A Seafood Treasure Trove in Miyagi! Ishinomaki Travel Tips

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Ishinomaki, a city in Miyagi Prefecture, is known for its rich seafood and delicious cuisine. Honda Suisan is a company that specializes in seafood products. In this article, we've interviewed them about their products and thoughts as they approach a decade since the Tohoku Earthquake.

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Ishinomaki, a City Connected to the Ocean

Located in northeastern Miyagi Prefecture, Ishinomaki is a port city facing the Pacific Ocean. Having prospered as a waterborne distribution center during the Edo Period, Ishinomaki has always been closely tied to the sea.


Picture from Tashirojima Island Guide - Visit The Cat Island Of Miyagi

Ishinomaki has several notable landmarks: Ishinomaki Mangattan Museum—featuring the works of native-born manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori, the cat island of Tashirojima, and the 1250-year-old Kinkasan Koganeyama Shrine.

Miyagi: Boasting the Second-Largest Catch of Oysters in Japan

The waters around Kinkasan Island in Ishinomaki are one of the world's three largest fishing grounds. A cold current collides with a warm current at a point where nutrient-rich water from the mountain forest flows. With favorable conditions for plankton growth, the area is home to a very diverse group of marine life.

The most famous seafood found in Ishinomaki is oysters. Miyagi boasts the second-largest catch of oysters in all of Japan, half of which are from Ishinomaki.

In this article, we learn more about this local staple from the staff at Honda Suisan, a company that specializes in processing seafood.

Honda Suisan: Bringing Ishinomaki Seafood Everywhere in Japan

Oysters from Ishinomaki

Honda Suisan traces its origin back to Honda Usaburo Shoten, an oyster farm and buyer founded in 1947. Today, the seafood-processing company handles a variety of local catches from oysters to sea squirts and Kinka mackerel.

Futoshi Honda

We had the opportunity to talk with Futoshi Honda, the corporate advisor of Honda Suisan. According to Mr. Honda, it is imperative for a company like his to cultivate a trusting relationship with local producers.

"Following in my father's footsteps, I do my best to create great products with local producers."

However, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake devastated Ishinomaki. The tsunami destroyed shellfish culture farms and flooded the facilities of Honda Suisan. The company lost virtually everything in the terrible natural disaster.

Looking back on the incident, Mr. Honda revealed that he wanted to keep moving forward. In just three months, he successfully resumed business.

Kinka mackerel

Fresh Kinka mackerel. Only a small fraction of harvested mackerels are large enough to be called Kinka mackerel.

"Following the earthquake, I became more passionate about processing local products in Ishinomaki, with hopes of reviving the city," says Mr. Honda.

Despite facing many challenges, Honda Suisan continued making quality products. As a result, the company has produced countless popular items that are recognized across Japan. One prestigious win is the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' (MAFF) Director-General of the Fisheries Agency Award.

This article will highlight three of their products: Hamaichi Oysters, Seasoned Sea Squirts, and Seared Vinegared Kinka Mackerel.

Rich Flavors! An Original Brand of Hamaichi Oysters

Oysters from Ishinomaki

Hamaichi is a district located in the Oku-Matsushima area of Miyagi. Mr. Honda was first introduced to the area's oysters in 1995.

"While I've had oysters both overseas and in Japan, I was struck by how good the oysters tasted here. I would go as far as saying that they're the best oysters in Japan."

The special characteristics of Honda Suisan's Hamaichi Oysters are their meatiness and rich flavor. Moreover, their clean aftertaste is praised in rave reviews by those who aren't oyster fans. The secret to this tasty product is the nutrient-rich seawater and the factory's refined processing method.

Oysters from Ishinomaki

The waters around Hamaichi are rich in plankton, due to the river flowing from nearby forests into the ocean. Oysters from these fertile waters become the prized Hamaichi Oysters.

Oysters from Ishinomaki

Once the oysters are caught, they are taken straight to the Honda Suisan factory. Here, the meaty mollusks are thoroughly cleaned and shucked by hand. Watching the factory workers swiftly shuck the oysters is an impressive sight! Honda Suisan manages to keep the oysters fresh by ensuring this process is as efficient as possible.

