Wagyu expert and avid traveller, Chef Hisato Hamada, lets us in on his top places to visit in Japan beyond Tokyo.
Chef Hisato spent his childhood years in Sydney, from ages six to 10, so sees the harbour city as the perfect place to bring his ramen restaurant, Mashi No Mashi.
Best known for his Wagyumafia resturants, the Mashi No Mashi brand was born in Hong Kong, made in Japan and is now open at The Star in Sydney.
After a tasting of the famous wagyu gyoza with black pepper vinegar, I was even more excited to taste the ramen. I’m lucky this is just so close to home for us and I can’t wait to bring Jim here soon too.
Like many of us, Chef Hisato loves to travel. But when 2020 put a halt to his Wagyumafia world tour, he was forced to stay within the borders of Japan.
His passion for travel didn’t die though and in that time he started a local tour and visited over 150 cities across Japan. Along the way he made it his mission to support local producers by raising awareness and fundraising.
He especially wanted to support small and local sake and shoju producers.
Now that Japan is open again after long border closures, it’s time to start looking at where to go. So here are Chef Hisato’s favourite regions to add to your travel list.
The northernmost main island of Japan, Hokkaido is a unique region of Japan. It’s known for its incredible volcanic landscapes and prosperous agricultural industries. It’s also a popular skiing area.
Hokkaido is also famous for its onsen and sauna, and Chef Hisato created a special kettle-steamed chicken, in collaboration with the prefecture, to symbolise the region and a dish designed to be eaten post-sauna.
Miyazaki Prefecture is on the south-eastern coast of Japan in the area of Kyushu. It’s famed for its coastline, which runs for almost 400km and is named Hyuga-nada. This southern, subtropical region is also known as ‘Hyuga no Kuni’ which means ‘country that faces the sun’.
Chef Hisato points out that Miyazaki is known for its beef and pure water, and for a special ‘mountain caviar’.
This mountain caviar comes from Shiiba Village, which is located in central Miyazaki. It’s one of the three most unexplored regions in Japan and features dramatic geological formations and beautiful rice terraces.
Morioka is the capital of Iwate Prefecture, located in the T?hoku region of Honshu. This isolated northerly region of Honshu is famed for its spring cherry blossoms, but it’s a particular local industry that Chef Hisato is enamoured with.
Nambu tekki are special cast iron teapots that are made in this region. There is a 600-year history of this industry and these teapots are a crucial part of tea ceremonies.
The water from this region, combined with the magnesium and calcium in the kettles, creates a unique taste that Chef Hisato loves. He is now sourcing this water to make his whisky highballs for his restaurants.
You can visit Chef Hisato’s remarkable restaurant Mashi No Mashi, which means ‘eat more and more’, at the Star’s restaurant precinct in Sydney. And when you do, make sure you try the wagyu gyoza. They’re chewy and unctuous with a rich, umami-fuelled beef filling.
Keep an eye out for Chef Hisato while you’re there too. He’s often around, plying his craft in his indefatigably humble way.
If you enjoyed this story, you should check out our other features on Japan such as:
How to Travel in Japan–10 things you need to know
Escape from Tokyo–why Japan is so much more than its cities
15 things you need to eat in Okinawa, Japan