The Yamanashi Bacon Fest is back!
The Yamanashi Bacon Fest is back!
Japan is a nation famous for its festival traditions. The celebrations — which can range from the rowdy and rambunctious, to the spiritual and serene — often date back hundreds of years, and many are steeped in ancient Japanese history and folklore. But a festival taking place next weekend in Japan’s Yamanashi prefecture is based on something a bit more contemporary: A love of all things bacon.
Now in its third year, the Japan Bacon Festival got its start when the organizers of Iowa’s Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival coordinated with local partners to hold a Japanese version of their annual bacon lovefest.
The festival, which takes place the weekend of Nov. 23 and 24, will be held at Kasuga Street and the Central Kofu Pedestrian Mall, an 11-minute walk from Yamanashi’s Kofu Station.
This year’s festival will feature a Japan bacon-eating competition and a Bacon Queen Pageant. These in addition to the sampling of over 5,000 lbs of U.S. bacon.
Entrants to the bacon-eating contest can compete solo or in groups of three, with the winner being whomever can eat a set amount of bacon fastest. The winning individual will take home a 10,000-yen prize (about $90), while the victorious group will be awarded 30,000 yen.
Visitor will be able to purchase a variety of pork-based foods at the event like Berkwood bacon balls, a chef-created concoction of cheese-stuffed kurobuta pork meatballs wrapped in bacon and smothered in barbecue sauce; or the Des Moines Dog, an Iowa take on the hot dog, making its debut in Japan. BBQ pulled pork tacos are another tasty offering available for purchase.
Japan is a natural fit for a festival celebrating the virtues of pork, as the country consumes more pork annually than beef and chicken combined. Despite producing more than half of its pork domestically, Japan also leads the world in pork imports.
While a Japanese bacon festival influenced by Iowans might seem a bit odd, the link between the Midwestern state and the mountainous prefecture of Yamanashi stretches back more than 50 years to the Iowa Hog Lift of 1960.
“After two typhoons devastated Yamanashi prefecture, the state of Iowa, in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force, sent 36 breeding hogs and 100,000 bushels of feed corn to help with the recovery effort,” Reynolds said before the 2018 event. “That led to Yamanashi prefecture and Iowa becoming sister states.”
In just two years, the 36 hogs multiplied to more than 500 — and today, most pigs in Japan have some genetic link to those original Iowa porkers.
“Over 10,000 people showed up [to the festival] last year and it was a hit,” Reynolds said. “It just goes to show that two different cultures can come together over the common bond of loving pork and bacon.”
The Japan Bacon Festival
Times: The festival is 10 a.m. to 8 p.m Saturday, Nov. 23, and from 9:45 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24.
Costs: Admission to the festival is free, but guests are required to purchase Bacon Bucks at the event, which can be exchanged for food and beverages.
Food: Bacon galore, along with other food, will be for sale from vendors.
Information: Online: japanbaconfestival.jp
Directions: The Japan Bacon Festival will be held at Kasuga Street and Central Kofu Pedestrian Mall. Accessible by train via the JR Chuo Line and JR Minobu Line at Kofu Station. Kofu is also easily reached by car via the Chuo Expressway at the Kofu Showa exit. From Hachioji and nearby points in western Tokyo, the drive takes about 90 minutes. Limited express trains, such as the Super Azuza, can allow visitors to reach the festival in just over an hour, while local and rapid trains complete the journey in about 100 minutes.
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