From Tokyo To Aomori
In a country brimming with extraordinary technological advancements, the shinkansen may be Japan’s crowning achievement. The bullet train whisks passengers from Tokyo Station into the heart of Tohoku in 90 minutes, as the urban expanse of the world’s largest city gives way to the mountainscapes and coastlines of Honshu’s northern region. We make sure to travel with a hearty supply of ekiben, regional bento boxes that make the journey all the more remarkable.
The beauty of the shinkansen is that it puts all of Tohoku within reach, allowing savvy travelers to stop off in towns and cities for a quick visit or a specific meal before moving on to their final destination. Exhibit A: Morioka, a mid-sized city known for its specialty of wanko soba, a tradition of serving buckwheat noodles in an endless flood of small bowls, a symbol of the generous nature of the local population. Empty your stomach and clear your schedule: you’ll need to eat at least 100 bowls of soba if you want to earn the respect of the locals.
The host at Fugen-In Temple Stay in Oma isn’t your average monk. First of all, he’s not a vegan. In fact, he relishes serving the famous local tuna from Oma to his guests. Also, he drinks—beer and sake and whatever else his guests drink. But the most remarkable part is just how open he is to the outside world, inviting travelers to come spend the night at his temple a few hundred yards from the sea, where he’ll teach you the ways of Buddhism and talk to you (over raw tuna and cold beer) about faith, fraternity and the future of life in rural Japan.
Every sushi chef worth his soy sauce knows that the world’s best tuna comes from Oma, a small fishing village at the very tip of Japan’s main island. Here, the cold waters, open seas, and time-tested fishing traditions mean that only the best tuna is pulled from these waters—rippling with fat, brimming with flavor, and ready to be shipped directly to Tokyo, where it plays a star role in Japan’s massive tuna economy. But for those lucky enough to visit this windswept Tohoku village, they can sample the goods firsthand at Hamazushi Sushi Restaurant, where the sushi master works his way through the whole animal—from lean, rosy loin to rich, marbled belly—to show diners why Oma became so famous in the first place.