Try Gunma’s delicious produce, from vegetables and succulent meat to fresh fruit
Last updated: December 21, 2020
Gunma is an agricultural powerhouse. The region is blessed with diverse farming conditions, with cool mountains, fertile plains, abundant natural water sources, and more sunlight hours than most of Japan. Gunma is the country’s top producer of many vegetables, including cabbage, eggplants, shiitake mushrooms, and Shimonita negi leeks, and is well-known for its exceptional pork and beef, too.
The region’s growers are committed to sustainable farming. Gunma has a certification system to reduce pesticides and chemical fertilizers, enhance food safety, and promote environmentally friendly agriculture. Organic farms are commonly seen, particularly in small towns like Kanra, near the historic castle town of Obata. Gunma’s cuisine highlights local vegetables such as cabbage, and meats, such as pork and beef.
With a wide range of elevations from the mountains to the flat plains and rich, volcanic soil, Gunma is one of Japan’s top vegetable producers. Gunma is known locally as the “cabbage kingdom” as it boasts the highest cabbage yield in Japan. Tsumagoi, in the foothills of Mt. Asama, is one of the most famous areas for cabbage, where it flourishes through summer and fall. Cabbage also grows on the flat plains around Maebashi, growing in winter and spring. Gunma’s cabbage lends itself to delicious soups, pickles, and hotpots. Thick Shimonita negi leeks grow in Shimonita in southwest Gunma, and are highly prized for their firm texture and strong taste. Cooking brings out their sweetness, and they are often eaten grilled or in hotpots and stews.
Konnyaku (konjac) is a delicacy made from the starchy bulb of the konjac plant (also called elephant yam or devil’s tongue) and is popular among health-conscious diners worldwide. It is renowned for being high in soluble fiber and containing almost zero calories. Gunma is Japan’s top producer of konnyaku, and the local people have devised plenty of delicious ways to eat it. Konnyaku’s natural jelly texture makes it ideal for sweets and puddings, or as shirataki noodles, typically served in stew-type dishes like sukiyaki. Miso dengaku—skewers of grilled konjac topped with umami-rich miso paste—is a popular snack in winter. Visit Konnyaku Park to learn more about the food, try different varieties, and take a factory tour.
Gunma’s diverse climate is ideal for growing a wide variety of fruit, including some varieties that are only available in the region. Orchards and farms across Gunma offer fruit picking experiences and farm stands, where you can buy fruits and jams from the farmers. Kajitsu no Sato Harada Farm in Numata is one such orchard, offering cherries and peaches in summer, grapes, and apples from late summer through fall, and strawberries from winter into spring. Visitors can pick and eat as much as they like within a chosen time limit.
One of the highlights of visiting Gunma in winter and spring, is the chance to try Yayoihime strawberries. This delicious strawberry variety was developed in Gunma, and is renowned for its sweetness and high vitamin C content. Yayoihime strawberries grow across Gunma, from Numata in the north to Tatebayashi in the east, and produce delicious fruit right through spring.
Pigs are farmed throughout the prefecture, and Maebashi is known as the “City of Pork” for its pork production and cuisine, thanks to the vast plains, abundant fresh water, and mild climate. Most pork produced in Gunma is a mix of Landrace, Yorkshire, and Duroc breeds, to produce a variety known as Sangen pork. Pork dishes are especially popular during the summer when the high vitamin B1 content is believed to help prevent fatigue.
Joshu wagyu beef is sold across the world and prized for its delicate taste and texture. Wagyu from Gunma has fat highly integrated into the meat, which is attributed to the clear water sources in the region. The meat is ideal for dishes like shabu shabu and sukiyaki.
Gunma’s cuisine makes the most of its seasonal produce. Okkirikomi, a hearty stew, is a must-try in the colder months. Okkirikomi is a filling mix of noodles and seasonal vegetables in a soy- or miso-based soup. The wide wheat noodles in this dish are a product of Gunma’s extensive wheat production. High-quality wheat is also used in Mizusawa udon, a specialty of Ikaho Onsen, made with pure spring water.
Gunma’s famous cabbage features in dishes from hot pots and soups to pickles and salads. Thinly shredded cabbage is the ideal accompaniment to tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets) made with pork from Gunma.
Gunma’s take on sukiyaki, a hot pot-style stew, features thin slices of succulent Joshu wagyu beef, shirataki konnyaku noodles, shiitake mushrooms, and Shimonita negi leeks, all produced locally. You can eat local pork dishes all over the prefecture all year round, but a popular event for foodies is the T-1 Grand Prix cooking contest, held in January and February across Maebashi, when visitors can try many different pork dishes.