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Kitami Yakiniku Barbecue

If the thought of tender slices of meat and sweet onion grilled over a charcoal stove has your mouth watering, a trip to the city of Kitami in eastern Hokkaido is in order. Here, more than seventy barbecue restaurants serve a population of some 12,000 people—the highest per capita among Hokkaido's larger cities, earning it the reputation of the "town of yakiniku." Beloved by locals, these eateries offer mouthwatering fare and a window into Kitami's lively culinary culture.

Take a stroll through the city center and be tantalized by the aroma of grilled meat wafting through the streets. Simply follow your nose into one of the many establishments and sit down to a meal of fresh meat and vegetables cooked to perfection. Though each shop serves its own unique menu, the Kitami region is particularly known for its excellent beef sagari (hanging tender) and pork offal. Savor the juicy morsels of meat just as they are, or dip them into the chef's special barbecue sauce, often with hints of fruit and onion to accent the meat’s natural juices.

Literally meaning "grilled meat" in Japanese, yakiniku has become a mainstay dish of Kitami cuisine since the first stall sprung up near Kitami Station in 1950. With fresh meat from a local processing plant readily available, barbecue restaurants gained in popularity for their delicious, affordable fare. There's even an annual festival held each February to celebrate Kitami's barbeque culture. On a mid-winter evening, when temperatures can drop below minus ten degrees Celsius, locals and visitors alike gather to eat outdoors, their hearts and bellies warmed by tasty meat, toasty stoves, and buoyant celebratory spirit. 

Of course, a meal at any one of Kitami's yakiniku restaurants is a treat in any season. A quintessential communal experience, what better way to get to know the locals than sharing a feast and stories around a flaming barbecue.

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