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Japan's Fascination with 'Naval' Curry! Top 3 Must-try Shops for Yokosuka Curry

Japan's Fascination with 'Naval' Curry! Top 3 Must-try Shops for Yokosuka Curry

Date published: 31 May 2019
Last updated: 3 June 2019

If you’re talking about good food in Yokohama, it’s definitely curry. Even in their official town advertisements, Yokosuka prides itself as a town of curry. But of all things, why curry?

Discover the answer as we introduce the three best out of Yokosuka’s 40-plus curry restaurants. Hopefully you consider paying a visit after reading this article!

Yokosuka: the roots of Japanese curry

Yokosuka: the roots of Japanese curry

While curry has its origins in India, the Japanese style of curry so commonly eaten in households is completely different. Thicker and ample use of meat and vegetables, Japanese curry was conceived here in Yokosuka.

Being a port city, Yokosuka has been developed since long ago as around the navy. During the Meiji era, malnutrition was severe, and many Japanese soldiers were falling sick as a result. After studying the British Navy’s meal plans, they decided to focus on their “curry stew”.

To make it more palatable to the Japanese tongue, they made the texture thicker and adjusted the ingredients to make it more compatible with rice, thus giving birth to the current style of Japanese curry rice.

Receiving overwhelmingly favorable response from the soldiers, the reputation slowly spread throughout the nation and eventually to individual households as well. Interestingly, Japanese sailors have a tradition of eating curry on every Friday to keep track of the time while aboard a vessel.

Yokosuka announcing its status as the “Town of Curry” in 1999

Yokosuka announcing its status as the “Town of Curry” in 1999

In a bid to revitalize the local economy, Yokosuka announced its title the “Town of Curry”. From then on, curry became the soul food of Yokosuka, loved equally by both visitors and the locals.

What is “Yokosuka Kaigun (Navy) Curry”?

What is “Yokosuka Kaigun (Navy) Curry”?

Even for the numerous curry restaurants in Yokosuka, “Yokosuka Kaigun Curry” is particularly famous due to a recipe book about naval cuisine written near the end of the Meiji period (around 1900): the “Kaigun Kappōjutsu Sankōsho”. According to the book, Yokosuka kaigun curry is only complete when served in a set with salad and milk, a combination that can only be found in Yokosuka.

Without further ado, let’s look at some of the best curry shops in the area.

Restaurant 1: Right in front of a naval base: the long-standing curry house “WOOD ISLAND Curry Restaurant”

Restaurant 1: Right in front of a naval base: the long-standing curry house “WOOD ISLAND Curry Restaurant”

When you think of a veteran curry restaurant frequented by many, it’s got to be “WOOD ISLAND Curry Restaurant”, located right in front of the naval base. This is one of the rare eateries that have been around since Yokosuka’s declaration of its title.

The owner, Mr. Shimamori, is one of the central figures within the Yokosuka kaigun curry committee. “I’m the one taste-checking all the flavors. Feel free to ask me anything,” he says. In order to spread the name of 'kaigun curry' even further, Mr. Shimamori involves himself with a lot of activities, from hosting cooking classes in schools in the region and as a result is well-versed in the history and origin of this Japanese soul food.

Above is WOOD ISLAND Curry Restaurant’s “Yokosuka Kaigun Curry Rice” (1,380-yen, tax inclusive).

“Kaigun curry is made by following the recipe from the Kaigun Kappōjutsu Sankōsho, followed by adding chicken or beef, as well diced potatoes, onions and carrots to the roux. After which, it is essential to be served together with salad and milk to complete the set. This was done with the nutritional balance of the sailors’ meals in mind.

While keeping true to this tradition, each individual shop conducts their own trials to make the best curry, so curry tastes different depending on the shop. In my case, it’s like the kind of curry a mother would make at home, with vegetable and meat chunks.

The eatery is particular about a few points. The oddly-shaped curry spoon was designed such that the customer can easily finish a plate of curry without leaving anything behind and can only be found at this shop (sadly the spoons are all right: the spoons are exclusively meant for right-handed use).

They also provide pickled vegetables carefully selected and made by an izakaya, as well as organic coffee, both of which have received favorable impressions. An interesting tidbit: the milk they serve here is made by the same company that provides milk packs for the grade schools and middle schools in Yokosuka, unavailable anywhere else but this shop. Locals would surely find this extremely nostalgic.

The shop’s interior is also decorated with old navy photos, as well a bundle of navy-related goods left by patrons and fans alike, giving the place the air of a museum. Authentic ready-made packed curry and naval coffee are also available for purchase as souvenirs. Not just in flavor or atmosphere, even the staff here are overflowing with warmth here at the WOOD ISLAND Curry Restaurant. Its charm is sure to make you want to come back again.

  • WOOD ISLAND Curry Restaurant
    ウッドアイランド カレーレストラン
    • Address Kanagawa-ken Yokosuka-shi Ōdakichō 1-4
    • Nearest Station 9 minute walk from Yokosuka-Chuo Station
    • Phone Number 046-827-4790

    Hours: 11:30 - 19:00 (Lunch break starts from 14:00 till 15:30)
    Open Daily

Restaurant 2: For the true Yokosuka Kaigun curry experience: “Yokosuka Kaigun Curry Honpo”

Restaurant 2: For the true Yokosuka Kaigun curry experience: “Yokosuka Kaigun Curry Honpo”

After the declaration of Yokosuka’s title as the “Town of Curry”, this curry restaurant was created with the concept of flagship store where you can both purchase the merchandise and eat in at the establishment.

