Curry rice is one of Japan’s most popular and beloved dishes. Spicy, sweet, and hearty, curry rice is Japanese comfort food. The basic recipe utilizes potatoes, carrots, onions, and beef. The curry is typically served alongside rice although you will also find it served with udon noodles (curry udon). Some recipes substitute pork or chicken for the meat component. You will also find curry dishes known as katsu kare which is a curry recipe utilizing a breaded deep-fried cutlet, either pork or chicken.
Curry was introduced in Japan during the Meiji era by the British. Curry gained popularity in the 1960s as it became available to purchase in supermarkets and was offered on restaurant menus. It has been adapted since its introduction and consumed so widely that it has become Japan’s national dish.
The latest trend in Japanese curry is what is known as “damukare” or dam curry. It is a special type of curry dish popularized in 2007, where the rice is shaped into the structure of a dam. Damukare is found at restaurants near major Japanese dams which also serve as tourist attractions. According to the Japan Commission on Large Dams there are 136 major dams in Japan with hundreds more comprising the lesser or smaller dams.
Some of the major dams include:
Kurobe Dam (Toyama): Japan’s largest arch dam, completed in 1963. With a height of 186m, it remains the tallest dam in Japan. The dam serves as a tourist attraction between late June and mid-October.
Okutadami Dam (Niigata): Stands at 157 m tall and has a storage capacity of 600 million tons of water used to support the largest hydroelectric power station in Japan. Completed in 1960, the station supplies electricity to the Kanto and Tohoku regions. The dam created a lake called Okutadami Lake or Ginzan (silver mine) Lake because there was a silver mine there during the Edo period. A pleasure cruise is operated on the lake from May to November.
Hoheikyo Dam (Hokkaido): Was constructed in 1972 and is one of the only two dams in Japan built in the Arch-type style. In a conservation effort, only electric buses operate in the area. Tourists are encouraged to leave their cars in the parking lot and utilize one of these buses to reach the dam or go on foot. In autumn, the area is an excellent spot to view the changing of the leaves.
Hakusui Dam (Oita): Was constructed in 1938 and has been frequently featured in television and print ads. The dam was designated as a national cultural important property.
So there you have it, a brief introduction to Japan’s major sightseeing dams and to damukare. Be daring, take the dam journey and try the dam curry, you will agree that it is dam good!