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No.187 (5/13/11)

B-1 Grand Prix

By Naomi Kobayashi
(Translated by Nao H. Kauffman)
Staff Writer

The hottest event in Japan now is called the B-1 Grand Prix, a local food convention. The Hokkaido and Tohoku Region conventions will take place in Aomori City on May 28 and 29, which is just over an hour’s drive to the north of Misawa. The food convention is defined as a B-1 Gourmet (B-1 GURUME グルメ) competition and is delicious foods that each region’s local people think highly of as their own special dish, and also is in effect finding the best dish out of all entries. Therefore, this event provides a great opportunity for regions to introduce and promote their local special foods to everyone. The very first competitor was at Hachinohe Hasshoku (fish) Center which entered the Hachinohe senbeijiru (the local special soup, which serves senbei made from flour like crackers) in February 2006. Now the convention has grown into a well known event throughout Japan. The final competition is held once a year and the local region conventions are held here and there. How they judge the best dish is a unique scoring system, which lets the visitor purchase and taste the special dishes. In the voting system, visitors have to choose at most two dishes and drop their used chopsticks in a ballot box. A pair of chopsticks counts as two points, and they weigh the boxes at the end. The entry with the heaviest box wins the grand prize and is awarded the golden chopsticks as a trophy. Then, silver and bronze chopstick trophies go to the second and third place.

The first place winners from the previous competitions are below:
The first and second year: Fujinomiya Yakisoba from Shizukoka, Fujinomiya City
The third year: Atsugi Shiro Koro Hormone from Kanagawa, Atsugi City
The fourth year: Yokote Yakisoba from Akita, Yokote City
The fifth year: Koufu Tori Motsuni from Yamanashi, Koufu

The previous entries from Aomori were Towada Barayaki from Towada City which came in eighth place in the national convention and consecutively won first place in the regional convention. On the other hand, Hachinohe senbeijiru was catapulted to fame because they captured the second place in the national convention for the third consecutive year.

Here are the popular B-1 Gourmet items from various regions in Japan:
Obihiro City, Hokkaido: Butadon (grilled pork rice bowl with sweet soy sauce)
The whole area: Zangi (mainly fried chicken)
Towada City, Aomori: Towada Barayaki (stir fried beef and onion with sweet and spicy soy sauce)
Hachinohe City, Aomori: Hachinohe Senbeijiru (hearty meat and vegetable soup with Nambu senbei)
Aomori City, Aomori: Aomori Shougamiso Oden (oden with grinded ginger and miso paste)
Morioka City, Iwate: Morioka Jajamen (ground pork with miso over udon noodles, which is made from flour. After finishing the meal, add one raw egg to the hot soup in the bowl. Then, you can enjoy the soup called Chee-tan-tan.)
Yokote City, Akita: Yokote Yakisoba (thicker square shape yakisoba noodles cooked with Worchester sauce and soft-boiled egg on the top.)
Utsunomiya City, Tochigi: Utsunomiya Gyoza (Many restaurants are members of the Utsunomiya Gyoza Committee.)
Atsugi City, Kanagawa: Atsugi Shirokoro Hormone (grilled beef hormone)
Niigata City & Nagaoka City, Nigata: Italian (yakisoba with meat sauce)
Kouhu City, Yamanashi: Kouhu Tori Motsuni (cooked giblets with sugar and soy sauce)
Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka: Fujinomiya Yakisoba (cook special yakisoba noodles with oil cake and add fish flour on top)
Tsuyama City, Okayama: Hormoneyaki Udon (yaki udon with hormone)
Sasebo City, Nagasaki: Sasebo Burger (homemade hamburger in Sasebo)
Okinawa: Taco Rice (taco ingredients over rice) There are multiple cities of B-1 Gourmet foods in Japan.

Last October, the Hokkaido and Tohoku regional convention in Yokote City, Akita had 11 entries from six regions. The four entries were from the past winners of the national convention. In two days, the number of visitors reached 124,000 people.

Next month in Aomori City, the convention will be mainly held at Aoi Umi Kouen(park) with additional sites, the Aomori Station Square Park and the east side of the new Aomori Station. All the B-1 Gourmet foods from Aomori and some from Hokkaido regions are certainly entered besides the successive winners from the previous national conventions; therefore, there are possibly about 20 entries.

The ticket information hasn't been released yet. If it is the same as the Yokote Convention, you can purchase the tickets (worth 10 pieces of 100 yen a sheet for 1,000 yen) through a Lawson ticket machine called Loppi. If you purchase more than you spend, you may be allowed to use your extra tickets at local restaurants which participate in the event for a limited time. At the end of May, it can get hot so that you should bring a hat just in case you might have to wait in line for a long time. Furthermore, this year's sixth national convention will take place in Himeji City of Hyogo on November 12th and 13th.

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