CNNGo in Japan: Wagyu, ramen, sake

From exquisite tempura to perfect noodles, this culinary journey hits the hot spots in a land bursting with flavor

Warning: This episode of CNNGo may cause intense hunger pangs followed by a sudden urge to book a flight to Japan.

We’ve been to Japan before, but with our latest episode, CNNGo dishes up the finest food the country has to offer. 

Starting in the whimsical Tokyo kitchen of Michelin-starred chef Yoshihiro Narisawa, we then travel south to a Wagyu cattle farm that raises the country’s famous Kobe cows.

But Kobe isn’t famous just for its beef. 

The area around the city is one of the world’s major sake-producing regions.

How could we not take an inside look at how the popular beverage is made?

Finally, we head to Kyushu’s capital of Fukuoka — aka ramen heaven — where we meet the founder of legendary noodle chain, Ichiran. 

Narisawa

cnngo taste of japan narisawaYoshihiro Narisawa: Part chef, all artist.In Yoshihiro Narisawa’s Tokyo kitchen, we get to see exactly how the famed chef puts together his art-like creations. 

Selected no.14 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Narisawa’s mission is to transport customers to the forests of Japan through a variety of dishes.

Signature creations include Soil Soup (boiled dirt) and Inori, a buttery crab dish that resembles a candle wrapped in Japanese paper. 

One of the most amazing dishes is served on a piece of tree bark that streams sounds from different forests in Japan.

Narisawa, Minami Ayoyma 2-6-15, Minato-ku, Tokyo; +81 3 5785 0799

MORE: Secrets from Japanese master: How to make sushi
Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan

cnngo taste of japan sakeKobe isn’t famous for only beef — its sake is highly regarded, as well.The area around Kobe is one of the largest sake-producing regions in Japan.

With ample supplies of sake’s two primary ingredients — locally grown rice and freshwater from nearby mountains — it also produces some of the best sake in the world. 

Established more than 250 years ago, Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan is a family operation offering English tours of its property. 

Visitors can see the step-by-step sake brewing process, from the washing of the rice to the fermenting to the taste testing.

Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan, 1-8-17 Mikagetsuka, Higashinada, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan; +81 78 841 1121


Zen-Noh Hyogo Kobe Farm

cnngo taste of japan Kobe beefSorry, Kobe cows don’t actually drink beer to help them marble.

According to urban legend, Kobe cows lead a life of beer-drinking and massages.

Sadly, it’s not true. 

As a visit to Zen-Noh Hyogo Kobe Farm reveals, nurturing Kobe cows involves restricting their exercise and giving them the right type of feed. 

Kobe beef breeding is a strictly managed enterprise in Hyogo Prefecture. At any given time only 12 bulls are used to reproduce this top quality beef.

MORE: Ultimate Japan Wagyu beef guide


Ichiran’s Mori

cnngo taste of japan ichiranIchiran, the legendary ramen from Fukuoka.It’s almost impossible to find an unsatisfying bowl of ramen in Fukuoka, also known as Japan’s ramen capital.

Famed ramen maker Ichiran makes its noodles in its main factory located in nearby Itoshima.

To ensure that the secret of the perfect noodles and broth won’t be leaked, only about 5% of the ramen-making process can be viewed by visitors.

But the factory tour is interesting — on-site there’s a museum where visitors can eat Ichiran ramen in cubicles called “concentration booths.”

Ichiran’s Mori, 256-10 Matsuguma Itoshima-shi, Fukuoka-ken, Japan; +81 92 332 8902


Yatai stalls in Reisen–koen

cnngo taste of japan yataiRamen tastes more authentic in a yatai.Eating at yatai (street-food stalls) is a Japanese tradition and no city is more associated with yatai than Fukuoka.

Bowls of yatai soup noodles are a staple meal in the city.

Locals love climbing into these small street-side restaurants, where menus also include yakitori and ramen.

Some even function as makeshift gin-and-tonic bars.


MORE: Adventures in ramen: Japan’s ever-changing soup scene

Ginza Mitsukoshi

In a city that’s been awarded more Michelin stars than any other in the world, it’s perhaps not surprising that even the basement department stores in Tokyo are full of culinary treasures. 

From tempura to sushi to some of the country’s best desserts, you can get a full meal at many of these subterranean food circuses. 

Insider secret: most department stores have a public rooftop area, always a good spot to enjoy a Tokyo view with a classic bento box.

Ginza Mitsukoshi, 4-6-16 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo

Guests

Yukari Sakamoto, food writer

Marie Udono, restaurateur

Mako Tanaka, food blogger

Nick Szasz, publisher, Fukuoka Now

Music

Metro Ongen

“Eden”

“Lily”

“Libson”

The Watanabes

“There’s Something Wrong”

“28 Years (Instrumental)”

“Make Things Better”

Jimmy Binks and the Snakehorns

“Not Too Late”

Icon Girl Pistols

“Sky Blue Paint”

“An Illegal Ticket”

Quruli

“Loveless”

“There is (always light)”

Mothercoat

“Post”

“Nipple Cider”

“Osero”

Nontroppo

“Yottafuri”

This story, and several others on Japanese food, complement the CNNGo TV series. This month’s show features a culinary journey through Japan, including a visit to the home of Kobe beef and a meeting with the founder of famous Ichiran ramen shop. See more of the show here: www.cnn.com/cnngo

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