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  • So I'm just walking, just having a stroll, through the city of Hirosaki

  • in North Japan and coming up, just randomly, ahead is a tortoise.

  • Sort of exciting, surprising, bizarre things you... sometimes see everyday

  • whilst walking around Japan.

  • Japan is home to arguably the finest cuisine in the world.

  • Prepared with the very freshest ingredients.

  • At the hands of highly disciplined skilled chefs.

  • I recently won a competition with Tohoku 365, to travel around the entire northern region of Tohoku.

  • Through six different prefectures in search of the very best local food.

  • So far we've explored local dishes in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures

  • and this time we're going to be traveling around Aomori.

  • The most northern region of Japan's main island of Honshu.

  • Where we'll be uncovering an unusual local ramen dish, trying some delicious gyoza with Natsuki,

  • as well as the largest pieces of sushi I've ever had with Ryotaro.

  • And also randomly coming face to face with a shark and a tortoise

  • which sounds like some sort of fable.

  • But our first stop is Aomori city.

  • The capitol of the region and famous for being the city with the highest levels of snowfall on the planet.

  • So thank God we didn't come here in winter.

  • Aomori has some of the freshest seafood in all of Japan.

  • As it's one of the only prefectures along with Hokkaido, that has coastlines of both the Sea of

  • Japan and the Pacific Ocean and our first stop is the Furukawa Fish Market,

  • The city's main market. Which is apparently devised an innovative way of

  • getting customers in to buy more fish.

  • So this is Furukawa Fish Market in Aomori City

  • and it's a fish market with a bit of marketing savvy they're very

  • clever, because they worked out they can get people to come here by having this

  • kind of voucher system whereby you get the book of vouchers and then you can

  • make your own fish bowl. They call it Nokkedon. "Nokke" means: in the very beginning.

  • "Don" means bowl of rice.

  • and so you get your vouchers, get your bowl of rice,

  • and you go around the market and pick out the fish that you want to have

  • on your rice then you sit down eat it and have lots of fun.

  • So got my two bowls of rice. One for me, one for the lovely, pleasant cameraman. Who is anonymous...

  • Used two coupons for that, little bit annoying, but still quite a few left.

  • I bought 15 in the end, because I'm quite hungry, so now for the fun bit.

  • I'm gonna get one of these.

  • This is shredded tuna.

  • [Shopkeep] Thank you.

  • [Shopkeep] Welcome.

  • [Chris] Tamagoyaki [Shopkeep] Tamagoyaki? Just this?

  • [Shopkeep] Okay.

  • Earlier on I saw some really good tuna down here.

  • But we're down to our last five coupons now, so we've got be careful.

  • Feel a bit like when you have the last hand grenades on Call of Duty.

  • You don't wanna use it, you want to save it.

  • Something really special.

  • [Shopkeep] Here you are.

  • [Chris] Thank you. Finished! [Shopkeep] You're welcome.

  • That was quite fun and I think, I think coupons make everything better, don't they.

  • Look at that, beautiful. I'm big on my tuna.

  • I'm a simple man. I just like tuna, and salmon, and egg.

  • I'm not that daring when it comes to trying fish but uh...

  • Fantastic.

  • Aomori is pretty close to the island of Hokkaido

  • and the dish at our next stop is heavily influenced by its island neighbor.

  • A ramen dish known only as Miso Curry Milk Ramen.

  • It may sound like a dish conceived

  • by someone under the influence of alcohol, but Hokkaido is famous for its

  • dairy produce and curry soup. Two key ingredients that have gone into this

  • unique bowl of ramen.

  • The soup is mildly spiced with curry and a slice of butter is placed on the

  • bean sprouts and pork. Which quickly melts away into the soup.

  • It tastes like...

  • curry...

  • soup. I guess.

  • Albeit not too spicy. It's a sort of dish I'd maybe every other week if I

  • lived in Aomori city, but it's certainly pretty unique. I've never seen anything

  • like it. In my time in Japan, so far.

  • Hachinohe on the Pacific coast is

  • Aomori's second biggest city and it's here that we catch up with Ryotaro

  • who introduces us to two iconic local dishes.

  • The magazine called Birders,

  • actually chose 12 meals, 12 great meals out of all Japan, and this mackerel

  • sushi was chosen as one of them.

  • And Mackerel is actually... this Hachinohe is famous for

  • its quality of the mackerel and this actually I can tell, this is the best

  • place the way you should eat mackerel.

  • [Chris] It's ridiculously thick [Ryotaro] It is actually ridiculously thick.

  • [Chris] That's a horror film face.

  • [Ryotaro] Mmm!

  • [Ryotaro] I'm freaked out by the quality.

  • [Chris] Freaked out by the quality?

  • [Ryotaro] This is Justice Good! You know what I mean?

  • [Chris] Just as delicious? [Ryotaro] Just as delicious!

  • [Chris] How do you say... how do.. *laughing*

  • [Ryotaro] Just as delicious! [Chris] Just as delicious.

  • [Chris] If, if I need to sushi

  • I'd say salmon and tuna are the first level, they're simplest easiest things to eat.

