The best of 2012

The inaugural Tama Geta Shoku no Saiten in Hachioji offered locavores a chance to sample the creative cuisine of western Tokyo. Thirty vendors showed off dishes such as motsu yaki-udon, a bowl of beef tripe and noodles from the town of Mizuho in Nishitama, and the "Tokyo-X" hot dog, a mammoth German-style wiener made with smoked pork from Fussa City. It seems likely that the event, held in May on the grounds of the Tokyo Summerland water park, will become a fixture of the Japanese food-fest scene — more than 35,000 people attended the first edition.

How much do the folks in Kansai enjoy local cooking? Consider that nearly 150,000 enthusiasts braved the withering heat to attend the second annual Shiga B-kyu Gurume Battle. Held in the prefectural capital of Otsu on Aug. 4-5, the event was part of a festival that also included music, fireworks and dragon-boat races on nearby Lake Biwa. Dishes ranged from the mundane (a pita sandwich stuffed with Omi beef) to the creative (eel onigiri) to the outre (soba parfait, anyone?). Grand Prix honors, unsurprisingly, went to a shaved-ice dish featuring Asamiya green tea.

A celebration of classic cuisine from Japan's former capital, the Toku B-kyu Gotochi Gurume Festival in Arashiyama showcased the home-style Kyoto cooking known as o-banzai. The event, held in early August at a scenic riverside location in Naka no Shima Park, was part of the city's annual Tanabata festival. Visitors could choose among 40 vendors serving the likes of tori soboro meshi (minced chicken on rice), fried noodles with pickled Kyoto vegetables, and a full line-up of traditional sweets.