B-class food festival in Shiga
Shiga’s 1st B-grade (B-kyu) Gourmet Battle (第1回 滋賀B級グルメバトル) was held in Otsu on July 30-31, 2011 on the Hama-Otsu lakefront from 3 pm to 9 pm. B-grade or B-class gourmet (B-kyu in Japanese) is food that is cheap and aimed at the working class. It also includes good ‘ol home cooking. The event had food booths serving cheap food using homegrown ingredient(s) from Shiga such as Omi-gyu beef, red konyaku (devil’s tongue), and fish from Lake Biwa. It was a “battle” or contest where the food booths would receive popular votes from customers. The food festival turned out to be wildly popular with a total of 120,000 people attending over the two-day period.
They had 60 food booths lined up along the lakefront at Hama-Otsu near the port. The official Web site listed and explained all the food booths and I had already picked out my must-try list of food. I went on the second day in late afternoon, but already numerous food booths had sold out. That was heart-breaking. Not only that, many of the food booths which were still open had very long lines. So I had throw out my favorites list and just try whatever I could. People who came during dinner time had very slim pickings.
There was hardly any crowd control and it was haphazard to break through the long lines to access the food booths further down the lakefront. But I did manage to find some food booths which were still open with short lines. I was delighted that even the less popular booths (or those which had plenty to serve) had some great-tasting food. Most of what I tried had a unique taste, something very original. Cheap and tasty. The food was priced from 100 to 500 yen, and we had to buy 100-yen tickets to buy any food. The food was cheap, and I wanted to try as much as my stomach could handle. I ended up using 2,000 yen worth of food tickets. Normally, I would never spend that much for a meal, but I thought it was well worth it.
As far as I can tell, all of the food vendors did not come from any established restaurant. They were local non-profit groups who happened to have a local recipe. Too bad because I would love to know where I can eat the stuff I missed. We could also vote for our favorite food booth (it was a gourmet contest) by throwing the wooden chopsticks into the trash bin for that booth. They would weigh the bag of chopsticks and the heaviest one wins.
I’m sure this B-class food fest will be an annual thing. And it would be great if other areas in Shiga would hold their own B-class food festivals. Like in Hikone, Nagahama, and Takashima. I’m sure it would be very popular. I just wish it wasn’t held in summer. It’s just too hot to stand in line and be in a large crowd. Autumn would be the best time.
Better yet, they should build a restaurant complex or food court exclusively for Shiga’s B-grade food vendors and open year round. It would be a sure bet. I mean at a B-grade food festival, we can only try a very limited variety of food because of limited room in our stomachs. But if there were a place where we could eat B-grade food on a regular basis, we would be able to try everything and have it more often.
It reminds of me of the Ramen Museum near Shin-Yokohama Station in Yokohama. It has a bunch of ramen shops from all over Japan in one building decorated in a vintage motif from the year 1958. A B-grade Gourmet Food complex in Shiga having a unique Shiga decor and cheap food would be a major hit. It would be a great place to promote Shiga and its products. Imagine if there were B-class food booths in lonely Otsu Station. Or how about at local matsuri and events? Instead of the same and boring food booths we always see, B-class food booths would be cheaper and more healthy. Food for thought…