Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you can unearth more culinary treasures spread throughout the country if you venture into the less explored areas.

The Tohoku Region (東北地方) is in the north-eastern part of Japan and it is made up of six prefectures – Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and Yamagata – which are still relatively untouched and boast rich history, culture, and delicacies. The six prefectures invite you to savour a rich offering of tasty treats from fruits to seafood. Join us on a foodie tour of Tohoku as we show you the must-try food from each prefecture.


1. Apples from Aomori 

Aomori apples
Aomori apples | Photo by Aomori Prefecture


Aomori is the kingdom of apples as the prefecture is the biggest producer of apples in Japan. Located in the most northern region of Tohoku, Aomori Prefecture (青森県 Aomori-ken) produces over 50 million tons of apples annually. Aomori’s conducive weather conditions contribute to the remarkable cultivation of high-quality apples.


Aomori apple pies are a must when in Hirosaki City
Photo by Aomori Prefecture


Aomori’s apple headquarters, Hirosaki City (弘前市) is home to Hirosaki Apple Park (弘前市りんご公園) where you can explore a few thousands of apple trees. Aomori’s apple is the gift that keeps giving as it can be used in a mouth-watering range of food and desserts. The fruit is made into yummy and nutritious drinks like juices and cider. If you’re a fan of apple pies, Hirosaki City welcomes you with over 50 apple pie shops that are proud of their flaky, sweet, and zesty apple pies.


2. Hinai Jidori from Akita

Hinai Jidori Chicken Oyakodon
Photo by Akita Prefecture


Akita Prefecture (秋田県 Akita-ken) is famous of its premium grade of chicken, Hinai Jidori (比内地鶏). Celebrated for its outstanding quality and taste, Hinai Jidori chickens are free-range and raised in specific conditions to ensure that they grow naturally and healthily. Hinai Jidori chicken tastes far more superior than normal chicken as its meat is more tender and flavourful. 

Hinai Jidori chicken is used in a variety of cuisines and the different ways of cooking the succulent meat bring out the essence of the meat distinctively. Hinai Jidori chicken is enjoyed as yakitori and in kiritanponabe (きりたんぽ鍋), a traditional hot pot with rice sticks roasted over a fire. Another popular Hinai Jidori dish is oyakodon (親子丼) where the chicken meat shines in this simple bowl of rice covered with tender chicken cooked with soft eggs.


3. Kitakata Ramen from Fukushima 

Kitakata ramen
Photo by photoAC


Did you know that Fukushima is famous for ramen? Kitakata City (喜多方市) tucked in the northern Aizu Region of Fukushima Prefecture (福島県 Fukushima-ken) is one of the top ramen hubs in Japan. It is packed with a high density of ramen shops serving their signature Kitakata ramen (喜多方ラーメン).

Kitakata ramen is distinct from other types of ramen as it uses thick wavy noodles soaked in fragrant shoyu, soy-based broth. This umami-filled bowl of noodles is garnished with sumptuous ingredients like green onions, bamboo shoots, fish cake, and tender roasted pork slices. This hearty dish is enjoyed by the locals even for breakfast. 


4. Wanko Soba from Iwate

Many small bowls as part of the Wanko Soba Eating Challenge
Photo by Iwate Tourism Association and Azumaya 


Morioka (盛岡市), the capital city of Iwate Prefecture (岩手県 Iwate-ken), is known for its “Three Great Noodles” (三大麺 sandaimen) – wanko soba (わんこそば), reimen (冷麺), and jajamen (じゃじゃ麺). While all three noodles are delicious, wanko soba is not just a dish but a culinary experience. 

Wanko is the local dialect for “wooden bowl”. The people of Morioka like to show their hospitality to guests by serving freshly boiled soba in a special local way: serving a small amount of soba in a small bowl. Wanko soba is served in the otebachi (おてばち) tradition where you slurp bite-sized portion of soba in small bowl while your personal food server, Okyuji-san (オコジョさん), tosses fresh soba into your bowl once you finish a portion. 


Wanko Soba eating competition
Photo by Iwate Tourism Association and Azumaya 


The fun and interactive part of the wanko soba experience is to challenge yourself to eat as many bowls as you can. If you accomplish the feat of eating 100 bowls (15 bowls is equivalent to one normal bowl of soba), you’ll be rewarded with the special wooden certificate (手形 tegata). You can participate in in this Iwate eating tradition in specialty restaurants like Azumaya (東家).



5. Sasa Kamaboko from Miyagi 

Sasa kamaboko
Photo by Sendai City Tourism 


When you are in Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県 Miyagi-ken) – apart from the iconic gyutan (牛タン beef tongue) – you must try the popular local delicacy, sasa kamaboko (笹かまぼこ). This signature food of Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi, also called sasakama, is a grilled fish cake made in the shape of sasa, bamboo leaves. It’s named after the bamboo leaf design of the family crest of the Date family, an influential family who were lords of the former Sendai clan. 

In the past, people preserved fish by making minced meat paste and this is the origin of sasa kamaboko. You can find kamaboko shops all over the city and even in Matsushima (松島). Matsushima Kamaboko Honpo (松島蒲鉾本舗) is a long-running establishment that specialises in fresh sasa kamaboko and seafood products. Here you can try grilling your fish cake and enjoy it piping hot on the spot. 


6. Tama Konnyaku from Yamagata

Tama konyaku
Photo by Yamagata Prefecture 


This dango-like snack is the soul food of Yamagata Prefecture (山形県 Yamagata-ken). Tama konnyaku (玉こんにゃく) is made of konnyaku or konjac made into tama, which means balls in Japanese, and boiled in savoury soy sauce broth. The well-seasoned ball-shaped konnyaku are skewered on a bamboo stick and served with a dash of Japanese mustard. 


This is a healthy and tasty snack as konnyaku contains almost zero calories and it aids digestion because of its soluble fibre content. You can enjoy this delectable snack without feeling guilty. A local’s favourite, tama konnyaku is usually sold in stalls that pop up at festivals. It’s such a comforting treat to savour this hot snack during winter. 


Enjoy More Delicacies from Tohoku with JAPAN RAIL CLUB

Tasty Tohoku Treats Omiyage Snack Box by JAPAN RAIL CLUB

Get ready to try more food delights from the Tohoku region in Japan with JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s March Omiyage Snack Box “Tasty Tohoku Treats”. This exclusive snack box is curated by our local staff from Japan who are passionate about sharing the best of Tohoku with you. 

This month’s snack box features squid rice crackers from Iwate, dried sardine and salted rice crackers from Yamagata, Fukushima’s fresh dried peach, and hand-grilled rice crackers by our Maker of the Month, Kanaeya (鼎家) from Akita.

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