of this small mountain village. Above all, the sweetfish is the best. Designating the surrounding forests as Conservation Forests with Mountain Stream Fishes, local residents in Maze have actively engaged in volunteer work since the 1940s to preserve the sweetfish which is so sensitive to water quality, including stocking and growing the sweetfish, cutting grass alongside the river, and picking up trash. These careful efforts have protected the ecosystem of the river and preserved the taste of sweetfish in Maze.
Authentic sweetfish dishes at a traditional, hospitable Japanese inn
If you would like to try sweetfish, we recommend "Maruhachi Ryokan", which is a classic Japanese inn located among the hills of Maze. The okami, or madam of the inn, dressed in kimono warmly welcomes you at the entrance. Maruhachi Ryokan is highly rated for its excellent food. Among others, authentic sweetfish dishes are its specialty.
Most of the dishes use the best seasonal ingredients produced in the region, such as amago (red-spotted trout) in spring, sweetfish in summer, and mushrooms in autumn. If you visit in autumn, you will be amazed by colorful dishes which look like autumn leaves spread across the table. The course meal starts with sashimi of fresh sweetfish. As its name suggests, young sweetfish has a unique sweet flavor like watermelon.
You will also appreciate the excellence of salt-grilled sweetfish with roe, which you can eat whole from head to tail including the bones.
Crackers made from sweetfish’s skin and bones are another must-try.
Many tourists from abroad are now visiting this small village, seeking the authentic taste of wild sweetfish. With each course, the okami explains the details of each dish. You can taste and appreciate the delicacy of sweetfish even if it is your first time to try it. If you do not have enough time to stay the night, why not enjoy lunch here? Maruhachi Ryokan offers creative Japanese cuisine for lunch which makes use of seasonal local foods (reservations required).
Japan’s best sweetfish is in Maze River
The Maze River is the perfect place for sweetfish thanks to its cold, clear, shallow water, which enhances the taste. Sweetfish in Maze is highly regarded for its top quality. In 2007, it won the grand championship at the Special Sweetfish Tasting Festival in Tokyo held once a decade to determine Japan’s best-tasting sweetfish. Ecological aspects are also included in the evaluation criteria of this competition, which means that the environment of the Maze River is outstanding. Beautiful nature and delicious local food from the mountains. If you are looking for a place with the best sweetfish, Maze is your destination.