Where Did Japanese Curry Originate? The Complete Guide in Kanagawa 2021

Regarding the introduction of curry to Japan, no exact data available. Various theories exist as to the true origin of Japanese curry, such as possibly Hokkaido or Yokohama city in Kanagawa prefecture. However, we will try to describe one perspective, the Yokohama theory here.

American Commodore, Matthew Perry landed his ships in Kurihama, which is currently part of Yokosuka city, in 1853 and opened Japan to the world after centuries of isolation. He was one of the first Westerners that the Japanese people came in contact with. In 1858, the Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed, opening five ports, Hakodate, Niigata, Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagasaki, and thus, trading began. Yokohama, which had been a solitary fishing village, developed as a gateway to foreign countries since the opening of the port. Spices and curry powders were introduced along with Western food cultures such as milk, bread, and ice cream.

Commodore Perry’s portrait, Arrival of the Black Ships, Hajime Tateyama, 1934, National Diet Library 

Consulates and foreign settlements, were established by the Japanese government to allow foreigners to live and work, and thus, many Westerners came to Japan. Farms and ranches were built, bakeries, ice cream salons, and various western restaurants were opened, introducing many western cuisines. At the beginning of the Meiji era, the Japanese Navy was suffering from a serious lack of nutrients due to a diet consisting mainly of white rice and was plagued by the occurrence of beriberi, a type of vitamin deficiency disease.

As a solution, the Japanese Navy introduced curry, a nutritious food containing meat and vegetables, which was eaten by the British Navy at that time. Curry was thickened with flour to prevent spills at sea, and rice was combined with it instead of bread to make curry and rice. This reduced the nutritional deficiency of the Japanese Navy. The combination of curry and rice was also a good match for the Japanese and quickly became popular in the Navy. Afterward, retired Japanese soldiers spread this navy-style curry rice throughout Japan, and it can be considered one of the roots of Japan’s current curry rice.

As a new cuisine that came from the West, it was classified as yōshoku -Western food by the Japanese.
American cook,Ichikawa Yoshikazu (Japanese, 1830-1864)(Printmaker), From The New York Public Library.

Kanagawa Prefecture has three major curry areas, Kamakura, Yokohama, and Yokosuka. They are popular tourist destinations -not only for curry but also very nice places for a One Day trip from Tokyo!

Perfect Guide: The Holy Curry Land of Kanagawa

King of Curry: Sangoshō 

  • Style: European

This is a long-established curry restaurant with the mood and feel of Hawaii, a favorite vacation spot for Japanese people. The curry flavors have not changed since 1972, which consists of a large variety of fresh vegetables, seafood from the local ocean, free-range chicken, and Hamatone (pork raised exclusively in a local piggery). The roux is full of the richness and depth using butter and milk. The must-order side dishes are charcoal grilled ribs, garlic and herb turban snails, garlic french fries, and roasted potatoes with anchovies.

Rather than the main restaurant, we recommend the Moana Makai location on Route 134 by the ocean. The curry is served on the terrace with a view of the seaside which is the ultimate dining experience.

Price$$
Original location: 3-1-2 Shichirigahama Higashi, Kamakura, Kanagawa
Moana Makai :1-3-22 Shichirigahama, Kamakura, Kanagawa 

The Best Curry overall in Kanagawa.”

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A true homage to the classic beef curry: Caraway

  • Style: European

The super thick textured roux is enriched with extracts from thoroughly cooked beef, the sweetness of apples, carrots, and onions, and the deep flavor of tomatoes. It comes with a salad, and four types of Japanese pickles referred to as tsukemono. This restaurant is located on Komachi-dori, a tourist spot in Kamakura, which continues to deliver the excellence of the classic European-style curry. Opened in 1977, this curry store offers excellent curry at a price under the US $10 that has not changed much since then, despite its prime location now being a tourist spot.

Price$
2-12-20 Komachi, Kamakura City, Kanagawa

A 1970s-style curry that makes you feeling nostalgic.”

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The Steak Lovers Curry: Alpin Jiro

  • Style: Indian curry evolving uniquely in Japan

A famous steak curry restaurant is recommended for steak lovers. The silky soupy curry, which contains no flour at all, is completely different from the famous soup curry in Hokkaido. The deep and rich roux that fills your mouth is created from 14 different spices and is based from Indian cuisine. It takes two full days of simmering the curry and then two days of so-called hibernation to produce the unique mellowness and flavor of the curry. Large chunks of meat for the curry are grilled on the griddle and served super juicy & delicious. In addition to the beef sirloin & tenderloin, they also offer a wide range of meats such as Wakadori -chickens between 3 and 5 months old. These Alpen Jiro’s exclusive young chickens feed on 16 kinds of herbs and spices. And they also use other meats such as locally produced pork called Yamayuri, Kyoto-bred duck called Kyogamo. The rice is Koshihikari from Sugiyama Farm, whose water source is one of the famous springs in Japan, the Shonisawa River.

Price$$
3-26, Yayoi-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama City, Kanagawa

For meat lovers, this is where to find your steak fix in Yokohama.”

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Fresh Herb Curry Remedy: OXYMORON

  • Style: An Indian style curry transformed in Japan

The specialty menu item is the Ethnic Soboro Curry, which uses fresh herbs to enhance the flavor of the pork to the maximum. Four kinds of herbs are placed around the plate: Cilantro, shiso leaves, aromatic green onions, and mitsuba known as Japanese wild parsley! Fresh Herbs and keema (ground beef) that tastes better together! 

Price$$
1-5-38, Yukinoshita, Kamakura City, Kanagawa 

The flavor of the ground pork keema is tremendous.

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One of the Roots of Japanese Curry, Yokosuka Navy Curry

There is a unique style of local gourmet curry in Kanagawa called “Yokosuka Navy Curry”. The original recipe was restored from the Navy Cooking Reference Book in Japanese, published in 1908. It states it can only be served in Yokosuka and it traditionally comes with a salad and milk.

Navy Cooking Reference Book 海軍割烹術参考書 (1908)
Curry is representative of the Navy’s gourmet cuisine, as well as beef stew, chicken rice, and other Western dishes.

Authentic taste: Yokosuka Navy Curry Honpo

  • Style: European

Honpo’s navy curry is made with a very small amount of flour and thickened with vegetables and fruits. In one of the curry dishes called the Yokosuka Navy Chicken Cutlet Big Curry Gun, the color of the roux is completely black and comes with a huge chicken cutlet. The total weight of the dish is 2 kg/4.4 lbs which is abnormally large, but if you are really very very hungry, you should go for it! 

Price$$
2F, 1-11-8 wakamatsu, Yokosuka.Yokosuka

Eat well to perform well, like sailors!

Our members comment…

Curry is iconic in Japan. A walking curry tour is popular and a must for curry lovers not only in Tokyo but in Kanagawa as well. Find your favorite taste & style of J-curry!

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