February brings some of the year’s most anticipated events to the Hachinohe area: the Enburi Festival & the Hachinohe Bouillabaisse Festival. Both events take advantage of the blistering cold winters of northern Japan to create wonderful experiences that cannot be had at any other time of the year. Come let the warmth of Hachinohe’s food, history and culture envelope you, and you’ll soon forget the cold altogether!
What to Eat: Hachinohe Bouillabaisse
Many visitors ask the question of how does a classic of French cuisine became such a celebrated dish in Hachinohe City. Well, the answer is that the Hachinohe Bouillabaisse Festival, while a relatively new tradition in the city, started after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake & Tsunami as a way to reinvigorate and promote the local fishing community.
For the festival, various restaurants and hotels design their unique rendition of the classic French dish of bouillabaisse. So every winter from February to March, the chefs of the city give it their all and create new and fantastic ways to use fresh seafood and other ingredients with the concept of the French dish of bouillabaisse as a template. The catch is that the chefs of these establishments must follow two rules:
(1) The bouillabaisse dish must be prepared with at least four different types of seafood from the Port of Hachinohe. Additionally, locally grown vegetables should be used to the greatest extent possible.
(2) Each restaurant must prepare a secondary dish that utilizes the soup of the bouillabaisse in an original way to create a subsidiary dish.
Following these guidelines, the chefs take a quintessentially French dish and using their skills and creativity, they create food that celebrates Hachinohe and its community. Different restaurants ranging from Italian to traditional Japanese to Portuguese, all utilize their unique influences to produce dishes that are as delicious as they are interesting. The event has grown in scope and popularity, and is now one of the most anticipated culinary events of the year in the Hachinohe Area.
For more information on the event, click here.
What to Do: Watch the Enburi Festival
During Hachinohe’s most famous winter festival, Enburi, groups of traditional folk dancers perform dances to usher in the coming spring. The dances have been passed down for centuries and are absolutely beautiful to watch. From Feb 17 to Feb 20, the festival takes place in different areas scattered throughout Hachinohe at different times.
One of the best times to watch the festival is during the Issei-Zuri portion that takes place on the main street of downtown Hachinohe on Feb 17 from 10:40 to 11:20. During Issei-Zuri, all 30 different Enburi groups perform simultaneously in the city and this event is one of the biggest highlights of the festival. Each group is different in which dances they dance and the way they dance them, creating a unique and entrancing pageant of color and motion throughout downtown.
Another great way to watch the Enburi festival is to watch the Kagari-bi portion that takes place every night during the festival (18:00~, Feb 17-20). During Kagari-Bi, small bonfires are lit, lighting a stage that is placed before the city hall building so that different Enburi troupes can continue to dance deep into the night. The flickering firelight as it reflects off the beautiful decorations of the Enburi dancers creates an ethereal and magical atmosphere that cannot be felt during the day. Food and drink stalls in the area around the stage provide hot beverages and snacks to enjoy while watching the passionate Enburi dancers dance beneath the clear, bright stars of the cold winter night.
Both of these portions of Enburi are free to watch and offer easy access to this wonderful Hachinohe tradition.
For more information about the dances and history of the Hachinohe Enburi Festival, click here.
For more information about the full Enburi Festival Schedule, click here.
What to See: Enburi in the Garden (O-Niwa Enburi)
The Enburi Festival is such a big part of Hachinohe’s culture that it made this list twice. O-Niwa Enburi, or ‘Enburi in the Garden’, is a little bit different than the other Enburi events. On every night of the festival, Enburi dance troupes come and perform in the snow-covered garden of the Kōjōkaku mansion by bonfire-light for a small audience. The Kōjōkaku is a beautiful old mansion in Hachinohe City that was built by a wealthy merchant during the early 1900s. Its classic Japanese architecture lends a poetic atmosphere in which to watch the festival and truly elevates the whole experience.
While viewing the performances of the Enburi dancers up close, guests are also treated to bowls of Hachinohe’s famous local specialty senbei-jiru, a type of chicken and wheat cracker soup, and cups of steaming amazake, a traditional rice beverage. This popular place to view Enburi requires a reservation and tickets ahead of time.
For more information about how to buy a ticket for O-Niwa Enburi, click here.