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Good time to visit the dumpling capital of Japan

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Dumplings are enjoyed the world over, but they are particularly loved in Japan. Here, they are honored not only with their own capital — Utsunomiya in Tochigi Prefecture — but also by an iconic dumpling statue that stands proudly in front of that city’s main station. In Utsunomiya, where the per-head consumption of gyōza (steamed pork dumplings) is the highest in Japan, people gather once a year at its gyōza festival, to taste various local specialties served with soy-based tare dipping sauce, rice vinegar and rāyu (Chinese chili oil).

The Utsunomiya Gyoza Dumplings Festival, now in its 15th year, takes place this weekend at Utsunomiya Castle Ruins park, where a variety of gyōza will be served by 29 eateries affiliated with Utsunomiya Gyozakai, the only cooperative association in Japan that specifically promotes the wonders of gyōza.

Visitors will be able to enjoy the subtle differences of dozens of dumplings as well as fill empty stomachs at a low cost: A three-piece portion of gyōza, whether fried, boiled or steamed, will cost just ¥100.

During the two days of festivities,visitors can also watch music bands and comedians at Miyajazz Inn, or see other live concerts at nearby venues.

The Utsunomiya Gyoza Dumplings Festival takes place on Nov. 2 and 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Utsunomiya Castle Ruins park in Honmaru-cho, Utsunomiya. Entry is free; visitors are charged for food only. For more information call 028-632-2445 or visit www.shimotsuke.co.jp/select/ugfes.