Some of our most memorable travel memories are tied with food. The captivating scenery and rich cultures are heightened further with the addition of tantalizing local fare. Give your taste buds a Tohoku tour starting in Aomori, Akita and Yamagata prefectures.

1. Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen in Aomori

Fukaura is a boon for nature lovers. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Shirakami-Sanchi and an 80-kilometer stretch of coastline dubbed the Sunset Coast, it’s also home to Aomori’s biggest catch of bluefin tuna, known here as the black diamond for its unrivaled quality.

Stop by Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen to sample the maguro-don lunch set (pictured at th top of this article), which offers a generous serving of tuna sashimi and grilled tuna paired with a selection of sauces and rice bowls. Catch the sunset from the oceanside hot spring to complete the experience.

2. Akita Museum of Art in Akita

Designed by world-renowned architect Tadao Ando, Akita Museum of Art is a hub of cultural activity in Akita city. It houses an impressive collection of paintings by Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita and hosts regular exhibitions in a variety of genres. Koufuu, the museum’s café and shop, displays many examples of Akita Prefecture’s exceptional traditional crafts. Take time to enjoy the view of Senshu Park from the café’s picture window together with a coffee and a creamy Leonard Foujita-inspired fluffy rice flour roll cake.

3. Shonai Hotel Suiden Terrasse in Yamagata

Yamagata’s Tsuruoka city is Japan’s first UNESCO recognized Creative City of Gastronomy, earned by preserving its culinary customs and protecting heirloom produce. At Shigeru Ban’s immaculately designed Shonai Hotel Suiden Terrasse, its wooden frames mirrored in the surrounding rice fields in early summer, you can dine on a mariage of international-level cuisine and locally sourced ingredients. To create a fully immersive dining experience, stay the night and enjoy the sake bar, the hotel library and the newly constructed sauna.

Bonus: Yamagata On the Go

While you’re in Tsuruoka, hike up the 2,446 stone steps that lead from Tohoku’s oldest five-storied pagoda to the top of Mount Haguro for some shinrin-yoku forest bathing. There is a small café one-third of the way up, but it’s better to bring some sustenance for a boost of energy along the way. Grab a rice ball and roasted green tea in town before you set out — naturally made with Yamagata’s aromatic Tsuyahime rice.

Photos by Ryoko Ogawa

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