Translated by Shinji Takaramura
A Gourmand's Trip To Aomori And Akita: Enjoy Rare Tankaku Wagyu Beef
Written by MATCHA-PR
While Japanese Black might be the best-known type of Wagyu beef, the rare Tankaku Wagyu produced in northern regions such as Aomori and Akita is increasingly popular in recent years. We introduce the best places to enjoy this lean, highly nutritious beef on a trip to northern Japan.
A Gourmand's Trip to Northern Japan
Picture by Pixta
Tankaku Wagyu, obtained from Japanese Shorthorn cattle, is a lean type of Wagyu beef that will surely impress those who wish absolutely delicious beef.
Both Aomori and Akita prefectures, where this very special beef is produced, boast rich natural environment. They face the ocean and are surrounded by mountains. Although winter brings heavy snowfall, the mild climate in spring and summer makes this area the perfect destination for a sightseeing trip. Both regions also offer a wide variety of fresh, appetizing foods such as seafood, vegetables, and fruit, along with beef.
Let's embark on a trip to Akita and Aomori in search of Tankaku Wagyu beef.
Aomori: A Rich Natural Environment
Lake Towada. Picture courtesy of Aomori Prefectural Tourism Federation
The ride from Tokyo to Aomori takes about three hours with the Tohoku Shinkansen train. Shin-Aomori Station, where the Shinkansen stops, is located near a port. The neighborhood serves as a gateway to Aomori, with ferry and bus terminals nearby.
Those on a tight schedule should head straight for Lake Towada or Oirase Gorge, both known for stunning secenery.
Taste Delicious Beef after Enjoying Art
Towada, the city where Lake Towada is located, is also the home to Towada Art Center. The facility displays vast works by renowned artists. Works of Kusama Yayoi and Ron Mueck are on permanent exhibition, and many enthusiasts come to visit the museum from afar.
There are restaurants serving Tankau Wagyu beef near the museum. They are ideal stopovers on a food-themed trip. The following are our recommendations.
Gyu-rakukan Sanbangai Store
Picture courtesy of Gyu-rakukan Sanbangai Store
Gyu-rakukan Sanbangai Store is a Korean barbecue restaurant run by a stockbreeding company. The restaurant is located just ten minutes away on foot from the museum.
The restaurant is known for its wide variety of dishes to choose from. Dishes made using rare parts such as zabuton (chuck flap) and misuji (top blade muscle), along with roast and fillet, are available. Guests can also taste roast beef, sushi, sausage, and a full-course of Tankaku Wagyu beef as well.
farm cafe orta
Photograph courtesy of farm cafe orta
Farm cafe orta is an Italian restaurant located about seven minutes away on foot from the museum. After opening in 2011, the restaurant became popular for the fifty types of organic vegetables that the owner grows, along with the careful selection of local foodstuff.
Tankaku Wagyu is used for dishes such as grilled misuji and beef pie. The lean meat packed with umami is an ideal foodstuff for grilled or stewed dishes. A wide selection of natural wine that goes well with the beef can be ordered by the glass.
When making reservations, be sure to order a dish made with Tankaku Wagyu beef.
farm cafe orta
Address: Aomori, Towada, Inaoi-cho 15-16, 1-1 Map
Access: Seven-minute walk from Towada Art Center or a short walk from Towada-shi Chuo bus stop.
Official website: http://cafe-orta.jugem.jp/ (Japanese)
Picture courtesy of Ristorante Sawauchi
Ristorante Sawauchi is an Italian restaurant. It is reachable by bus in about 40 minutes from Hachinohe Station, which is nearest to the museum.
Sawauchi uses foodstuff from southern Aomori, and the Tankaku Wagyu beef is often used in the course menu. Please note that reservations are required.
Restaurants Near Aomori Station
Nebuta Museum Wa-rasse. Picture courtesy of the museum
Aomori Station is located next to Shin-Aomori Station, where the Shinkansen stops. A-Factory, a stylish souvenir shop, and Nebuta Museum Wa-rasse, where visitors can experience the Nebuta Festival, are located in the area. Also, the Bay Bridge at Aomori Port is well-known for the extremely beautiful nighttime views.
There are famous seafood restaurants in the area but we recommend dining places using Tankaku Wagyu beef.
Picture courtesy of Al Centro
This Italian restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes made with ingredients produced in Aomori. Bistecca (Italian-style beefsteak) is seasoned only with salt so that the guests can appreciate its delicate flavor. This dish can be ordered as an a la carte meal, or can be included in a course menu.
