Japanese nabe hotpots are prepared and eaten as the group sits around the table in a circle. It is a winter feast that warms up your core as you share a good time with your family and friends. On this trip, you will taste the famous nabe of different parts of Akita prefecture as you experience the culture and traditions behind this cuisine.
Kiritanpo nabe is a local recipe unique to the rice-based area of Akita that uses pounded and grilled rice. The Cheerful Mother Shop, which is managed by the mothers of local farmers in the kiritanpo hometown of Odate, offers a kiritanpo nabe cooking experience. This is an authentic kiritanpo nabe recipe that starts by pounding the rice, but rest assured that the mothers will provide essential observation at the key points, such as cooking it to the right degree. This amazing kiritanpo nabe uses a Hinai Jidori (local free-range chicken) soup. Kiritanpo nabe used to be made by the whole family on special days. This is a precious experience in which you will enjoy the flavors and culture that have been handed down through the generations in Odate.
Long ago, fireplaces were the at the center of the lives of common Japanese people, who used to warm themselves and cook around the fireplace. The kiritanpo nabe at the Tazawa Plateau Hotel in the Tazawako Kogen Onsen Village uses a popular good old style where the rice is cooked and the hotpot comes to a boil around the fireplace. In addition to the this nabe, which hinges on the soup stock that is cooked for ten hours, you can also enjoy Akita’s famous kiritanpo miso dengaku, which is full of aroma as it is cooked at the fireplace.
There are so many beautiful women in Akita that people use the phrase “Akita Beauty.” After eating the kiritanpo nabe that provides a beautifying effect as it contains plenty of vegetables and collagen from Hinai Jidori (local free-range chickens), take a tour around a location that provides luck to the Akita Beauties.
This shrine is one of the few shrines in the country that blesses people with beauty. It is located on the banks of Lake Tazawa where there is the legend of Tatsuko, who became a dragon after praying for eternal beauty. Amulets with mirrors can be purchased that are said to make you more beautiful.
This hot spring area near the borders of Akita, Aomori and Iwate is a famous spa for beautiful women. At the Yuze Hotel, you can enjoy a restorative bath in view of the mountain streams and seasonal scenery.
This antique kimono dressing service experience takes place at Kakunodate in Senboku, which is known as the little Kyoto of Tohoku. Take a stroll in an elegant kimono through the samurai homes and merchant cellars of these retro streets.
Nabe, which are eaten while they are cooked, are easier to make if everyone around the pot puts in the ingredients and regulates the heat. The heat should be strong at first, and then the nabe should be simmered once it starts to boil. Do not put in more ingredients immediately after eating. Instead, once the first lot of ingredients has gone, put in the second lot for better consistency according to the heat.
In the Oga Peninsula in the west of Akita prefecture where there is a thriving fishing industry, there is a notable kind of nabe hotpot that is unique to fishing villages. At the Kaiyo restaurant on the Nyudo coast on the westernmost point of the Oga peninsula, you can enjoy Oga’s traditional ishiyaki nabe. This is a hearty dish in which a heated stone is put into the pot in front of your eyes that was first made by fisherman on the seashore. This delicious dish is heated up in an instant, which locks in the umami of the seafood, and increases the aroma of miso. As only fish that is caught in the Oga Peninsula can be offered, this dish may not be available on days when no fish are caught.
Shottsuru is a fish sauce made by pickling Oga’s famous sailfin sandfish that are left over from the catch. Shottsuru nabe, which is flavored with this fish sauce, is Akita’s most popular hotpot that has a richness and flavor that are addictive. Various types of fish can be used, including cod and sea bream, but shottsuru nabe using sailfin sandfish has a particularly delicious and rich flavor. Shottsuru nabe is a famous winter-only dish at Kamezushi Restaurant, which looks out to Kitaura Harbor in Oga.
The traditional folk performance of Namahage (demon-like beings) that has been handed down since ancient times surpasses even nabe as Oga’s most famous product. Young men dress up as namahage on New Years’ Eve, and they go from house to house shouting “Are there any cry babies around?” and “Are there any naughty kids around?” in order to warn against doing bad in the area, and to chase away bad luck.
This performance is held all year long, although traditionally namahage can only be seen by local children on New Years’ Eve. The highlights include the opening scene where the namahage cry out “Are there any cry babies around?” and scenes where they meet the families, which combines humor and intensity.
This display facility is located next to the Shinzan Folklore Museum in Oga. The highlight is the powerful display of namahage masks from all over Oga city. The large screen that televises original films and the section where you can dress as a namahage are also very popular.
As the food is shared from a single pot, it is best not to make others feel uncomfortable. Instead of using your own chopsticks to take the food, use the specially-provided serving chopsticks and ladle. Of course, you can use your own chopsticks if you’re eating with close friends. It’s also best not to use the serving chopsticks to stir the ingredients to find a certain ingredient, as it looks unclean.
Ani in Kita-Akita in Akita Prefecture has long been an area of activity of the matagi (hunting tribe) who hunt in the mountains. The secchu nabekko experience program held by the Matagi School in Ani allows you to enjoy a nabe and walking in snow shoes with the matagi in mountainous woody areas. The piping hot nabe that warms up your cold body is an absolute joy. Another highlight is learning about the wisdom and skills of the matagi as they live in harmony with mother nature by, for example, starting open-air fires using tree bark.
This popular rural hotel is surrounded by a deep green beech forest. There has been an onsen here since the Edo Period, and the Akita Daimyo stayed here. Hot springs with differing components from four water sources can be enjoyed.
Yamanoimo nabe (Japanese yam hotpot) is the famous nabe of the Senboku area, which is known for such things as Japan’s deepest lake, Lake Tazawa. This rustic nabe includes lots of mountain vegetables, including grated yam dumplings, and wild plants in spring, and mushrooms in the fall. The most famous of these is the yamanoimo nabe prepared with miso, which is a specialty of Tsutunoyu Onsen in Nyuto Onsen Village, a place revered by fans of secret hot springs. At lodgings, some of the rooms in the headquarters of the samurai of the Akita Domain from the Edo Period, the new headquarters, and the east headquarters feature a traditional fireplace. The hot pot cuisine is cooked at the fireplace and served in each room, which offers an emotional experience.
Part of the treat when eating nabe is the communication. Conversation naturally springs forth as everyone eats facing each other around the nabe. There is an even greater sense of harmony when the person nearest the pot distributes the food, while those furthest from the pot order drinks.
From Tokyo Haneda Airport
Number of departures per day: Approx. 5※
From Nagoya Chubu Airport
Number of departures per day: Approx. 2※
From Osaka International Airport
Number of departures per day: Approx. 3※
From Tokyo Haneda Airport
Number of departures per day: Approx. 2※
*Information correct as of January 22 2016
Details correct as of end of December, 2015.
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