Akita is famous as the producing land of great food and water. What people imagine first when they hear the word Akita could be the rice. If we ferment it, we can produce Sake and if we completely smash and knead it, the rice cake is done. But there is one more traditional cuisine made from rice in northern part of Akita, which is “Kiritanpo”.
It is the half-smashed rice wrapped around the bamboo stick. Akita locals usually put them in the hotpot with famous locally raised chicken in Akita called “Hinai- Zidori.” Some people hesitate to put fish or other certain vegetable in the hotpot since they might damage the perfect harmony of Kiritanpo and chicken. So, the basic taste of the soup is decided to be soy sauce and typical ingredients are the six foods below: Kiritanpo, chicken, burdock, green onion, Maitake mashroom, and Seri (Japanese parsley). Another way of cooking Kiritanpo is to put Miso on it and grill it with charcoal fire. Akita locals enjoy Kiritanpo with their family and offer it to the guests. In schools, it is even offered as the school meals in winter. Kiritanpo literally means “cutted Tanpo” and Tanpo means the cotton ball (Tanpo) put on the top of spear for Samurai who trains. So, people started to call it Kiritanpo after the cotton ball on spear.
The history of Kiritanpo
There are two stories about the origin of Kiritanpo. Some says that the Yamako (woodcutters) used to wrap leftover rice around the stick and ate it with Miso while working in the woods. Some also says that the Matagi (traditional bear hunter in Akita) made Kiritanpo and ate them with the game they got such as bear, bird, hare, and so on. The common thing between two stories is that the rice was valuable for them and in order not to waste the limited rice, they found out the way to reserve rice and enjoy it. The Kiritanpo is originally made from the witness of Akita locals surviving the harsh environment of Akita woods.
Kiritanpo festival in Odate
You can enjoy genuine Kiritanpo at the Kiritanpo festival held in Odate. In this festival, you can even experience other Akita traditions such as Mage-Wappa (traditional wood crafft) or paddling canoe made from Akita ceder.