With a Pacific shoreline of outstanding natural beauty, a clutch of fantastic cultural sights, thronging markets and delectable seafood, you can expect a lot from a visit to Hachinohe and still be blown away. Here’s everything you need to know about Hachinohe.
Located in Aomori Prefecture on the main Japanese island of Honshu, Hachinohe has plenty to recommend it. The region technically incorporates a smattering of smaller towns and villages as well as Hachinohe City; splitting your time between city sights and more rural charms will make for a richer experience. Travellers can explore the region’s long and fascinating history in a series of fine museums or hike the enchanting Tanesashi coastline, known for its natural splendour and a source of inspiration for countless artists, writers and creatives. Whatever you choose to do and see in Hachinohe, be sure to build up an appetite for the fresh mackerel, squid and other seafood for which the area is famed.
Hachinohe is an area of great historical and cultural significance. Archeological artefacts suggest that humans have inhabited the region since the Jomon Era, some 20,000 years ago. In the Kamakura period, Hachinohe rose to prominence under Nanbu rule, the samurai clan who controlled the area for more than seven hundred years; the family line survives to this day. Nanbu influence can be seen everywhere in Hachinohe, from Nejo Castle, built in 1334, to the folk arts that developed while the city flourished and are still practiced today. Hachinohe retains its importance as one of Aomori’s main cultural centres, and visitors can learn all about its history and traditions in a string of fantastic museums.
Hachinohe is an atmospheric place to visit at any time of year, where seasonal delights include the fiery red leaves of autumn, the snowscapes of winter, the spring cherry blossom and wildflower meadows in full bloom in summer. Be aware that summers in Hachinohe can be nice and cool; in winter, meanwhile, the mercury frequently drops below freezing, bringing a romantic flurry of snow. July through September are the best months to make the most of warm-weather activities, including hiking and cycling along the magnificent coastline. Whatever season you choose, be sure to check the calendar for festivals or events that might coincide with your visit.
Hachinohe is easy to reach and to get around, with good tourist infrastructure that will make your visit a breeze. The main city of Hachinohe is well connected by train; from Tokyo, journey time is around 2hr 45mins by shinkansen (bullet train). Regular trains from Hachinohe run to Aomori (1hr 35mins) and Morioka (just under 2hrs). If you’re flying straight into Aomori Prefecture, Misawa Airport has connections from Tokyo Haneda Airport, Osaka Itami Airport and Sapporo Okadama Airport.
The local Hachinohe Line connects all the main sights in the area, including downtown, the morning markets, Kabushima and the Tanesashi Coast. Hiring a car, meanwhile, will obviously give you that bit of extra freedom..
If you need a little extra help on the ground, the good news is that there are several useful tourist information centres in Hachinohe. The main Hachinohe Tourism Information Centre is found on the second floor of Hachinohe Station. Aside from providing comprehensive information about all the main sights, the friendly English-speaking staff can help you with public transport, guides and accommodation. You’ll also find an information counter at the Hachinohe Portal Museum and the Tanesashi Coast Information Centre at the Tanesashi Natural Lawn.
The Tanesashi Coast is a stunning stretch of coastline in Hachinohe Japan. It has been protected as part of the Sanriku Fukko National Park since the park’s creation in 2013. The craggy shore is softened by sandy beaches, natural green lawns and wildflower meadows that flank the coast. More than 650 native plant species are represented here; when they bloom in the summer months, everything is transformed into a riot of colour. Keep your eyes peeled for the deep orange of the sukashiyuri lily, a local favourite. With spellbinding seascapes and gently sloping cliff paths, the Tanesashi Coast is a hiker’s dream – as well as being the darling of painters and writers, who have long flocked here for inspiration.