Mr. Honda recommends eating the oysters raw with soy sauce or squeezing some lemon juice on top.

Date Oyster Gratin

Another decadent dish is the Date Oyster Gratin, which features a whole oyster in a creamy white sauce. It is popular with adults and children alike. We highly recommend this dish for parties and special occasions!


A Fresh Delicacy! Seasoned Sea Squirts

Sea Squirt

Sea squirts, or "hoya" in Japanese, were once a unique staple in the Sanriku (*1) area of northern Japan. Nevertheless, this unmistakable seafood is starting to be served at izakaya bars nationwide.

Miyagi is a major producer of sea squirts and boasts an 80 percent share of the domestic market. The temperature and water currents around Ishinomaki make it an ideal habitat for this marine species. The sea squirts caught here are meaty, well-colored, and rich in flavor.

*1 Sanriku: an area in northern Japan encompassing the prefectures of Aomori, Iwate, and Miyagi.

Sea Squirt

The Seasoned Sea Squirts at Honda Suisan are thoroughly cleaned in seawater and kept under controlled temperatures during shipping and processing. They are only flavored with salt and dashi stock.

After tasting a slice, you will be surprised by its delicious texture, refreshing flavor, and clean aftertaste. Another bonus is not having to remove any shells before eating! Sea squirts are a great snack paired with alcoholic beverages.

Mr. Honda was eager to point out that Ishinomaki has some great sake breweries. "Please enjoy some sake with our sea squirts," he said with a laugh.


Kinka Mackerel Caught off the Great Kinkasan Coast!


Picture from Kinkasan Koganeyama Shrine Overnight Stay - A Spiritual And Nature-Filled Trip

Along with the coast of Norway and Newfoundland, the coast of Kinkasan Island is one of the three largest fishing grounds in the world. Only massive mackerels caught during the prime season can be called Kinka mackerel.

Kinka Mackerel

Kinka mackerels are large and meaty, with lots of fat. Showing us a fillet cut, Mr. Honda asked, "Doesn't it look like fatty tuna?" We nodded our heads in agreement.

Kinka Mackerel

The Seared Vinegared Kinka Mackerel is a popular product made from just one percent of mackerels caught here. Furthermore, the fish are flame-grilled on special charcoal plates and served atop a bed of ice.

The charcoal plates help keep the fish cold while grilling the skin to crisp perfection by increasing heat conductivity. This process ensures that the mackerels are fresh when packaged. Savor the natural flavor of the Kinka mackerel exclusively found here!


Kinka Mackerel

Having learned about Ishinomaki and Honda Suisan, you may be wondering where you can try some fresh local seafood. We'll head over to the Ishinomaki Genki Ichiba, a local fish market!

Ishinomaki Genki Ichiba: Enjoy Local Seafood Staples!

Ishinomaki Genki Ichiba

Ishinomaki Genki Ichiba opened in 2017. This local market features fresh and processed seafood, seasonal vegetables, sake, and more on the first floor. You will also find a plethora of great gifts, including products by Honda Suisan.

Genki Shokudo

On the second floor is the Genki Shokudo, a food court serving dishes made with local ingredients. Adjacent is a terrace overlooking the Kyu-Kitakami River. Enjoy kankan-yaki (*2) oysters or barbecue in this spacious area.

*2 Kankan-yaki: a dish in which oysters are placed in a can and steamed atop a fire.

Kinka Mackerel

You can also order a grilled Kinka mackerel set meal. The thick, juicy hunk of meat is unlike any ordinary mackerel. This meal is even tastier when enjoyed in such a beautiful place.

Honda Suisan: Enjoy Local Staples in the Comfort of Home

You can order all of the featured Honda Suisan products and more from their online store(Japanese). We recommend trying these local staples of Ishinomaki before actually visiting this seaside city!

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Written by KEITA ENDO
In cooperation with Honda Suisan, Ishinomaki Genki Ichiba
Sponsored by Reconstruction fishery processing industry market recovery promotion center

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Tokyo, Japan

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