Karuizawa is a small town tucked away in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. Despite being small it's a popular vacation spot for Tokyoites hoping to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. If you're looking for a good meal in Karuizawa, you're in luck, because there a quite a few excellent restaurants worth visiting.
Here are few local specialties you should definitely try while you're in town:
Miso is a staple of Japanese cuisine and can be found throughout the country. However, each region generally has its own variation that has a different flavor, ingredients, and color. Nagano's regional miso is called Shinshu Miso (信州味噌) and is actually popular in other parts of the country as well. While you're here, you've got to try some of the dishes that include miso.
Basashi (馬刺し) is horse meat sashimi (raw horse meat). It's fairly common to see it at Izakayas across the country these days, but it's known as a local dish in Nagano, where there's plenty of fresh horse meat.
If you've never eaten horse before, it might sound disturbing, especially to eat it raw. However, if you're a fan of sushi and sashimi, and have an open mind, I think you'll find it quite delicious.
Miso dishes and Basashi: 'Suju Masayuki'
One of our top recommendations for some outstanding local food in Karuizawa is a place called 'Resutoran Suju Masayuki.' It's located north of Karuizawa, near Old Karuizawa Ginza Street.
The prices are quite reasonable, yet the selection of dishes and flavors are fantastic. Try the miso katsudon to taste their delicious house-made Shinshu Miso, and go for the basashi to see what it's like! You won't regret it.
When most Japanese people think of Nagano, soba is one of the first things that comes to mind when identifying local specialties. The soba is Nagano is generally fantastic, using locally-grown soba, ground and hand-rolled into hearty, satisfying noodles. Indeed, people from Nagano often complain about the soba in Tokyo, saying it doesn't compare with the quality in Nagano. Definitely don't miss a chance to eat the soba while you're there!
Delicious Shinshu Soba: Kirisato
One of the most highly-rated soba restaurants in Karuizawa is 'Kirisato,' located about 10 minutes away from Karuizawa Station. The prices are reasonable, and the hand made noodles are wonderful.
This is definitely the strangest local specialty on this list (even including the basashi). Inago is a type of grasshopper that is preserved in soy sauce, sugar, and other ingredients and eaten in Kruizawa and throughout Nagano. The grasshoppers are preserved whole, so they definitely take some courage to try at first, but are strangely addicting once you start eating.
Try inago close to Karuizawa Station: Teuchi Soba Honjin
Honjin is a restaurant located right in front of Karuizawa Station which specializes in soba, but also serves interesting appetizers that include inago and hornet larvae. If you're feeling brave, stop by and give it a try!
Gohei mochi is a type of mochi that can be found in the greater regional area that also includes Aichi and Shizuoka prefectures. Flat pieces of chunky mochi are roasted, smeared with miso, then roasted some more. The mochi is served on a skewer, meaning you can eat it while you walk! It's not exactly a meal, but it's definitely a fun snack that you should try while you're in the area.
Gohei mochi while you hike to the waterfall: Shiraitono Taki Baiten
Shiraito no Taki is a famous waterfall in Karuizawa that you'll probably want to check out while you're there. Along the way, you'll find the Shiraitono Taki Baiten, which sells a variety of goods including gohei mochi, which you can eat while you hike to the falls!
Make sure to try as many of these delicious local foods as you can while you're in Karuizawa or Nagano in general!
If you're looking for other things to do in Nagano, check out our article about the wild snow monkey park: