Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood in Date City, Fukushima

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Date City in Fukushima Prefecture is renowned for historical sites such as the Former Kameoka Residence and Ryozen Shrine. In this article, we will introduce famous places to visit in Date City along with the delicious seafood products made in this city.

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Discover Hidden Gems in Fukushima

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

Fukushima, Japan’s third largest prefecture, is filled with beautiful natural sights of majestic mountains and ocean views. The region is renowned for its production of fruit, vegetables, livestock, and seafood, as well as a wide variety of foods made with these ingredients.

In this article, we will take a look at Date City, a peaceful area surrounded by mountainous scenery that boasts fascinating cultural and historical sites to explore. The area is also home to Chugai Foods, which specializes in the high-quality processing and distribution of seafood products despite being located in an inland area. The products made by Chugai Foods are widely loved in Japan.

Hobara Museum of History and Culture: A Cultural Fusion

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

If you visit Date City, the Hobara Museum of History and Culture is the first place you should visit. The museum is located in Hobara Central Park and is housed in the historic building known as the Former Kameoka Residence.

The original residence was built in 1904 in another town but was relocated to this site in 1995 and reconstructed while maintaining its distinguishing features. The original mansion was built by Kameoka Masamoto, a wealthy landowner who was active in the late Meiji period (1868-1912). Although the building was used as his home, it was also used for meetings and gatherings for his work.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

The Kameoka family was fascinated with elements of Western architecture. They worked with architect Egawa Saburohachi and master carpenter Ogasawarato Kunitaro to create a home that was distinctly Western on the outside, but elegantly Japanese on the inside.

The result is a fascinating combination of both cultures, featuring tatami rooms yet glass windows, a rarity for the time. You can spot interesting elements of Western architecture throughout the home, such as with the regal staircase and rooftop structures.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

Aside from the residence itself, at the historical and cultural museum, you can also view exhibits of historical materials related to Date City, a fossil replica of an ancient large mammal called Paleoparadoxia that lived around 15 to 16 million years ago, and other special exhibitions. The museum also offers opportunities to make charming items using silk cocoons or clay in their workshops.

Ryozen Shrine and Date’s Iconic Mountain

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

Mount Ryozen is a famous mountain in Japan’s Tohoku region with beautiful greenery, hiking trails, and points of interest such as castle ruins and Ryozen Shrine.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

Ryozen Shrine was founded in 1881, and among others is dedicated to Kitabatake Akiie, an important court noble and supporter of the Southern Court (*1) in the 14th century. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you spot his statue at the bottom of the hill, just past the large torii gate.

*1 The Southern Court refers to a regime established in Nara from 1336 to 1392 that opposed the Northern Court located in Kyoto.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

In the peaceful space just beyond the main building, there is a small torii gate looking out onto the forest.

The best time to visit, though, is in spring or autumn. In autumn, you can see the beautiful oranges and reds of the trees which were brought from the famous Arashiyama area in Kyoto. Whereas in spring, you can experience the Ranjo Bugaku, a sword dance performed at the shrine’s main festival in April.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

If you’re looking to experience the mountain itself and the views from the peak, however, you can go on the hiking trail near the Ryozen Children’s Village.

The trailhead is called the Ryozen Tozanguchi, and it takes around one and a half hours to reach the peak, where you can see beautiful views of the rocky outcrops and surrounding mountains. Take some time to breathe in the fresh air, and imagine the times gone by as you wander through the nearby castle ruins.

Roadside Station Fukushima: The Best Place for Edible Souvenirs

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

One of the places where you can find Fukushima specialty products is Michi no Eki Fukushima (Roadside Station Fukushima), which opened in April 2022.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

At Michi no Eki Fukushima, you'll find jams made with flavorful fruit grown locally, snacks, bento boxes, and seafood products.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

In the freezer sections towards the back, you’ll find a selection of seafood snacks such as dishes made with squid and okra, octopus and okra, and mentaiko (pollock roe). Traditional meals like Mackerel Simmered in Miso are also available.

While many of the snacks are great on their own, they can also be fun to experiment with. For example, you can use them as topping for salads instead of dressing, fry them into fritters for contrasting textures on the inside and out, or try them with cream cheese and wine to make the most of the umami flavors that seafood is so well known for.

