These dishes are an important part of Japan's culinary culture
Japan's many fine restaurants have a world-class reputation for gourmet fare, but the national focus of late is on a different "class" of gourmet--simpler, more accessible, but no less delicious to its ravenous fans.
"B-grade gourmet" is now wildly popular and portrayed in the media as tasty, much-beloved local cuisines which are often variations of national favorites such as ramen, udon or yakisoba. B-grade gourmet dishes are all appealingly priced, from ¥300 to ¥700 (US$3.50-8.50). Essentially, this is ordinary food that can be enjoyed by anyone--but B-grade gourmet is prepared with devotion and flair.
Hugely popular B-grade events draw "gourmets" from all over the country who sample these different dishes, and then vote for the tastiest offering. At some events, winners are chosen based on the weight of piles of chopsticks accumulated from voters.
If a dish ranks highly at a B-grade gourmet event, people pour in from all over the country to line up at the local restaurant that serves it--a kind of gourmet tourism that helps revitalize that town or region. Some B-grade dishes may also allude to the history or customs of a community, and thus endure as an important part of Japan's diverse culinary culture. Local municipalities and other groups have taken the hint, participating in B-grade events to harness the economic stimulus of hungry tourists.
Regional B-grade cuisine may involve a simple noodle dish or a more esoteric reflection of local tastes. Some recent winners include Yokote yakisoba, a straightforward dish of fried noodles from Yokote in Akita Prefecture; more adventurous palates may prefer Kofu torimotsu-ni, simmered and glazed chicken giblets in soy sauce-based sauce from Kofu in Yamanashi Prefecture.
Locals in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture enjoy Hachinohe senbei-jiru, wheat-flour wafers added to a broth containing meat, fish and vegetables. Shizuoka oden from Shizuoka Prefecture involves simmered kuro (black)-hanpen: steamed, minced fish, vegetables and meat in a rich dark soy sauce-based broth, sprinkled with aonori seaweed and dashi powder. Hearty Atsugi shirokoro horumon from Atsugi in Kanagawa Prefecture, consists of plump pork intestines cut into bite-size pieces and grilled in their original tubular shape.