City of Dumplings: Chinese Soul Food with a Japanese Twist
Utsunomiya, the largest city in the northern Kanto region of Tochigi Prefecture, is recognized as a city of gyoza (pan-fried dumplings). It is said that gyoza was originally introduced to Utsunomiya by returning soldiers from the 14th Division (Imperial Japanese Army) who had been stationed in Manchuria in northeastern China during the Pacific War.
It was not until 1990, however, that Utsunomiya city officials started using gyoza as a branding tool to revitalize the city. As a result, Utsunomiya is allegedly the largest consumer of gyoza in Japan. Contributing to the success of the advertising campaign is Utsunomiya’s inland climate, with hot summers and cold winters, which is credited with building up stamina.
“Utsunomiya Gyoza” has less meat and more vegetables than mainstream gyoza which is stuffed with juicy meat and garlic. Utsunomiya Gyoza Festival is held on the first Saturday of November every year. Restaurants affiliated with Utsunomiya Gyoza Association participate actively in the festival. It is a great time to sample gyoza and enjoy Utsunomiya culture.