There are a number of bustling markets in Hachinohe, where you can pick up sizzling street food, fresh fruit and vegetables, colourful flowers and exquisite traditional crafts. Early risers will want to check out the vibrant morning markets, the biggest and most famous of which is held on Sundays at Tatehana Wharf. More than 300 stalls are laid out in the fishing-port area from around 5am. Breakfast comes in many guises here: choose from fresh seafood, fried chicken, tasty noodles and specialities including local seafood dish Ichigoni (sea urchin and abalone soup). Even if that all feels a bit heavy for breakfast, simply strolling around, checking out the wares and soaking up the atmosphere is oodles of fun. Bear in mind that things wrap up around 9am, so don’t forget to set your alarm!
Culture vultures will be captivated by Hachinohe’s selection of interesting museums, which cover everything from history and culture to traditional crafts, fine art and even cars. The Hachinohe Portal Museum is one of the best, and its informative exhibits make an excellent introduction to the area. Look out for the wooden lion dance clock, a highlight on the first floor. Other worthwhile museums include the comprehensive Hachinohe City Museum (re-opening November 2021); the Nango Museum of History and Folklore, with a superlative collection of items from the Showa era; the Vanfu Art Museum, specializing in full-scale reproductions of famous Japanese pieces; and the Tsukahara Museum, full of classic cars. Children and motor heads of all persuasions will be in automobile heaven.
The Hachinohe area is famous for its traditional folk crafts. Some of the more famous products to emanate from the region include Yawata-uma horse figurines, Nanbu sakiori weaving and hishizashi embroidery. Have a go yourself by joining a crafts workshop run by the fabulous YouTree Building, where you’ll also find top-quality pieces for sale. Traditional folk crafts make the perfect, authentic souvenir or gift for a loved one back home. The Kaneiri Museum Shop is another excellent place to source a souvenir, where a share of the profits is channeled back into the local community, so you can shop with a clean conscience.
While Hachinohe City has more than enough to keep you entertained, you’ll gain much from visiting the area’s smaller towns and villages. Sannohe, for example, is a must-visit destination for its stand-out historical and archeological sites, including the Sannohe Castle ruins, where the great Nanbu family once resided. Gonohe is renowned for its sake breweries and local meat and livestock, while Nanbu town is nestled amid lush rice paddies and is home to a number of progressive, community-building projects. Anyone after the perfect sunrise, meanwhile, should head for Hashikami Town, where golden panoramas take in the mountains, sea and verdant fields. While you’re here be sure to try Ichigo-ni, a local delicacy – soup made with sea urchins.
With fertile land, an ocean larder and a number of centuries-old sake breweries, Hachinohe’s list of local delicacies is a long one. Seafood is still a pillar of the local economy here, so be sure to sample some super fresh fish while you’re in town. Mackerel, squid and other specialities are sold in restaurants all over Hachinohe; alternatively, pick yours up from one of the morning markets or from Aldiva Seafood Market. The latter also has a good restaurant (Mar), and informative displays on local seafood products. Other delicacies include Senbei crackers – a thin rice cracker that’s been made in the area for centuries – and sake. Tour one of the sake breweries or make for any number of Hachinohe’s yokocho (drinking alleyways). The Miroku Yokocho is the most famous, with stalls (yatai) selling everything from sake to sushi. The atmosphere is as good as the food.
A natural monument on the Tanesashi Coast, Kabushima is noteworthy for its breeding population of black-tailed gulls. You’ll need to come between March and August to see the birds in action; they lay their eggs in May, and the hatchlings emerge in June. The island’s rapeseed plants flower in May, cloaking the island in bright yellow. Kabushima Shrine is another highlight of the island, first built in 1269 by fishermen to herald safe passage and a bountiful catch. The Shinto shrine was actually burnt down in 2015 and rebuilt in 2020.
Hachinohe is a splendid region with plenty to tempt travellers to its shores, from dramatic coastal scenery and a rich history to its tantalising seafood-inspired cuisine. Our Hachinohe guide is the perfect introduction to the area.
This article was created in partnership with Visit Hachinohe.
Helen worked as a Senior Travel Editor at Rough Guides and Insight Guides, based in the London office. Among her favourite projects to work on are inspirational guides like