Wasabi is a root known as Japanese horseradish and commonly found in sushi as a paste. Because fresh wasabi is so perishable and expensive, fresh wasabi root is not common for home use. At Daio Wasabi Farm, visitors can taste real fresh wasabi and also get the rare opportunity to see how wasabi is grown on the farm. You can even try wasabi ice cream and wasabi beer.
Refer to Marui Wasabi’s website (Azumino-based wasabi factory. The website has fun wasabi trivia and information about how to enjoy eating wasabi.)
Soba (Buckwheat Noodles)
A specialty in Nagano prefecture, soba is a thin noodle made from buckwheat flour. Azumino’s handmade soba is highly regarded throughout the region and can be found in many soba restaurants all over Azumino. Served either in hot broth or chilled with a dipping sauce, local soba noodles are fresh and abundant all year round. The best time is the harvest season in autumn when many local soba festivals are held in the region.
Oyaki is a buckwheat or wheat bun specialty even more local to Nagano prefecture than soba. The buns are stuffed with a huge variety of fillings including vegetables or sweet bean paste. The bun is usually cooked by either steaming, grilling after steaming, or roasting in ash. You can get oyaki in many in shops, such as Azumido (Japanese Site) (Tel 0263-71-1400) in Swan Garden near Toyoshina Interchange, and select restaurants throughout Azumino.
Shinshu Salmon is a treat which is hard to find outside of Azumino. A hybrid fish of brown trout and rainbow trout, Shinshu Salmon is a fish distinct to Nagano and has a rich and deep savory flavor. Many restaurants serve Shinshu Salmon rice bowls.
Sake is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from rice. In Japanese, the word “sake” is actually a broader term for alcohol, while “nihonshu” specifically refers to Japanese rice-based sake. Sake is served cold, at room temperature, or heated depending on the season, quality of the sake and preference. It is said that good water and good rice make good sake. Azumino sake, which has both elements, is available in local shops and is served in many restaurants. EH-shuzo (Japanese website) (Tel 0263-72-3011) offers a tour, tasting and shopping.
Japanese wine often has its own unique flavor, categorization process, and grape varieties. Swiss Village Winery (Japanese website) (Tel 0263-73-5532) and Azumino Winery (Japanese website) (Tel 0263-77-7700) offer tours, wine tastings, and a retail store for visitors interested in local Azumino wine. Both wineries also offer apple and other fruit wines made with fruits from Nagano’s orchards.
Wagashi (Japanese Sweets)
Wagashi refers to traditional Japanese confectionery. Like much of Japanese cuisine, Japanese sweets use uncommon flavors and natural ingredients that are unparalleled in presentation and often healthier than sweets found in other cuisines. Rice, varieties of beans, sugar, and fruits are most frequently used as ingredients. Many confectionery shops in Azumino, such as Maruyama (Japanese website) (Tel 0263-82-2203), Kaiundo (Japanese website) (Tel 0263-76-5060), and Saika (Japanese website) (Tel 0263-82-8812), offer specialty and standard style of wagashi throughout the year.