Check It Out

No.157 (2/12/10)

The Local Products of Aomori Prefecture

By Keiko H. Johnson
Staff Writer

Aomori -- the northern most point of Honshu Island of Japan, by definition means green forest, as its name of the prefecture. As its name implies, the greatest nature of Oirase and Shirakami Sanchi, the white goddess mountain, which is certified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its preserved area of beech trees, surrounds the area. The prefecture is blessed with natural springs and the soil suitable for planting vegetables, thus, the ocean and the streams around the area contributes to the reproduction and their growth of oceanic living things. Such gifts of nature contribute to the prefecture’s succeeding in becoming one of the foremost agricultural lands and the seafood kingdom of Japan.

Many products grown or captured in Aomori are distributed not only to the local areas but also does it fill of the markets in the southern areas of Honshu Island. Apples, for instance, are the most popular product, which are known as prefectural icons among the country of Japan. Tsugaru, Sun Fuji, Sekaiichi, Mutsu, Orin, and Fuji are the popular brands of Aomori apples. The harvest season of these apples begin in October and end in mid-November. Tsugaru and Sekaiichi apples are harvested at the beginning of Oct. The sweet and rich texture of these apples is delicious as they are consumed fresh. Mutsu brand apples are also enjoyed fresh but are more suitable when processed or cooked. Orin brand, normally are called and known as green apples. Its sweet texture and refreshing aroma is widely enjoyed by many. Fuji apples may sound familiar to the ears of many when speaking of Japanese apples. This brand is harvested toward the end of November. The Fuji brand tends to keep its freshness and last relatively longer after being detached from the tree compared to other brands of apples. As well as apples, other vegetables produced in Aomori, such as; Naga-imo yams, garlic, burdock, and wild mushrooms fill the shelves at the markets all over Japan.

Aomori is also known to be rich in fresh seafood since the ocean surrounds the area on three sides. Quantity of the catch of squid in Aomori marks the highest among all of Japan. Scallops (Hotate) from Mutsu Bay, and Blue Fin Tuna (Hon Maguro) from Oma are particularly famous for their quality and for their taste. The prices of these delicacies from Aomori at the market are marked particularly high, yet these are the foods which are worth trying while you are visiting Aomori. I noted the most popular products of Aomori on the list below.

Vegetables, Fruits & Wild Mushrooms:
Burdock (Gobou): Long and thin brown roots, used for soups, salads (cooked), and stir-fry dishes.
Shimeji: these mushrooms have a grayish dark brown top with a white stem, used for stir-frying and “table top” soup dishes (Sukiyaki, soup with chicken broth, vegetables, and deep-frying dishes).
Maitake Mushrooms: have a gray top with a white stem and are suitable for Nabe dishes (a soup dish cooked at your table), deep-frying, and stir-frying.
Nameko Mushrooms: Light brown, slimy texture, used for Miso soup, and salads.

Squid: Deep fried squid is the most popular way of eating squid in the States, but Sashimi is the most popular way to eat fresh squid in Japan.
Scallops: Throw them on the grill, add butter, and sprinkle an optimal amount of soy sauce on top when the shells open. The large meat is suitable for deep frying as well. Hokki Shellfish?White meat with red color on the edge, usually boiled before serving.

Enjoy these gifts of nature while you are in Japan. Although some of them may not look so appealing to you, you may find they are quite delicious. If you are interested in the culture of Japan, trying their food may become the first step to unlocking the door to a new discovery, since the food is believed a big part of their culture.

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