According to a theory, in 1668, Mitsumasa Ikeda, a feudal load of Okayama Domain in Bizen Province, issued a thrift ordinance regarding meals and behaviors to recover from the damage caused by a heavy flood. It is said he ordered people to have a very simple meal which consists of only one cup of miso soup and one side dish except rice and salted pickles. However, people reacted sharply against it by regarding sushi containing various ingredients as one dish.
Bizen bara-zushi is one of specialties of Okayama Prefecture, especially, of the southeastern area. It is a general name of sushi where the colorful topping ingredients such as finely chopped local seafood and vegetables that have already been seasoned and cooked are decoratively placed on a bed of sushi rice containing pieces of cooked ingredients, in a bowl. It is also called Okayama bara-zushi or Matsuri-zushi.
Chirashi-zushi is often confused with bara-zushi. In western Japan, bara-zushi generally refers to sushi rice which contain cooked ingredients such as finely chopped seafood and vegetables. In eastern Japan, the term chirashi-zushi is basically used to indicate plain sushi rice placed in a bowl, with topping ingredients such as seafood slices and fried egg to distinguish it from hand-rolled sushi and sushi rolls. In these days, these two kinds of sushi are often mixed up and they are considered to have no big difference in the styles.
A kind of sushi called dodomese of Fukuoka of Bizen Province, or current Setouchi City, is said to be the origin of this type of sushi. It was made by rice mixed with other ingredients, and unrefined sake which had turned sour, by chance around the early 14th century, before vinegar was generally known in Japan.
Today, it is served in such special events as a wedding ceremony, a New Year's event and when we entertaining guests.
JR Okayama Furusato Okoshi Project by West Japan Railway Company
Japanese Traditional Dietary Culture Association
Chugoku-Shikoku Agricultural Administration Office
In Hamamatsu.com: Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan Visitor Guide
Kimono Information Library Shimanowa
Chigai no Hyakka-Jiten: Encyclopedia Showing Differences
Japanese Spanish mackerel is the most beloved seafood among Okayama people. The fish of the family Scombridae is enjoyed in various dishes from fresh sashimi to tempura. It is very good with miso flavor and noodles. They say that the price in Japan is determined by the market of Okayama Prefecture. There is an old dietary custom of eating the sashimi in the prefecture. In addition, the high grade fish loses its freshness quickly. For those reasons, fresh Japanese Spanish mackerel is sent directly from various fishing ports of Japan to the prefecture. It is highly recommended to have its dish impervious to fire such as sashimi during the season in Okayama Prefecture because it is served almost only in the prefecture. The sashimi has elegant and sweet taste, with little raciness.
A large amount of Japanese Spanish mackerel at spawning time had been caught in the Seto Inland Sea, especially the sea area located between Okayama Prefecture and Kagawa Prefecture, from May through June. On that account, the migratory fish has been thought to be in season during the period in the Setouchi area and the Kansai area. In the Kanto area, including Tokyo, eating fatter one in winter is preferred. It is said that it is tasty during the season other than summer after the spawning season. Unlike the other areas, the Spanish mackerel is available almost all year around in Okayama Prefecture.
Sawara-don, or a bowl of rice topped with slices of Japanese Spanish mackerel dipped in a soy-sauce-based sauce, is one of specialties of south Okayama. Lightly roasted one is the best way to have good taste between the skin and the flesh. Miso-preserved Spanish mackerel is also a popular dish. It is thoroughly broiled on the whole.
Okayama Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Newswitch by Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun
tenki.jp by the Japan Weather Association
Kakioko is an abbreviation for kaki-iri-okonomi-yaki. It looks like a pancake, containing oysters from Hinase, located on the southeastern edge of Okayama Prefecture, with various ingredients such as shredded or chopped cabbage. The grilled food is topped with special sauce with a sweet taste, and condiments such as green laver and flakes of dried bonito.
Hinase is famous for its plump and juicy oysters, with less smelling and slightly sweet. While it takes at least two years for oysters farmed in seawater to be ready for market, those grown in the area reaches market size in one year because the annual water temperature change of the Seto Inland Sea corresponds with the growth rhythm of oysters and the sea around Hinase is rich in minerals derived from mountainous islands. Surrounded by islands, Hinase Bay is suited to oyster farming because of gentle sea waves. Oysters are harvested between November and March. February is the best season for eating them.
There are about 20 kakioko restaurants in Hinase. Their buildings remind us of a style in a typical small fishing village from decades ago, giving nostalgic feeling. They serve kakioko containing fresh oysters, which show no decrease in size when grilled, during the season. Some offer kakioko cooked with frozen oysters in the off-season.
Okayama Kanko Web: Okayama Sightseeing Web
Hinase-cho Fisheries Cooperative Association
Blessed with a mild climate, Okayama Prefecture is dubbed the "Fruit Kingdom" and produces a variety of fruits year-round. The prefecture is well-known as a large producer of premium fruits for food. It accounts for 90 percent of the market of the "Muscat of Alexandria," a popular premium grape variety. The area also boasts the largest production volume of high-quality white peaches and pione grapes. The "Fruit Kingdom" is also the home of the Atago Pear, one of the largest pears in the world, and the Ashimori Melon, called "phantom melon" because only a limited amount is produced.
There are various kinds of fruit parfait, such as that with a whole peach. In winter and spring, fruit parfaits abundantly using seasonal strawberries are popular. In summer, those with white peaches are particularly recommended. In summer and autumn, plenty kinds of grapes are in season. In autumn, fresh pears are used in a lot of parfaits.
Various fruit events are held in Okayama Prefecture. The Okayama Chamber of Commerce and Industry is carrying out a fruit project with a theme of "Fruit Parfait Town, Okayama" in Okayama City from 2009. Numerous member shops, including Oshiro-jaya in Okayama Castle, offer delicious fruit parfaits with plenty of fresh seasonal fruits.
The Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry
National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations Okayama Subsidiary