Japan’s Niigata Prefecture awards 160 venues and producers in various categories in its first-ever Niigata Gastronomy Awards.

Travelling to Niigata Prefecture any time soon? If not, you should. Japan’s fifth-largest prefecture, located in the Chūbu region of Japan’s main island of Honshu facing the sea of Japan, is not only known for its beautiful natural parks but is also the home of some of the best rice and sake producers in the whole of the country.

But while getting to Niigata is easy – it’s just a two-hour Shinkansen train ride from Tokyo – knowing where to go, what to eat, or what to do can be a little more troublesome if you’re not familiar with the prefecture. To that end, Niigata Prefecture established the Niigata Gastronomy Awards.

First in announced in September 2022, the Niigata Gastronomy Awards is essentially an initiative by the local government to recognise and promote the best of Niigata, selected by an esteemed panel of judges many of whom are eminent chefs and other illustrious culinary professionals from across Japan. A total of 160 awards were given out earlier this year – 100 to restaurants, 30 to hotels and other accommodation providers with dining offerings, and 30 to local artisanal producers.


Among those awarded include my farm to table おにや, awarded the jury’s grand culinary prize for its specialty chicken dishes made from capons sourced from the owner’s own poultry farm (including raw chicken sashimi!), or traditional Japanese fine-dining restaurant Ryotei Nabedyaya, which offers a luxurious spread of Japanese delicacies that changes with the seasons.

Under accommodations, there’s grand jury prize winner Snow Peak Field Suite Spa Headquarters (pictured below), a beautiful sprawling spa resort complex in Sanjo that offers stunning mountain views and crisp air while you soak in an outdoor onsen, or  Hougandou, a traditional ryokan in Uonuma.

Snow Peak Field Suite Spa Headquarters

Looking to pick up some traditional Niigata goods? The Niigata Gastronomy Awards jury highly recommends you pick up a bottle of Kanzuri, a fermented chilli paste from Myoko that you can eat with anything from udon noodles to yakitori or as an ingredient to spice up stews and hotpots. And who can forget sake? While Niigata has many excellent producers of top-quality sake, the list singles out the sakes of Hiki Shuzo for special mention.

So if you’re putting together an itinerary for a visit to Niigata, the Niigata Gastronomy Awards can be a great resource (the only downside being the website is only in Japanese).

You can check out the Niigata Gastronomy Awards at: www.niigata-gastronomy-award.jp.

[Photos courtesy of Niigata Gastronomy Awards]

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