What is best about coming to Japan? Food of course. Top reason for many people. How can we taste the whole of Japan? Travelling around might be one option. But another good way is to attend the annual Furusato(故郷) Festival which allows one to not only taste the food from all over Japan, but also immerse in their culture.
Held at Tokyo Dome, it is by far one of the largest food/travel exhibition that attracts millions of visitors from all over the regions each year. One has to buy tickets to enter the venue and one has to queue to buy tickets even on a weekday. If you think any exhibition at Singapore expo is considered major, this one is far BIGGER.
The crowd was huge even on a weekday. Fortunately, they do not limit the number of people who enter the venue. One can buy tickets at the door for 2000yen on weekend and 1500yen on weekday. But of course, it is better to buy the early bird tickets but one need to hurry before they were all snatched up. The cheapest ticket is about 400 Yen but that is the evening ticket that starts selling at 4pm. By then, although the crowd will decrease significantly, some items/food may not be available.
The venue is divided into four sections : regional handicrafts/traditional crafts, regional food, the main performance area and tourist information corner. This is the regional food corner of Hokkaido (one of the most popular section as usual)
Special looking ice cream : the Devil soft cream and the Tiger soft cream (perhaps because it resembles the yellow and black stripes of tiger) From Hokkaido
If you asked what is the best thing about attending this kind of fair, it is no doubt the free food tasting. Of course, you have to pay if you want to eat most of the food there (not included in the ticket). But to experience the regional culture/food at one single place is already a big bonus.
What is this? Black Gyoza from Okinawa
the frozen black dumplings from Okinawa shown earlier ( it is squid flavour, that is why it's black!!). People who like can buy this frozen back home to cook. Easy and fuss free!
Delicious kaisen don from Hokkaido
Delicious kaisen don from Hokkaido
There was a obento contest held during the event. This features all the regional obentos and visitors can buy the obentos and pick the best by voting.
One of the participating regional don from Aichi Prefecture (featuring my favourite eel)
This is the board that shows what kind of regional don is entering the contest.
More participating regional dons
And the rules and regulations......
there were many foods that I have never seen before. This is one of them. Uni served grilled.
the grilled uni.....
a delicacy from hokkidao section (grilled scallops with butter and corn)....Sizzles....
Of course there is my favourite section: The Sweets Booth, featuring all kinds of famous sweets/desserts from all over the region. But actually, some were seen in other regional food exhibition and the variety of shops for this time was slightly below my expectation. Nonetheless, this is a famous crepe shop from Hokkaido called Pari-pari Crepe.
Well, because they say "pari pari" , the crepe must be really crispy. After forking out $$ from my own pocket, the crepe skin is really super crispy, very different from the harajuku crepe or any other crepe shop. Made fresh, the crepe went well with the taste of the soft serve ice cream and the caramel sauce. However, the shop can be more generous with the portion of their contents....the ingredients seem little compared to the big skin.
Some people might mistake this for deep fried croquette or even deep fried sausages. But this is a dessert. Yes, it is sweet and inside...is cream. Cream puff from Nagoya
They were quite popular and it is good that they sell it in individual sticks at 315yen for one. You can have the chocolate-coated version or simply the original cream version.
Ice Cornet??? Basically bread stuff with ice cream. but just that the bread is served hot as it is fresh out from the frying pan...perhaps something more interesting than donuts.
Something not from the northern region but from the southern Kyushu!
One of my favourite snack...sugar coated sweet potato...very filling but not too sweet. This black one is the kuromitsu version.
this is the usual version coated with sticky honey syrup....ooh. It is slightly hard on the outside and soft/mashy inside. The auntie was very generous to offer sample for each version.
Mochi mochi from Kyushu.
Apart from the grilled uni...this seems like uni that is somehow grilled until it looks like it has a crispy exterior
the picture of the person who harvested the seafood
Food food and this time its....CHICKEN!! free tasting
Not the KFC chicken wing but hot crispy not too salty chicken wing.
Yakisoba (fried noodles) in their special sauce with pork & cabbage
Next up...some dairy products. from Nakazawa farm
many people might think usually associate hokkaido with dairy products but there are actually farms that produced high quality rich milk/yoghurt all over Japan.
Rice from Yamagata, Tohoku Area. the ladies dressed in green are sort of the ambassadors of this rice product.
Display of the famous festival of Aomori
the real performance from Aomori..it is amazing how they can recreate the entire process of the festival inside the stadium. It must have required lots of manpower and time to shift the necessary drums, etc into the venue.
the performers during their resting time. Look at how huge the structures are. Like Chingay!
My another favourite...senbei (savoury rice crackers) available in various flavours like mentaiko. With free tasting (see the bowls full of senbei in front?)
Even kosong (plain) bread were on sale.
fancy some smoke cheese???
what is this?? kaki gohan and yaki kaki ( oysters from hokkaido...in various styles...grilled/preserved/with rice....)
besides cultural programme...well they have invited kpop singers to perform
well....actually i think there is no need for them to perform as the main focus is after all regional culture and cuisine. Hmm.....
these displays were NOT FOR SALE but to educate the public about the regional famous cuisine. This was from the tourist information booth located at one corner of the stadium. Perhaps because not many people crowded that area because there was no food.
but the great reason to stay at the tourist info corner is because they don't sell but give out free samples at certain time. This is a bowl of free curry ramen!
samples of rice with furikake ( rice toppings)
they teach you how to use the furikake in various ways.
ladies like this one will appear at a fixed time (see the 16:00 word at the bottom left?) luckily it was not too crowded as compared to the regional cuisine booths.
need to catch the ladies that give out free samples before they go hiding again!!
and because it is relatively less crowded....one can sample the food at ease ( these are various traditional wagashi...like hard crackers from a certain region which i forgot)
fear not....you can have your yokan ( ultimate sweet jelly--the one poked with toothpick), hard biscuits (this is really the toughest biscuit i have ever tried....those with fake teeth or weak teeth should avoid this)
i thought this was mame (crispy crunch beans) but its actually very hard chewy sweets
another food tasting....like our chinese yu bing （鱼饼）
pamphlets and leaflets free for anyone to take home or browse. They were very useful as you can learn of many locations you have not heard of before.
Well, at the end of the exhibition, one can really feel very full after eating all the different kinds of food. While many of us are attracted to the regional cuisine, it is really a good opportunity to learn about the various regions of Japan. So, this indeed enriches not only one's stomach but one's mind as well=D To get a chance to speak to the vendors or sample more food, do avoid weekends as weekdays are already very crowded. (I cannot imagine the crowd on weekends). This event is truly an eye-opener and I look forward to such events in future.
For the official website :
http://www.tokyo-dome.co.jp/furusato/ (details are still available even though the event has ended)