The new Muslim Friendly Tohoku campaign aims to help the region become Japan’s most Muslim-friendly tourist destination.
Breathtaking scenery, delicious delicacies, and colorful culture – Tohoku has it all. However, as with the rest of Japan, finding Muslim-friendly food here can prove difficult. Hoping to offer Muslim visitors a taste of Japanese cuisine and culture, the Muslim Friendly Tohoku campaign is inspiring a growing number of restaurants and hotels around Tohoku to begin offering Muslim-friendly food and facilities. We visited several spots to try out the eats and offerings for ourselves, and here are our top six recommended places for halal hunters in Tohoku…
Azumaya Honten Wanko Soba in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture
Wanko soba is an Iwate Prefecture delicacy that works much like an all-you-can-eat game. Served with various condiments such as tuna sashimi and nameko mushrooms on the side, small portions of buckwheat noodles are poured into your bowl one after another. One normal portion of soba is equivalent to about 15 small bowls of wanko soba. The bowls you finish are stacked beside you as a symbol of your achievements. We took on the challenge at Azumaya and managed to devour 51 bowls, beating the men’s average. The restaurant, unlike traditional wanko soba spots in Iwate, serves a Muslim-friendly version by substituting Japanese soup stock with kelp or shiitake alternatives, and not using mirin (rice wine) as a condiment. www.wankosoba-azumaya.co.jp/foreigner/english
Akiu Vegita Kurabu in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
Tucked away in the farmland of rural Miyagi Prefecture, Vegita Kurabu is run by a handful of passionate farmers who want to bring to light the importance of vegetables. They grow a wide array of fresh produce in their greenhouses and fields, and in addition to selling their vegetables to local stores, the group invites people to enjoy their natural bentos amidst the lush greenery of their farm. As they use halal soy sauce and vegetable soup stock, the multi-colored, healthy meals are not only perfect for vegetarians and vegans, but also for Muslims who want to experience the Japanese countryside. 58 Akiu-Machi Babaji Takihara, Taihaku-ku, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. Tel: 022-399-5020
Yahataya in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture
Yahataya restaurant is a hidden gem in the quaint streets of the seaside city of Ishinomaki. In 2011, the port city was badly affected by the Tohoku earthquake, and the restaurant was destroyed. However, since reopening in 2012, it strives to use the freshest local produce and seafood to showcase the beauty of Miyagi cuisine. We were spoiled with oyster tempura, sashimi, as well as local delicacies – deep-fried gluten (aburafu) and sweet edamame paste mochi (zunda mochi) – all made in a halal manner. Home to some of the best seafood in Japan, Ishinomaki is the perfect place to indulge in Muslim-friendly local dishes while supporting the once disaster-struck harbor city. If you’ve got some spare time, hop on a ferry to Tashirojima, another one of Japan’s “cat islands.” www.i-yahataya.com
Where to Stay
Three Tohoku hotels offering halal food and Muslim-friendly facilities.
Hotel Metropolitan Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture
This stylish hotel is a great place to stay when exploring Miyagi Prefecture’s capital city. The hotel’s Hayase restaurant provides halal breakfast, lunch and dinner. Believing that Japanese food is a huge part of its culture, the chef told Weekender that he incorporates local delicacies to let Muslims experience true Japanese cuisine.
APPI Resort in Akimantai, Iwate Prefecture
Located in the central city of Akimantai, this family-friendly resort allows for easy access to Iwate, Akita and Aomori prefectures. Whether it’s glamping and fishing in summer, or snowboarding in winter, there’s something for everyone at APPI Resort. For Muslim visitors, a wide variety of halal meals and bentos, private hot spring baths, and prayer spaces are available.
Ujo no Yado Shintsuta, Fukushima Prefecture
Unwind in the southern coastal region of Fukushima Prefecture at Ujo no Yado Shintsuta ryokan. Savor delicious dishes featuring local seafood and ingredients at Tohoku’s first halal restaurant, where Muslim guests can enjoy Japanese dishes worry-free. A prayer room is also provided. The hotel, located in Yumoto Onsenkyo, a hot spring town, has private garden hot spring baths. www.shintsuta.com
Check out the Muslim-Friendly travel tour at www.japanican.com/en/area/tohoku
Want to explore Tohoku a bit more? Read our full guide to the “Top Things to Do, See and Eat in Tohoku.”