24 Oct 2019 in Discover Japan
From a spectacular coastal trail to a sprawling morning market, this northern city offers plenty of surprises.
Located in the north of Honshu, Hachinohe City is Aomori Prefecture’s second biggest city. Chances are you’ve never heard of it. Or, at best, it’s a place where you once changed trains. And yet, it has plenty to offer.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better street food experience than the city’s extraordinary Tatehana Wharf Morning Market.
Or to find a more varied and unspoiled coastal path than the beautiful Tanesashi Coast. On top of that, the city is known for its bustling nightlife and vast indoor fish market. Where better to experience urban Japan at its most authentic?
Getting to Hachinohe City is simple thanks to its well-connected railway station. There’s a direct shinkansen line to Tokyo (3 hours) and the station is also just 20 minutes from Misawa station, near to Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya.
This hot spring resort makes a great base for exploring Hachinohe City on a day-trip.
Set in a lakeside park dotted with typical thatched-roof houses, the resort celebrates local Aomori culture through its cuisine, horse ranch and lively performances recreating the exuberant Nebuta festival.
Early morning market
If your schedule is flexible, head to Hachinohe City very early on a Sunday.
Because one of the absolute highlights is the Tatehana Wharf Morning Market, held every Sunday mid-March to late December. The market gets going at dawn, and by 6am, thousands of people are queuing at the 300-plus stalls for freshly-cooked gourmet food. This is Japan’s biggest morning market, attracting over 10,000 people on a single Sunday.
By 9am, the whole market shuts down – so it’s well worth the effort of coming early to soak up the atmosphere and treat your taste buds to a spectacular breakfast. Unsurprisingly for a port city, seafood is a speciality.
Locals flock to the Sakana Kobo Katsura stall, where sticks laden with seafood are charcoal-grilled on a rotating sunken hearth. Other stalls serve the likes of oshizushi (pressed sushi) croquettes, deep-fried mackerel, and Hachinohe Senbei-Jiru, a soy sauce-based soup packed with mushrooms, chicken and chewy senbei rice crackers.
You can wash it all down with a cup of speciality black garlic coffee!
All-day fresh fish
If you’re not an early riser or you’re a dedicated foodie, Hachinohe City’s other must-taste experience is the indoor Hasshoku Center. Located 6 miles from the port, the Center can be reached by local bus.
The complex features more than 60 stalls proffering Hachinohe culinary specialities.
At Shichirin-mura, you can ask for your freshly-purchased fish or meat to be prepared for you. The Center is also great for gift-hunting, especially if you’re a sake connoisseur. Upstairs, there’s a vast play area for kids.
Surprisingly for a big city, Hachinohe’s other must-see spot is a coastal path with spectacular ocean views, epic beaches and flower-strewn grasslands.
Stretching 7.5 miles along a rugged section of the Pacific Coast, the Tanesashi Coast is easily reached by local train.
The Information Center at Tanesashi Kaigan (35 minutes from Hachinohe station) is a good starting point to explore the trail on foot or by the Umineko bus, which stops at the main points of interest.
Walking from Tanesashi Kaigan back into town shortens the trail to around 5 miles. You’ll start at the vast grasslands of the Tanesashi Natural Lawn before heading into the 100-year-old Yodo-no-Matsubara pine grove and crossing the vast Osuka beach. Expect sweeping views of craggy ocean-swept islands and colourful flowers blanketing the cliffs and hillsides: more than 650 varieties are said to grow here.
The trail ends at Kabushima Island. From March to August, this tiny rocky island is awash with black-tailed gulls. Around 30,000 of them come here to nest every year – and the noise is deafening! The gulls are known for their monogamy and, appropriately enough, the island’s shrine is dedicated to relationships and matchmaking.
Back in town, why not reward yourself with a drink?
The city’s Miroku Yokocho street is home to some 26 tiny restaurants and drinking holes, the perfect place to discover another facet of this surprising city.