As winter begins to ebb and spring slowly brings warmer and longer days, new events along with new seasonal food also begin to sprout up around the Hachinohe Area. Although the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 have delayed some events (such as the Sunday Morning Market which is now set to start in April), many restaurants, sightseeing spots, and stores remain open as usual and are already looking forward to the softer spring days.
What to Eat: Taiyaki
‘Taiyaki’ is a delicious treat made by pouring waffle-like batter into hot fish-shaped molds and then adding a filling of (usually) sweet red bean paste. The treats are made in the shape of red sea bream because the Japanese word for the fish, ‘tai’, is a partial homophone to the Japanese word ‘omedetai’ meaning auspicious or an occasion for congratulations. For this same reason, the redfish motif of the sea bream can often be seen throughout Japanese culture when there is a reason for celebration.
When visiting Hachinohe City, there is a classic place to go to for ‘taiyaki’: the Andou Taiyaki shop. This tiny store is a one-room shop tucked between the Daiwa Hotel and the Hokoruya restaurant in downtown Hachinohe and has been in business since 1966. A Hachinohe institution, the amazingly hospitable owners have served generations of Hachinohe citizens the classic Japanese snacks of ‘taiyaki’.
The ‘taiyaki’ found at Andou have a particularly old-school feel to them. This might come from the classic cast-iron molds that the shop has been using for over thirty years. The golden ‘taiyaki’ that hops off this iron simply can’t be beaten as a sweet, end-of-winter treat.
Those who prefer a more savory snack will not be left out, as right next to the ‘taiyaki’ grill is a simmering pot of ‘oden’. ‘Oden’ is a classic snack where different ingredients are skewered and placed in a lightly-flavored stock to slow simmer for hours. Oden can be found in most convenience stores, but there is something extra satisfying about eating ‘oden’ from a home-run store.
The Andou Taiyaki shop is open every day (except Sunday) from 10:30 to 18:00. The only things warmer than the delicious food served there are the kind and welcoming staff. So, if you find yourself looking for a snack while walking around downtown Hachinohe, be sure to stop by and try this Hachinohe favorite!
What to Do: Visit the Kabushima Shrine
The Kabushima shrine was a picturesque shrine located on a small hill surrounded by the sea. The shrine was dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten, and for centuries local fishermen and townspeople came to pray for good luck in business, fishing, and more. Then, on November 5th 2015, disaster struck when the shrine was destroyed in a fire.
Over the past five years, the shrine has been slowly rebuilt, and come the end of March, it is set to be open to the public again. On March 26th, Kabushima will hold its Annual Festival (the 蕪島神社例大祭) which will mark the shrine’s reopening with a grand ceremony. The shrine is one of the major symbols of the city and many people have watched its progress as it was reconstructed, eagerly awaiting the day when they could once again climb the stone steps that lead up to the shrine perched above the waves. So, come to Kabushima on March 26th to witness this special moment for the city of Hachinohe and its people, or come any day after to take in the wonderful feeling of a great community treasure that has been restored.
What to See: The Hina-Matsuri (Doll Festival) at the Kojokaku
Every year on March 3rd, Japan celebrates the ‘Hina-matsuri’ or ‘Doll’s Festival’. For centuries, parents have celebrated this festival by setting up ornamental dolls with their children with many doll sets being handed down within families as heirlooms.
Currently, at the ‘Kojokaku‘ (a beautiful mansion built over 100 years ago) in Hachinohe City, there is an exhibit featuring over 460 dolls from all over the country. Over the years, the dolls used in the ‘hina-matsuri’ have changed, developing different patterns and styles according to the tastes of the era. The exhibit at the ‘Kojokaku’ lets visitors appreciate the unique differences of several styles while also observing the ornate details of some truly beautiful pieces of art. Some of the sets are over 300 years old!
The exhibit is open every day, 9 AM – 4 PM, until March 20.
For more information on the Kojokaku mansion, click here.