Elsewhere in the aisles, there are also some specialty local sake and beer options to give you the full Fukushima experience.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

While you’re there, you can try some other Fukushima specialties like their enban gyoza (flat-shaped dumplings), or have a cute ice cream in the shape of their rabbit mascot. There are even bikes that you can rent out to explore the nearby area, too.

Seafood Delicacies Made by Chugai Foods

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood in Date City, Fukushima

Some of the most popular regional products available at Michi no Eki Fukushima such as Ika Okra (squid with okra) and Tako Okra (octopus with okra), are produced by a company based in Date City called Chugai Foods. The company set up its first factory in Tokyo’s neighboring Saitama Prefecture but eventually moved to Date City in 1997.

Given that over 90% of their products are frozen, they chose to stay away from the faster pace of the harbors, favoring instead the peace and space of the countryside where they could spend more time focusing on quality control than the comings and goings. They also needed a road environment with good accessibility, such as proximity to highways. Additionally, high-quality water was necessary for making excellent products, leading to the decision to locate the seafood processing plant inland.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

We interviewed Mr. Yasuda, the Sales Department Manager at Chugai Foods

The company not only supplies seafood to markets nationwide but also produces exceptional items that adorn dining tables at home.

Mr. Nakamura Ryosuke, the president and CEO of Chugai Foods, has expressed that the company is committed to ensuring food safety and security for consumers by maintaining and enhancing its facilities.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

The Chugai Foods factory located in the Yanagawa-machi district of Date City was the first location in Fukushima Prefecture to receive the HACCP certification from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare in 1999.

HACCP stands for ‘Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point’ and is a food safety management system that emphasizes the early detection of potential food safety hazards (caused by microorganisms, metallic fragments, etc.) rather than the inspection of finished products. A scientific system, HACCP specifies hazard management procedures to prevent the occurrence of hazards throughout the whole manufacturing process.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood Delicacies in Fukushima

Below we introduce some of the most popular products made by Chugai Foods.

The Ogon Nishin Amazu-zuke (Golden Herring Sweet Vinegar Pickle) in the photo above uses herring from Norway and capelin roe processed through an original method. The refreshing and lightly sweet vinegar seasoning ensures a pleasing taste and enhances the sweetness of the fish.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood in Date City, Fukushima

Ajitsuke Kazu no Ko (Seasoned Herring Roe) uses herring roe harvested in Hokkaido, Canada (Pacific side), and Europe as its main ingredient. In Japan, herring roe is considered an auspicious dish symbolizing healthy children and family happiness, making it indispensable for festive New Year menus. The product made by Chugai Foods has a satisfying texture that can be enjoyed casually at any time of the year; the dish goes particularly well with sake.

Nature, History, and Delicious Seafood in Date City, Fukushima

The Komochi Yari Ika (Spear Squid and Roe) is made by skillfully seasoning premium-quality squid and Capelin roe to create a rich flavor. The delightful texture and bursting flavor of the roe make it exceptional!

Chugai Foods has an extensive lineup of delightful products, which can be viewed on their official website. These exquisite seafood treats are luxurious enough to be used for special occasions but go very well as snacks to accompany sake, beer, or even wine. Their products can be found at supermarkets and roadside stations in Japan.

Explore Date City for Culture, History, and Delicious Seafood Snacks

We highly recommend renting a car to visit Date City, as it gives you the most freedom to explore and easily access other tourist attractions in Fukushima Prefecture.

If you're using public transportation, take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Fukushima Station, then transfer to the JR Tohoku Main Line bound for Shiroishi, and arrive at Date Station in about 9 minutes. When using the Shinkansen, the travel time from Tokyo Station to Fukushima Station is approximately one and a half hours.

Of course, these sightseeing spots and culinary options are just a few of the great things Fukushima and Date have to offer, so make sure to leave enough time to explore!

Written by Cassandra Lord
Photos by Cassandra Lord
Sponsored by Reconstruction Fishery Processing Industry Market Recovery Promotion Center

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Tokyo, Japan

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