is a type of thick potato and meat soup eaten traditionally in the autumn in the Tōhoku region
of Japan. Yamagata Prefecture
in particular is famous for its imoni, but other prefectures in the region also have their own different varieties.
Imoni is eaten like any soup, primarily during the late summer and early autumn, but is most famous as an outdoor food. In the autumn, groups of people preparing imoni around a fire near a river is considered a sign of the season, and convenience stores maintain a stock of firewood and other supplies just for the occasion.
The different recipes for imoni vary from prefecture to prefecture: for example, inland Yamagata imoni contains beef, sugar
, and soy sauce
and is sweet, while the imoni prepared in the neighbouring prefecture of Miyagi
does not, but includes miso
paste to flavour the soup. Similarly, even the Shonai
region of Yamagata features a pork and miso base rather than the beef and soy sauce base of inland areas of the same prefecture. However, several ingredients are considered standard parts of the recipe:
- Taro root (satoimo)
- Thinly sliced meat, typically beef or pork
- konnyaku, dense jelly made from the konjac plant
- soya sauce
Other ingredients may include Chinese cabbage (hakusai), burdock root (gobō), daikon, carrot, negi (Japanese green onion), mirin sake, tofu, mushrooms - in particular shimeji, hiratake, shiitake, maitake - and region-specific modifications.
In Yamagata Prefecture in particular, and its neighbours in general, imonikai (imoni get-togethers) are an important autumn tradition. Tourists flock to Yamagata for the Autumn Imoni Festival (Akino Imonikai) on the Mamigasaki River in early September, and in 2006 the festival served imoni to over thousands of guests.
Many schools and work organisations in Northern Japan arrange imonikai for their students or employees. Through September and October it is common to see groups of imonikai revellers on the banks of rivers, even near major highways.