A Local Specialty of Nagoya! 5 Places to Try Tenmusu
There's a lot to do in Nagoya, so you might find while you're there that you need to get some food on the go! If that's the case, you should try a local specialty known as "tenmusu", which you'll find in shops around Nagoya. Let's have a look at what tenmusu is, and 5 places to get some in Nagoya.
Jun 18 2018 (Sep 09 2020)
Tenmusu is a type of onigiri (rice ball) that originates from Nagoya. It is made using rice and shrimp tempura, which are then wrapped in nori (seaweed). The careful balance of rice, shrimp tempura, and nori create a flavor that remind you of the sea. Tenmusu are often eaten as takeaway, and are available from various shops in Nagoya, as well as the rest of the country. It’s also served at a lot of restaurants in Nagoya, so make sure to try one!
Ganso Tenmusu Senju (Nagoya)
The name of this restaurant means “the birthplace of tenmusu”, and as you would expect, they’ve been making tenmusu for quite some time now! This store’s original recipe was conceived around the late 1950s by a housewife who was trying to find a meal that her husband could fit into his busy lifestyle. She stumbled upon the idea of shrimp tempura in a rice ball, and her husband stated that it was surprisingly delicious... and so tenmusu was born!
Ganso Tenmusu Senju are the pioneers of tenmusu. They were the first to use the unique garnish of kyarabuki (stems of butterbur plant boiled in a soy sauce-based soup). This garnish is packed with umami (Japanese savory taste) and helps to offset the simple yet delicious flavors of shrimp tempura, nori, and rice.
The original Ganso Tenmusu Senju is located in Tsu City, the capital of Mie Prefecture. However, due to their success, they have opened a branch at Kintetsu-Nagoya Station, as it is a suitable spot to pick up some tenmusu before catching a train. With such a convenient location, it’s certainly worth trying the original tenmusu, which is a specialty that Nagoya is now famous for!
Jiraiya Main Branch (Morishita)
Walk south for around 12 minutes from Nagoya's Morishita Station to find this store. It opened in 1987 and soon became very popular. There are now over 20 branches all over Japan, so they must be doing something right!
Jiraiya Main Branch boasts of a wide range of tenmusu bento (meal boxes) for takeout. The tenmusu are wrapped in bamboo leaves, which absorb any excess moisture. If you think you've already tried all that tenmusu has to offer, you should try their black rice tenmusu. Black rice is packed with health benefits, and gives the tenmusu a springy texture. Alternatively, they also offer tenmusu containing mustard leaves, which provide a unique texture and a hint of spice that's a perfect accompaniment to the shrimp tempura.
Nigiritate - Kintetsu Pass'e Branch (Nagoya)
Nigiritate means "freshly formed", and at this store, every riceball is made to order, so you can watch someone preparing your food right before your eyes. This place is popular with locals for the value, size, and heartiness of its servings.
Nigiritate offers some limited edition items depending on the season, including tenmusu, but make sure to enquire beforehand to see if they have it in stock. Nonetheless, some say they take a detour to this station just to get something to eat here, so you should definitely check it out if you happen to be at Nagoya Station.
Yukiko Obasan no Daidokoro - Meitetsu Department Store Main Branch (Nagoya)
The main branch of Yukiko Obasan no Daidokoro can be found on the basement floor of the Meitetsu Department Store. They are known for their big portions and good value, making them popular with hungry customers on the go. They offer a variety of staples, such as katsu-don (rice bowl dish with fried pork cutlet). Here, 5 hefty tenmusu will set you back just 300 yen. Although this store might not offer the most refined of tastes, it certainly provides an authentic Japanese one.
Nagoya Daruma (Nagoya)
If you've ever used the long-distance trains in Japan (if you are planning to do so, check out the JR Pass), you will know that ekiben (train station bento) are an essential part of your train journey. Daruma is one of the two biggest ekiben stores in Nagoya Station, jostling with rival chain Matsu-ura for the number one position. Alongside tenmusu, Daruma also offer a selection of impeccably presented bento boxes ranging in price from just 500 yen up to over 2,000 yen.
You'll find the main branch of Nagoya Daruma in Nagoya Station, located on the platform for the JR Tokai Line, where you may find yourself among a crowd of salarymen trying to pick up a bento for their shinkansen (bullet train) journey. Daruma are good luck charms in Japan, used when one sets themselves a goal - so why not set yourself a goal of getting through the crowds and procuring some tenmusu?
There are plenty of other places within Nagoya, as well as across the country, where you can get tenmusu. Even if you don't get a chance to visit any of these stores, you will be able to get some elsewhere. Alternatively, if you're really hungry and want to try out another unique Nagoya dish, you might want to try kishimen. Whatever the case, one thing is for sure - you'll never go hungry in Nagoya!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.