The hunting roots of Akita kiritampo and warm, local hospitality
Akita is one of Japan’s largest rice-producing regions, and the kiritampo that is made and eaten there is a testament to the versatility of rice. The kiritampo is said to come from the Matagi, a subculture of woodland hunters with great reverence for nature. The Matagi would stew together pounded rice and wild fowl on long mountain trips, a practice which became a customary part of Odate’s regional cuisine in the form of the kiritampo that we know today. Handed down through generations, the kiritampo is deeply rooted in Akita culture and evokes an image of family and friends gathered together for a warm meal.
Regional foods: Kiritanpo
Cooked rice from the fertile Odate Basin is pounded and formed into tubes. The tubes are placed on an Akita cedar skewer and cooked next to a charcoal fire. One traditional way to eat kiritampo is to brush it with a miso paste made with soybeans and rice. Hotpot made with kiritampo is also very popular. The meat of high-quality Hinai Jidori chickens and locally grown vegetables are added to a broth made with Hinai Jidori chicken bones for a hot, hearty meal.
Regional foods: Hinai-jidori Chicken Skewers
A hybrid of the Hinai chicken and the Rhode Island Red, the Hinai Jidori is designated as a Natural Monument. Raising the Hinai Jidori takes more than three times as long as with typical broilers, and they are considered to be one of the three best varieties of chicken in Japan. Another local delicacy of Odate is tonburi, the dried seed of the summer cypress, which is also sometimes called “field caviar” because of its texture. The edamame of Odate is also known for its high nutritional value, which comes from the manure of the Hinan Jidori that is used for fertilizer.
Scenery: Mt. Moriyoshi
Mount Moriyoshi is known as one of the hundred most beautiful flower mountains of Japan and is famous for its “snow monsters”—the towering, icy figures of trees which have become covered in rime. The scenery of Lake Towada is also worth seeing. A caldera lake formed over multiple volcanic eruptions in the past, Lake Towada is surrounded by exceptionally beautiful foliage in spring and autumn. To see this beautiful unspoiled scenery, take the Akita Nariku Line through the mountains on a journey into the past.
Activities: Kiritanpo Making
For visitors who want to spend time with the locals, the method for making kiritampo is best learned from the wives of Odate’s farmers. You can also join the people of Odate in harvesting rice and other produce. Those who are charmed by the rustic community can stay at a farmhouse to learn about local foods firsthand from the family and see what rural life is really like.
Sightseeing route: Farmhouse Stay
Using kiritampo as a reference point can help you navigate the many facets of local culture and history. Stay at a farmhouse, where you can learn to make kiritampo and take part in rice or fruit harvesting. On the next day, explore the roots of the kiritampo on a mountain walk led by a member of the Matagi, and make sure to spend some time with an Akita Inu dog, the traditional hunting dog of the Matagi culture.