Soba, or buckwheat noodles, are generally called Shinshu soba in Nagano – Shinshu being the ancient name of this part of the country. Nagano is famous for soba because its clean water and volcanic ash soil are particularly suited to growing buckwheat – some even claim the the concept of making noodles from soba originated here. Being the second largest producer in the country, there’s no shortage of these delicious noodles anywhere in the prefecture, and Matsumoto is no different.
Few places are suitable for cultivating wasabi, but the area just 40 minutes outside of Matsumoto, Azumino, is home to Daio Wasabi Farm, the largest in Japan. As a result, great wasabi – especially fresh wasabi – abounds. Many of the best soba shops might even hand you a whole raw trunk and let you grate it at the table it to make your own wasabi paste. You’ll also find all sorts of wasabi products, from wasabi chips and senbei to wasabi beer and soft serve ice cream.
This local delicacy is premium chicken breast and thigh meat, marinated in garlic, ginger, and soy sauce, then breaded and fried until extra crispy and served with cabbage. The dish can be found in casual eateries and izakayas throughout Matsumoto and Shiojiri but is also popular at festivals and other outdoor events. It’s definitely one of the best takes on fried chicken in Japan and pretty uncommon outside of this area. If you’re in the city and order this, the locals will be impressed – and proud.
Shinshu no Chinmi
The name literally means Delicacies of Shinshu, and for those of you who take your gastronomic tourism in more adventurous directions, you’ll be happy to know that insects will be on the menu in the mountain towns of Nagano. While definitely not located on a mountain, Matsumoto is surrounded by them and the habit of topping your white rice with bugs that have been candied in soy sauce, mirin, and sugar is popular. The most common variations are inago (locust), zaza-mushi (dobsonfly), hachi no ko (hornet larvae) and kaiko no sanagi (silkworm pupae). Bring some home for your friends!