The doorway to Aomori. The city with a little bit of everything.
Aomori Prefecture, in northern Japan, is filled with breathtaking nature. However, its second-largest city, Hachinohe, will convince any nature lover to take off their hiking boots for a second and enjoy the city. This city of more than 230,000 people is surrounded by the sea, mountains and forests, yet also has loads of restaurants, bars and cafes making it an exciting home base.
Seafood and nightlife in Hachinohe
Hachinohe’s sea-faring past is alive at Hasshoku Center, the indoor version of the Tatehana Wharf Morning Market. There are around 60 stalls at the market selling almost everything imaginable like fresh seafood, alcohol and vegetables.
Don’t leave Hasshoku Center without trying its most mouth-watering section: Shichirinmura grill area. It’s right next to market and only costs ¥300. All you have to do is say how many people, and buy the ingredients from a vendor, who will prepare them upon request. You can buy all types of incredibly fresh seafood here like shrimp, crab, salmon, octopus, squid, Hachinohe’s famous mackerel and more. (Of course, using Japanese is easier on the vendors, but gestures and pointing communication can also get it done!)
At night, Hachinohe’s downtown is exploding with energy with narrow alleyways full of restaurants and izakaya. Spice up your night with a culinary adventure and try foods like motsu (animal intestines), seaweed salad and basashimi (raw horse meat) — a local delicacy.
Miroku Yokocho is for sure the most popular spot. It’s a small side street hosting over 20 tiny bars each fitting only about 10 people. Each has its own personality and backstory. One recommendation is to go to a place called Ajinomen Takumi (味のめん匠) for Hachinohe-style Ramen, and then the nameless pink stall right next door for drinks. For a short time, stalls can feel like one big group of friends from all the laughing, drinking and every once and a while, singing.
There’s also cafes, sleepy jazz bars, South-Asian-style restaurants and on every corner at least one ramen stand. One stand to try is Isshintei Ramen (ラーメン一心亭 八戸分店).
Nature in Hachinohe
Hachinohe’s crowning natural beauty is the Michinoku Coastal Trail, a hiking path spanning the east coast of Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures. It weaves past beaches, shrines and look-out spots all while hugging the Pacific Ocean. Dramatic views of cliffs, inlets, and the sea decorate this trail throughout its 200-kilometer length. It’s perfect for a stroll, day hike, or a scenic bike ride.
Hachinohe’s section of the trail starts at Kabushima Shrine and finishes at Tanesashi Coast, which is home to thousands of Black-Tailed Gulls, Kabushima Shrine’s bright vermillion beautifully contrasts the blue water surrounding it. Tanesashi Coast is a green pasture full of space to run around, have a picnic, or just relax, especially during the orange twilight hours.