Nov 11
2017

Exploring Hachinohe, Japan

in Travel

Sponsored by the JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization).

Hachinohe, Japan

Hachinohe, Japan

Before leaving Aomori Prefecture, we made a quick stop in Hachinohe, Japan.  Hachinohe is the second largest city in Aomori Prefecture and sits on the southeast coast of Aomori Prefecture, facing the Pacific Ocean.  Hachinohe was one of the cities hit by the March 2011 tsunami, which picked up huge boats and set them down on top of docks and roads and destroyed about 100 homes.

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Hachinohe Shuzo Sake Brewery Tour

Hachinohe Shuzo Sake Brewery

Our first stop in Hachinohe was the Hachinohe Shuzo Sake Brewery, established in 1775.  We toured the storage facilities and learned some of the history of the brewery.  The wooden building where the sake is stored was built more than 100 years ago ad is designated as a National Tangible Cultural Property and a Prefectural Important Scenic Building.

Brewery Sake Tasting

The tour ended with a tasting of their different varieties of sake.  Although I don’t drink alcohol, it was fascinating to learn about the process.  Rice is such an important part of Japan’s cultural and sake (a rice product) is one part of that history.  If you happen to visit this area you can take a short tour of the facilities and do a tasting.  The Japanese government also just passed a new tax exemption program, effective starting last month,  which exempts certain alcohol purchases from the consumption tax as well as the liquor tax.  You can find out more here if you are interested.

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Kabushima Island

Kabushima Island

Kabushima Island is a small island off the coast of Hachinohe which is the breeding ground for 40,000 black-tailed seagulls.

Black-tailed Seagulls of Kabushima Island

It was overcast and raining during our visit, so not many birds were out.  We stopped briefly in the little nature center near the path that leads to the island to learn about the birds.  Our guide pointed to a viewing porthole a small flight of stairs and explained that I could go out and look through it to get a good view of the gulls.  A picture of one of the gulls taped to the glass peering in at me gave me a good giggle.  We were each given a small origami black-tailed seagull when we left.

Kabushima Shrine

The island is also the home of the Kabushima Shrine.  This shrine was originally built in 1296.  It defied the odds and survived the tsunami in 2011, giving it a special place in the hearts of the residents of Hachinohe.  Sadly the pavilion was burned to the ground in a fire in November 2015 and the island is now closed for restoration.

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Hachinohe Park Hotel Bouillabaisse

Hachinohe Bouillabaisse Festa

Hachinohe holds an annual festival that lasts from February 1st until March 31st called the Hachinohe Bouillabaisse Festa.  Hachinohe is known for its high quality seafood, especially during the winter, and bouillabaisse, a seafood stew from the south of France, has become a local specialty as a way to highlight their seafood.  Restaurants participate in the festival by putting their own version of bouillabaisse on the menu for customers to try.  There are only two rules:

  1. The restaurant must use at least 4 types of seafood caught in the waters of Hachinohe.
  2. The restaurant must also make a second dish that uses the bouillabaisse broth so that the bouillabaisse can be “enjoyed twice.”

This year there were 17 restaurants that participated!  We went to the Hachinohe Park Hotel to experience their bouillabaisse.

Hachinohe Bouillabaisse Festa

Their second dish was a risotto, cooked with the bouillabaisse broth.

 

If you are in the Hachinohe area during February or March, this would definitely be a fun event to check out!  If you are in Hachinohe during a different time of year, some of the restaurants will make bouillabaisse, including the Hachinohe Park Hotel, if you make advance reservations.

If you want to see a bit more, check out this video!

COMING NEXT: Hakodate City, Hokkaido, Japan

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*Disclosure: The Japan National Tourism Organization sponsored my trip and is also compensating me for my time in writing this blog post.  All experiences and opinions are my own!

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