Eating in Aomori is a real foodie joy. Its long seacoasts, fertile plains, and rugged mountains provide a real variety of freshest ingredients. It is well worth the nearly four haul up from Tokyo on the comfortable Hayabusa shinkansen bullet train. It is a hike to get up in one day from Western Japan, but it is not impossible, and the change at Tokyo Station is super smooth.
- Aomori City
- Aoni hot-spring
- Tsuta hot-spring
- Sukayu hot-spring
- Kuroishi, Nambu
Foodies Look Out For
Oma Maguro tuna; jappajiru, kenoshiru and senbeijiru rich soups; hotate scallops, awabi abalone, and uni sea urchin as well as other fresh seafood;, Iso ramen; garlic; apples; kake wheat 'sheets'; Nambu futonegi Welsh onions in a nabe hotpot, and daimyoyaki. A form of kaiseki cuisine offering nine dishes: kyusaizen. The remarkable women preserving traditional food and cooking techniques at Akatsuki no Kai.
Foodies Go Aomori
Aomori is famous for its fabulous maguro tuna, still caught using the traditional single line method known as ippon-tsuri off the Northernmost coastal town of Oma. When you see individual tuna being sold at huge expense in the fish auctions at Tsukiji market in Tokyo, the chance are they are Oma maguro. Whilst the largest specimens inevitably get shipped to the capital, there's still plenty to be had in the restaurants of Aomori, generally as sashimi or sushi. If you plan to travel to Aomori, in Oma itself, Maguro Chohomaru is the place to go.
The prefecture is also justly renowned for its hotate-ryori scallop cuisine, with the specimens from Mutsu Bay being especially prized, and eaten as sashimi raw fish or in nabe hotpots. They also find their way into noodle dishes, and are served as kaiyaki miso, with the shell containing scallop and miso, heated over a direct flame, or added to donburi. Nokkedon inside the Aomori Uosai Center at the Furukawa Market in Aomori city is an excellent place to eat the latter.
As a whole, Tohoku is partial to soups, not surprising considering the long, dark winters, and abundance of sea fish and fresh vegetables, and eating in Aomori often involves soup. Its fishermen and farmers thrive onlocal specialty jappajiru, cod soup with daikon seasoned with miso. The excellent, ancient Fujimikan ryotei in Kuroishi is an excellent place to sample this and other Aomori specialities. Read more about Fujimikan in our article 'At the Inn of the Forgotten Geisha'. Foodies wishing to sample unique, traditional Aomori hozon shoku 'preserved foods' (pictured here, below) must visit the women of Akatsuki no Kai in Hirosaki.
Hachinohe is proud of its Nanbu senbei rice-crackers. They are, to be frank, a little dry going just by themselves. Try them served in a hearty broth in the dish known as senbeijiru. Ichigo-ni, 'strawberry soup', is a luxurious broth of uni sea urchin and awabi abalone, served in the ryokan traditional inns and minshuku Japanese ‘B&Bs’ in and around Hachinohe city. Kenoshiru derives from kayushiru meaning 'porridge' and is a miso soup cooked with konsai root vegetables and deep-fried tofu with sansai. It's great in the depths of an Aomori winter.
If you want greatsashimi and sushi, at very reasonable prices in Hachinohe, head to Boteiju. If you are in town on a Sunday, a visit to the Tatehana Wharf asaichi morning market is an absolute must. Go early as it's all over by 9am. Look out for the unofficial mascot, Ikadon, and some real food bargains. The 50 yen nikudango-nabe chickenball hotpot on our last visit was awesome.
Meat lovers will want to check out Towada barayaki beef, grilled with Welsh onions on a hot-plate teppanyaki-style. It is especially famed in and around Misawa. Welsh onions, particularly the large, sweet Nambu futonegi, excellent cooked in a hotpot, or thrust into hot coals as daimyoyaki, are superb, and a specialty of Nambu district. The hotpot may also contain another local favorite, thin sheets of wheat known as kake. These 'noodle wafers' can also be made from soba flour, or be flavored with an addition such as gobo burdock root.
The small port settlement of Hashikami on the Kofunawatari kaigan coast even has its own Ichigoni Matsuri Ichigoni Festival, on the fourth Saturday and Sunday of July, which features communal shiohigari hunting for clams. If you feel like getting away from it all to a mountain hot-spring retreat, Aomori has some great options. Two of our favorites are the electricity-free Ranpu no Yado at Aoni Onsen (great iwana river fish and kenoshiru there), and the single ryokan at Tsuta Onsen. Both have great local food, as does the inn at Sukayu onsen, where you'll find the nation's largest (mixed-bathing) bath. For an altogether more upmarket experience, try the Hoshino resorts' Aomoriya in Misawa. Their Nebuta-themed dinner show is great fun.
The Aomori Budget Gourmet
Check out these cut-price local 'delicacies', of varying quality! Ginger miso oden; Kuroishi Tsuyu Yakisoba; If you are really feeling brave, look out for the Aomori Miso Gyunyu ramen, that mixes miso paste, curry, and milk.
The Ramen Professor Recommends
Iso ramen, means 'coastline ramen', and it is a particular feature of Aomori and Iwate. Originally made with a broth extracted from sobamochi-gai hard clams, these days many fish and shellfish are used. Hachinohe's iso ramen is especially well known. Try it at the Kofunato Shokudo or Kongo Shokudo in Same-machi (literally 'shark town'!).For a ramen and uni splurge, check out Hakou shokudo in the same village, on the coast East of Hachinohe proper. Facing onto Mutsu Bay, in the small hamlet of Mukaitaira, Ramen Shirakaba is, at first glance, unpreposessing, little more than a shack that offers gyunyu milk ramen and hotate scallop ramen. The latter doesn't look especially pretty, but it tastes superb.
In the North-west area of the prefecture, Tsugaru Ramen uses a blend of niboshi dried sardines and shoyu in its broth, with chijirimen thin, wavy noodles, usually topped with healthy portions of menma bamboo. Hirosaki is famed for Niboshi fish-stock ramen. Midoriya in town is good, but if you can, try Takahashi Chuka Soba Ten in Naijo.
FGL Favorite Tipple
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