There are several stories about the origins of Akita’s most famous dish, kiritampo. One says that local Matagi hunters would present the grilled rice sticks to the local deity as an offering. Another says that self-sufficient farmers would mash and grill any remaining rice to preserve for later.
Regardless of the its origin, handmade kiritampo has been a staple at celebrations and gatherings by the rich and poor alike and become an integral part of the local identity.
The first written record of kiritampo appeared in 1794, almost 230 years ago and again in 1865 in the Animaeda are of Kitaakita City. For at least the past 150 years kiritampo has been a part of northern Akita cuisine. The shift of kiritampo to an everyday staple is believed to have occurred sometime between the end of the Edo and beginning of the Meiji periods.
Tampo Party Culture
After the rice harvest, locals in Odate often throw “tampo parties” to celebrate the harvest and enjoy the fresh rice. Even gatherings where the dish is not served are sometimes called a “tampo party”, proving how ingrained the dish has become in the local culture.
Kiritampo is often served at weddings, important meals, when hosting guests, and other causes for celebration. People visiting Odate after moving to the larger cities often feel that they haven’t returned home until they’ve been treated to bowl of kiritampo.
Authentic Odate Kiritampo Pride
Odate people are extremely proud of their local dish. Nowadays, kiritampo is served all over Japan, but often doesn’t measure up to the high standards held by Odate locals. To truly be considered authentic kiritampo, the stew must be prepared with Hinaijidori chicken and local vegetables. Anything else simply isn’t kiritampo.
For past 47 years, the annual Odate Kiritampo Festival has been held in celebration of the dish. Recently, the festival has been held in the Nipro Hachiko Dome where all of the local restaurants serving the dish gather and compete to be awarded the most delicious.
*There are many “secret recipes” for kiritampo guarded closely my locals. Any recipe passed down by an Odate local can be considered authentic kiritampo.
- Sugae Masumi Yuranki, Okunoteburi (1794): Grilled tampo is made by skewering balls of rice on sharp wooden sticks.
- Hasegawa Iemon, Tenpokikinkenbunki(1834): Tampo: take mashed rice and skewer it on a long wooden stick so it looks like cattail. Roast the rice around the hearth, glaze with miso paste and eat.
- Niida Ichinoseki, Nikkan (1864): The sick were given tampo with chicken and burdock.
- Korigata Kinchu Nikki (1865): I served the guests kiritampo.
- Ono Diary (1887): In the evening, I ate lots of grilled chicken and tampo.
- When the German architect visited Akita City in 1936, he wrote “I was served their most famous dish, kiritampo” while in the Kawabata district. By this time the dish had spread around the prefecture.