Al Centro offers a well-assorted wine list, including ten to twenty types of natural wine selected by the owner that can be ordered by the glass. The staff will recommend a wine that goes well with the dish.
Picture courtesy of Lince
This restaurant turns local products into Italian-style dishes. The chef, who is also the owner, used to work in Italy. His dishes are meticulously prepared, and the processed meat products such as ham are all homemade.
The Tankaku Wagyu beef is used in the tagliata, cooked with plenty of vegetables. There are seats by the counter, where the guests can casually dine and enjoy wine. It is the ideal space for someone traveling alone.
Akita: A Drive in Search of Kazuno Beef
Picture courtesy of NBAFA
Kazuno beef is the brand name for the Tankaku Wagyu beef produced in the city of Kazuno. The cattle are grown on the pasture, so the meat has a firm texture, and the taste gets better with every bite.
Hachimantai Aspite Line. Picture by Pixta
Kazuno, a city located south of Lake Towada, is surrounded by mountains. Hachimantai Aspite Line, which stretches for 27 kilometers and connects Kazuno to Iwate Prefecture, is a popular route to drive through the Towada-Hachimantai National Park.
A tall wall of snow looms on both sides of the Aspite Line in mid-April, so driving a rental car in this period would be fun.
Places to Enjoy Kazuno Beef
The following are restaurants in the Kazuno Hanawa Station neighborhood, which is the center area of Kazuno.
Picture courtesy of Gourmet Mitachi
Gourmet Mitachi is located at Michi no Eki Kazuno Antler, a popular rest stop. The menu includes local specialties such as kiritanpo nabe (*1) and inaniwa udon (flat noodles).
The dish that most draws attention is the Kazuno beef hamburger steak. It became popular due to the fact that the lean meat tastes juicier when it is made into a hamburger. The steak is served as a set meal with rice and miso soup, or with curry and rice.
*1: This is a hot pot dish with kiritanpo (mashed rice pressed on a cedar skewer, and then toasted).
Picture courtesy of Bistro Amour
It takes about seven minutes to reach this restaurant from Kazuno Hanawa Station. Guests can enjoy here a wide variety of Kazuno beef dishes.
The lunch menu includes steak, stew, and curry made using Kazuno beef. The dinner menu consists of six la carte dishes such as menchi-katsu (fried meat cake) and meat Doria (casserole), which goes well with liquor. All the dishes bring out the best of the Kazuno beef, which has a wholesome, deep taste.
Picture courtesy of Heiwaken
Heiwaken, which opened in 1935, is a ramen restaurant famous for its homemade noodles and won ton (Chinese dumplings). Surprisingly, they also serve soba, udon, and donburi dishes as well.
At night, the restaurant turns into an izakaya (Japanese-style tavern), with an assorted menu of dishes that go well with drinks. Heiwaken emphasizes the consumption of local products, and serves sirloin steak, meat au gratin, and skewered meat, all using Kazuno beef.
While parts of the menu are translated into English, guests can enjoy the authentic atmosphere of a Japanesque restaurant.
Mifuji, a Japanese-style restaurant where guests can enjoy tataki (lightly grilled raw beef) or beef stew, and Seidokan, which serves curry and donburi dishes of Kazuno beef, are also popular.
Two Restaurants Near Akita Station
From Tokyo Station, it takes about four hours on the Shinkansen to Akita. Those who travel by train should visit the Oga Peninsula to enjoy the view of the Japan Sea and the hot springs.
The following are restaurants located near Akita Station that are perfect to visit at either the start or end of the trip.
Picture courtesy of Restaurant Platz
This restaurant is run by the brewery Aqula Brauhaus Akita. They offer a wide variety of dishes that go well with beer, such as the Kazuno beef steak. Restaurant Platz also serves gyusuji nikomi (stewed beef tendons) and diced steak using Kazuno beef.
Picture courtesy of Norichang
The interior of Norichang is designed in the image of a stylish Spanish bar where guests can enjoy drinks and meat dishes. The restaurant purchases a whole Kazuno cattle so the parts used in the dishes change every day.
Guests can choose their favorite parts and this makes it a must-visit spot for people who love meat.
Enjoy Tankaku Wagyu Beef
If you wish to enjoy rare Tankaku Wagyu beef, how about visiting some of the dining places introduced in this article?
When visiting Aomori and Akita, enjoy the beautiful scenery and hot springs, along with the local cuisine. The robust Wagyu nurtured by the rich environment will energize visitors from within.
Written by ISHIGAKI KUMIKO
Sponsored by NBAFA