In a small two-story building near the center of the town of Sannohe, the Oyamada Senbei shop has been making its famous Nanbu senbei for over 100 years. Passed down from generation, the shop opened in 1917 and made hand grilled senbei in single cast-iron molds one at a time. In 1936 the shop installed a hand-cranked grilling machine to keep up with its demand and has been using this system ever since to grill fresh Nanbu senbei.
Nanbu senbei is a type of Japanese wheat cracker that has been part of the staple diet and backbone of culture in the Hachinohe Area for hundreds of years. At the Oyamada Senbei Shop, they are made from for simple ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder, and water only. The dough is then cut and placed in piping hot cast iron molds that cook them to perfection as a worker’s hand cranks them through a gas iron grill. Once the finished crackers are cooled, they are trimmed to perfect circles, stored and packaged. Not to let any of the senbei go to waste, the trimmings are also collected, packaged, and sold. These trimmings are known as ‘mimi’ or the ears of the senbei and are many people’s favorite part. The Oyamada shop usually makes over 7,500 senbei a day in a variety of different toppings, from peanuts to wild sesame seeds.
The 3rd generation and current owner, Mr. Oyamada, works with his wife, daughter, and employees every day of the year to continue bringing fresh senbei to the people of Sannohe and the greater Hachinohe Area. Although the senbei can be purchased in surrounding supermarkets, making the trip to the Oyamada Senbei shop is highly recommended. Besides being able to see this amazing scene of community and culture at work, customers can order hot Nanbu senbei straight from the irons, as well as try the elusive tenpo senbei. Tenpo senbei is different than regular senbei because it is softer, fluffier, and more like bread than a cracker. Because of the high water content and fragility of its taste, tenpo senbei are not packaged for sale and are only available when directly purchased from senbei shops. What makes the tenpo senbei from the Oyamada Senbei shop so different even among other shops that have tenpo senbei, is that costumers can order the senbei in varying degrees of thickness. From paper-thin to as thick as a pancake, these hot treats are famous for being the best senbei in the area.
Whether enjoyed at home or straight from the shop, a Nanbu Senbei from the Oyama Senbei Shop is the perfect snack. A piece of the Hachinohe Area’s culture and history that can be enjoyed anywhere and anytime.