Entering the establishment, you’ll be greeted by a ship interior much like an actual vessel. We were welcomed by Mr. Yokoo, who explains, “We strive to create an environment where customers can enjoy authentic Meiji-era kaigun curry while enjoying the naval ambience.”

The restaurant’s specialty is their curry stew, a replica of the navy’s own recipe. Mr. Yokoo explains, “Originally, curry was seen as a boiled dish. However, to save on water and fuel, curry onboard ships were not boiled over long periods. In the original cookbook they instructed to ‘finely dice the ingredients. This was so that the curry would be cooked as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”

To be in line with the original intention of kaigun curry, the garnish is cut finely and prepared separately from the curry roux before they are mixed together right before being served. Due to the fruits and vegetables added, the curry has a slightly sweet taste to top off the spice.

The “Yokosuka Kaigun Curry Special: Beef or Chicken” (1,300-yen tax inclusive) includes either beef or chicken of your choice, accompanied by milk, salad, grated toppings and an option between coffee or tea as a set.

“At that time, people onboard navy ships would listen to live polka or waltz performances while they enjoyed a cup of coffee or tea,” explains Mr. Yokoo, “we had a specialist pick out background music to play in the shop and even the uniforms here are intentionally designed to have a retro feel.”

The establishment is similar in design to the battleship Mikasa’s interior, as if the entire place slipped through time into the Meiji period.

As a flagship store, it’s no surprise that the first floor is a merchandise area that sells a huge variety of Yokosuka kaigun curry goods. Head up the stairs and you’ll enter the ship-themed restaurant located on the second floor. For those who want to experience eating naval food aboard a ship, this is the closest you’ll get.

  • Yokosuka Kaigun Curry Honpo
    横須賀海軍カレー本舗
    • Address Yokosuka-shi Wakamatsu-chō 1-11-8 YY Port Yokosuka 2F
    • Nearest Station 3 minute walk from Yokosuka-Chuo Station
    • Phone Number 046-829-1229

    Hours: 11:00 - 16:00 (Last Order: 15:30)/11:00 - 20:00 on Weekends and Public Holidays (Last Order: 19:30)
    Open Daily (Closed from January 1st to January 3rd)

Restaurant 3: The original Yokosuka Kaigun Curry Restaurant “Gyorantei”

Restaurant 3: The original Yokosuka Kaigun Curry Restaurant “Gyorantei”

To say that without this restaurant, Yokosuka would not have become famous as the curry town is not an exaggeration. “Gyorantei” is probably the most recognized amongst the many renown curry restaurants in the area.

When the store had to close due to the building deteriorating over time, many mourned the loss of the historical eatery, but due to the owner’s determination in preserving the taste of this curry, the shop reopened half a year later.

“The shop is definitely a lot smaller than before, but I’m happy just being able to protect my uncle and aunt’s recipe.” The owner, Mr. Kurita explains with a smile. Gyorantei started off when Mr. Kurita’s aunt was tasked with replicating the naval curry recipe by the town council.

“Even now I still make the curry the same way, without adding anything unnecessary to my aunt’s recipe.”

Above is the “First Yokosuka Kaigun Curry” (1,000-yen, tax exclusive).

Wagyu beef is carefully stewed with the spicy curry, resulting in an irresistible blend of flavors. One bite and you’ll instinctively wonder, did the Japanese soldiers experience this taste as well?

Apparently nowadays the shop also sells appetizers to go with alcohol, making the place popular as a “curry shop for drinking”. Even before the shop’s temporary closure the establishment was so cozy it was usually filled with employees, giving it a much more intimate and familial feel. It sure makes one happy considering not only was the curry preserved, but the kind environment that gives the place its charm was safeguarded as well.

Even if the shop is in a different location, the flavor will never change. Such is the pioneer of Yokosuka kaigun curry’s pride. They’ve reopened just a short distance away from the station at the well-known drinking quarter “Wakamatsu Market”, packing the same nostalgic flavor and history. While the entrance might be small, the blue sign board is an eye-catching enough sight.

  • Gyorantei
    魚藍亭
    • Address Yokosuka-shi Wakamatsu-chō 3-13
    • Nearest Station 1 minute walk from Yokosuka-Chuo Station
    • Phone Number 046-854-7470

    Hours: 11:30 - 14:00/11:00 - 20:00 on Weekends and Public Holidays (Last Order: 19:30)
    Closed on Tuesdays

Japanese curry, the soul food of the Japanese, at its finest right here in Yokosuka!

The origin of Japanese household’s gentle and familial taste, Yokosuka kaigun curry is a flavor yet to be replicated anywhere else in the world.

The “Yokosuka Kaigun Curry Guidebook” is available in many places around Yokosuka, be it the station or the many curry shops, so do take the opportunity to use it in tandem with this introduction to find the curry shop that fits you the best!

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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