  • and then mackerel is probably level two. Little bit more difficult

  • to wrap your head around, but then there's level three which is like sea urchin.

  • [Ryotaro] How does it taste like, describe?

  • [Chris] It's very big. *laughing*

  • [Ryotaro] Shut up! I thought you are a, you became a great, a great food reviewer?

  • [Chris] It's so succulent and juicy.

  • It's cool because you can actually see the skin of the fish.

  • That's not selling it, is it?

  • [Chris] That doesn't sound good. [Ryotaro] The skin of the fish?

  • [Ryotaro] You don't really talk about skin of the fish. *laughs*

  • [Chris] To sum it up in three words: soft, succulent, and fresh.

  • *unconvincing nod*

  • [Ryotaro] Uh, uh... Fine, five. Five.

  • The second local dish resting here alongside the mackerel is cracker soup.

  • Yes, cracker soup, senbei jiru as it's known in Japanese. It may sound like a

  • simple and slightly odd dish but it's a staple food of the region

  • consisting of a broken wheat cracker into a soup of fish, vegetables, or meat

  • and given Aomori's disturbingly cold snowy winters it's hardly a surprise

  • that the warm soup dish is so popular.

  • [Chris] So why do they put the rice crackers in, I don't... what's the...

  • [Chris] It's a bit random. [Ryotaro] Okay in Hachinohe area, traditionally they could not get rice

  • [Ryotaro] because of the really strong wind in winter. That's right. [Chris] It's freezing in winter. right?

  • [Ryotaro] So they decided to like grow wheat here and that's how this wheat

  • [Ryotaro] cracker came out in production and became famous. [Chris] So it's more than just a dish.

  • [Chris] It's a case of survival. [Ryotaro] That's true. Rice cracker is the way of survival.

  • [Ryotaro] So, so when these... [Chris] Rice crackers is the way of survival.

  • [Ryotaro] Ri-Wheat, wheat crackers, sorry.

  • [Chris] Wheat cracker is the way of survival.

  • [Chris] We'll be returning to Hachinohe later on to meet Natsuki.

  • But first, we head on over to the city of Hirosaki, home to Aomori's most famous export:

  • Apples.

  • It's not an uncommon sight to see apple orchards in the fields

  • around Hirosaki, along with all manner of apple related products on sale

  • from apple pies to the finest cider in all of Japan.

  • For lunch though, I'm grabbing something a little bit more unconventional, from a restaurant

  • residing in the second-largest Japanese garden in all of Tohoku region. A stunning

  • garden filled with streams, bridges, and enthusiastic cosplayers.

  • The restaurant itself is inside a european-style building that seems somewhat out of

  • place given the traditional garden setting.

  • I've just ordered apple beef curry with rice,

  • which is good because I've spent the last days eating nothing but fish.

  • It's nice to have something a bit different, although again it's got apples in it

  • because everything in Aomori has apples in it.

  • If you got apples... Aomori innit?

  • So I'm just walking through the city of Hirosaki and there's

  • a tortoise walking down the street.

  • And it's just a really weird thing to see.

  • Apparently the owner is taking him for an afternoon stroll and it's good for

  • tortoise stress-relief genuinely, I'm not making that up.

  • It's a child as well, it's a child and it's already 40 kilograms.

  • Sort of exciting, surprising, bizarre things you sometimes see every day, whilst walking around Japan.

  • Back to Hachinohe where we meet with Natsuki at the city's largest indoor market.

  • A cavernous sprawl with over 60 independent vendors.

  • So we're in Hachinohe's Hachi-Shoku center.

  • Uh, Hachi is in reference to Hachinohe. Shoku means food.

  • And it's a big huge indoor market full of

  • restaurants and seafood, vegetables, and something rather worrying coming up

  • [Chris] How's it feel?

  • [Natsuki] Charming.

  • Charming

  • [Chris] Whoa.... [Natsuki] Dental.

  • [Natsuki] Nice dental. [Chris] Ehh?

  • [Natsuki] Nice dental. [Chris] Nice dental. *laughs*

  • Natsuki's done his homework and takes us to a restaurant selling a variety of dishes

  • containing Aomori black garlic.

  • A type of garlic with black cloves and characterized by its sweet

  • and almost vinegary aroma.

  • So garlic is very popular around these parts, so any

  • everything we've ordered seems to have garlic in it. Gyoza, the rice, ramen.

  • [Chris] The ramen? [Natsuki] Ramen.

  • [Chris] Garlic, garlic, garlic.

  • [Chris] So busy, why is it busy today?

  • [Natsuki] Maybe.... holiday? [Chris] Holiday?

  • [Natsuki] Uncle Holiday. [Chris] Uncle Holiday.

  • [Chris] Are you celebrating your uncle?

  • [Natsuki] Celebrate? No ahh, no I'm, I have no uncle. *cries*

  • [Natsuki] Umm... [Chris] Oh no...

  • [Chris] ...shit. [Natsuki] Thank you.

  • [Chris] Wow.