One of my favorite foods ever is Hitsumabushi. I do really enjoy eating Japanese eel whenever I can in Japan, as Unagi Sushi, Unagi Don (Unagi bowl), Unaju (Unagi rice) or in any other form that Japanese freshwater eel is served. There are countless Unagi eel dishes. Grilled eel, steamed eel, cooked eel. You get the idea.
There really are many places across the country where eel in all its forms is prepared exquisitely, but nothing can top the signature dish Hitsumabushi in Nagoya.
Origin of Hitsumabushi in Nagoya
Hitsumabushi originated in the Meiji Period in Nagoya when waitresses served the sliced eel with rice from big tubs for keeping cooked rice which is called an Ohitsu. Which is where the name Hitsumabushi comes from.
The preparation process of Hitsumabushi is also different from other places around Japan. The eel is sliced open at the belly and grilled whole without steaming it.
How to Enjoy Hitsumabushi in Nagoya
The preparation isn’t the only thing special about Nagoya Hitsumabushi. It is actually the eating procedure which makes the whole dish so special and so delicious.
When you order Hitsumabushi you will get a tray, the main feature is, of course, the bowl filled with rice and topped with eel. There is often a layer of shredded Nori between the fish and the rice.
There will also be a second, smaller bowl that is empty. A spoon, often made from wood, some condiments like green onions and wasabi as well as Japanese style pickles, called Tsukemono and Miso or another kind of soup.
You will also get a little pot, which might look like a teapot but can come in different forms and sizes.
After you have taken a couple of pictures (or maybe that’s just me) you divide your serving into 4 parts.
One-fourth of your rice with eel is your first serving. Use the spoon to place it into your empty bowl. You enjoy the first serving as it is. Rice served with grilled eel in a rich and sweet sauce with a bit of Nori.
For the second serving, you add some condiments to your eel after you have placed the eel into your bowl. Condiments can be green onions, Wasabi or Sansho pepper. I love all of these on my Hitsumabushi. Try them and the flavor changes completely.
For your third serving, you finally get to use the content of the little pot. It contains either a broth or green tea with which you make some delicious eel Ochazuke. You might think,
I love putting some extra Wasabi into my Ochazuke to give it a little bit of extra spice, but you can add whatever condiments you like.
The last serving is for you to enjoy however you like. I love Ochazuke with some condiments most and so this is usually my fourth and last serving. The Tsukemono pickles are for you to eat between servings.
Where to Eat Hitsumabushi in Nagoya
While there are many delicious foods I recommend you to try in Nagoya (more info on the best food in Nagoya on my Nagoya Food Blog) if you only have time to try one dish I would try Hitsumabushi.
The following are the best restaurants to try Hitsumabushi in Nagoya.
Nagoya Meshi Food Tour
You can try Hitsumabushi and many other foods and snacks from Nagoya on one of my Nagoya Meshi Food Tours. Perfect for people who are short on time and want to experience as much as possible of Nagoya.
The group tour runs every day from 2:30 p.m. for 3.5 hours. While walking around Nagoya’s Sakae district you will learn not only about the local food but also about Nagoya’s history and Japanese culture.
If you prefer private tours and you want a food tour in Nagoya tailormade to your needs, you can request a Private Food Tour as well.
You don’t even have to leave Nagoya Station to try some very authentic and deliciously prepared Hitsumabushi at an Unagi restaurant. On the west side of Nagoya Station is the Esca Underground Shopping Street where you will find some of the best restaurants in Nagoya. One of them is Hitsumabushi Ino, a restaurant specialized in Hitsumabushi.
As I mentioned earlier, Hitsumabushi, the Japanese eel and rice dish, isn’t cheap and a full serving will cost 3380 yen (33 US dollars). If this seems like a lot of money to spend on a dish you don’t even know, you might want to share it or opt for a Mini Hitsumabushi which is also available and costs 1850 yen (18 US dollars).
Hitsumabushi Ino has two other shops as well. One in Sakae district (which is the one we visit during our Nagoya Meshi Food Tour) and the other one in Nagashima Mitsu Outlet Park.
HITSUMABUSHI INO (ESCA SHOP)
Opening Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Address: 6-9 Esca Underground Shopping Street, Tsubakicho, Nakamura Ward, Nagoya 453-0015
Another option to try the Japanese eel dish is Hitsumabushi Bincho Nagoya. During lunch and dinner time this restaurant commands long lines, but it is definitely worth the wait. This restaurant has a long tradition and specializes in Hitsumabushi. You won’t be disappointed.
In Nagoya, Hitsumabushi Bincho can be found not only in the LACHIC shopping mall in Sakae district but also in the Esca Shopping Street right outside Nagoya Station.
Its main shop is in Oguchi about 20 kilometers north of Nagoya. And there are even multiple shops in Tokyo.
HITSUMABUSHI NAGOYA BINCHO (LACHIC)
Opening Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Address: Lachic 7th floor, 3-6-1 Sakae, Naka-ku, Nagoya 460-0008
Another famous Hitsumabushi restaurant in Nagoya is Atsuta Houraiken, which had its beginnings in a shop south of Atsuta Jingu. It is so popular that it commands long lines around lunch and dinner times.
They opened a second shop even closer to Atsuta Jingu and another one in Matsuzakaya Department Store in Sakae district.
ATSUTA HOURAIKEN MAIN RESTAURANT
Opening Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Address: 503 Godocho, Atsuta Ward, Nagoya 456-0043
The very first time I tried Hitsumabushi in Nagoya was together with my parents in 2013. We had just arrived at Nagoya Station from Osaka and I had read that Hitsumabushi was a famous dish from Japan (I also knew it was expensive and I, as a student, wouldn’t be able to afford it on my own).
The restaurant we chose was Kouraku directly in Nagoya Station in a little food street. We ordered one Hitsumabushi to share between the three of use, but we were a little bit confused about the proper way to eat it. The nice lady at the shop explained the steps to use and we had a great first experience eating Hitsumabushi.
KOURAKU NAGOYA STATION SHOP
Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Address: 1-1-4 Meieki, Nakamura Ward, Nagoya 450-0002
Map of Hitsumabushi Restaurants in Nagoya
To make it easier to find the best Hitsumabushi restaurants in Nagoya I created the below map. It marks the restaurants serving Hitsumabushi in Nagoya mentioned in this post.
Final Thoughts about Hitsumabushi in Nagoya
And lastly, you should always remember: You are in Japan to make new and unique experiences (you could try these unique drinks in Japan, for example). Trying grilled Unagi will be something you will remember from this trip to Nagoya. I definitely do remember my first time and have enjoyed Hitsumabushi many times since!
If you think eating eel is weird, all the more reason to try it and convince yourself otherwise. Here are some other foods you can challenge yourself with while in Japan.
If you want to try Hitsumabushi and many other typical Nagoya foods sign up for the Nagoya Meshi Food Tour and experience Nagoya in-depth and hassle-free!
Something very different, but also typically from Nagoya is Komeda’s Coffee. Find out more!
Pin this post to your ‘Food in Japan’ Pinterest board so you can read it again when you are in Japan!
In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. That’s why she started Nagoya Foodie. To teach about Nagoya, her adoptive home online through blog posts and offline through unique food tours.