Archive for Aomori-city

Villa – a delightful French-themed restaurant in Aomori-city

Posted in Aomori-city with tags , , on August 23, 2010 by Yuko

What are the important factors in choosing a restaurant for you? If you like a restaurant serving delicious & beautiful dishes still the price is reasonable and offering a comfortable atmosphere, then you would like “Villa”, the french-themed restaurant in Aomori-city. 

I organized a small pre-wedding party for my friends (both bride and grooms were  my friends) and I picked up Villa.  I don’t know much about wine and always ask for their recommendation. The waitress was very friendly and all wine(rose sparkling, white and red) she recommended were tasteful.

Villa has a seating capacity of  20

Appetizer of the day

Appetizer of the day  (when I came again another day with my friend)

Salad

Homemade Pate(pork and goose liver)

Pizza with Dry Cured Ham

Two Kinds of Pate

Garlic Bread

Forgot the name…(sorry!) Fish and Salad, the yellow topping is botargo.

Dessert(Tres Bien!)

Like many foreign food restaurants in Japan, Villa’s chef is Japanese and probably the taste is a bit acclimatized for Japanese customers.  After enjoying Sushi, Tempura and Sukiyaki in Japan, trying French-themed dishes with “chopsticks”(*they also offer forks and knives- it’s your choice ) can be a good experience in Aomori/Japan.  

Dining Villa

3-4-11  Honcho, Aomori-shi

Opening Hours:  11:30am-2:00(Lunch) 

                                  5:30pm-12:00am(Dinner)

Closed: Sunday

Parking: Paid parking is next door to this restaurant

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Tsujii Ramen & Mitsukake – the soul of Aomori

Posted in Aomori-city with tags , , , on July 6, 2010 by Yuko
 

As you might know, Ramen is one of  Japan’s comfort foods with Japanese curry, miso soup and rice ball.  Some people even say they can eat ramen three times a day, or can eat only ramen for the rest of their lives.  I’m not that crazy for Ramen, but would like to introduce one of the most popular Ramen places in Aomori-city. You don’t really see people waiting in line for restaurants in Aomori-city, and I was impressed that Tsujii Ramen had a long line of people waiting outside of the restaurant. 

 

People waiting in line for Tsujii Ramen

  

Of course the seats were full.  We ordered Ramen and Mitsukake, very “classic” way of order I assume that 90% of people should order the same way.   

Lunchtime Crowd

  

This is “Mitsukake”, rice cake with brown sugar syrup, Tsujii’s most popular dessert.   Rice cake is usually served before Ramen, so should  I say it is an…appetizer?   

Mitsukake

  

The rice cake is tender, and if you like the taste of brown sugar you will definitely love Mitsukake!   I thought I should leave some to eat after Ramen, but we just ate it up in 2 minutes and even wanted to have another plate.  

Tender & Yummy Mitsukake

Here is Tsujii Ramen – it features fine and curly noodles and the broth made with dried sardines and soy sauce.  The soup taste a bit salty to me, but people living in northern, colder area tend to prefer the salty and strong taste, and I think that’s why this place is loved by Aomori residents. Toppings are simple. Green onion, sliced pork and seasoned banboo shoots.       

Tsujii Ramen

  

There are 2 Tsujii Ramen restaurants. One is located by the sea and nicknamed “Umi-Tsujii”(literally sea tsujii), and another is located in the outskirt of the town, and called”Yama-Tsujii”(literally mountain Tsujii).  They both have big fans, so if you like this kind of ramen, it’s worth trying the both Tsujii restaurants! 

Tsujii Mochiten 

2-14-23, Gappo, Aomori-shi 

Open: 10:00am – 6:00pm 

Closed: Sunday and national holiday 

Car Parking Available

Hot Lips

Posted in Aomori-city with tags , , , on April 20, 2010 by Zack

What is Hot Lips you ask?

Hot Lips is the name of the newest culinary addition to Aomori City. This provocative burger joint is located just a few doors down from the Circle K convenience store next to Aomori City Hall, on the intersection of the National Route 4 and Yanagimachi-dori. Pretty impressive sign, right? Wait to you see the decor…

If it wasn’t for the Japanese katakana syllabary in the back there, you wouldn’t know that it’s Japan. Even the small details, from the salt and pepper shakers down to the pepsi glasses are all Americana. The only thing I can think of that would make it complete would be large fluffy paper napkins in a polished metallic napkin holder. The black and white floor reminds me of Twin Peaks, and on the walls hang Route 66 road signs, a poster version of Warhol’s Marilyn Triptych, and even a Where’s Waldo poster in the bathroom, all making it a very poignantly American experience, even if Where’s Waldo is originally from the UK… But anyway, how is the food?

It’s good! I could tell that the burgers weren’t exactly 100% American and were more close to the Japanese ideal taste of burgers, which is generally a juicy and much softer texture and less beefy taste than American burgers. If you have never seen a Japanese person make a hamburger, then you should know that they get pretty serious about their burgers, tenderizing the patties with lightning fast speed so that the warmth from the hands of the cook won’t affect the taste of the meat. Anyway, the burgers here come in affordable sets including a drink and a salad or fries. There aren’t too many places in Japan besides major fast food burger chains that have burger buns, so I was surprised to learn that the brother of the owner runs a bakery in Aomori, and makes all the buns for the shop. Besides burgers the menu also has pancakes, some pasta, sides, and Loco Moco, a Hawaiian favorite of mine that I have yet to try.

They also have a salmon and shrimp burger, which was really good, so you can also bring vegetarians. The prices are pretty reasonable, drinks are well priced and they have a good mix of beer and different popular cocktails in Japan and of course, whiskey. I haven’t had a chance to go yet for lunch but they have lunch combos too that look great. Oh, and they are open really late, from 11 am to 3 am! I’m hoping that late night pancakes and burgers will catch on here like in the States. Anyway, if you get a chance, try Hot Lips, a gem that offers a taste of Japan in a taste of America in Aomori.

Spring comes to Yunoshima

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , on April 7, 2010 by Zack

Lately the snow has melted, and the weather in Aomori has been warming up. It’s hard to keep from wanting to rush outdoors and soak up the sun. Looking for something to do outdoors that would give me a taste of the spring, I heard of an event going on a small uninhabited island called Yunoshima, located in Asamushi, a neighbor in Aomori City famous for its hot springs. From now until April 25, you can take a small boat over to the island and go hiking to see the spring wildflowers that grow there, in particular, a favorite called the katakuri, or the Dogtooth Violet as it is known in English.

Having not eaten a really substantial breakfast, I went to “Pizza House Sharumu”, a well known establishment just a minute walk from the Asamushi Onsen train station, approximately 20 minutes and 4 stations away from Aomori Station. Anyway, it was my first time to eat here, so I had to try their pizza- I decided to go with the scallop pizza, since it was my first time to see scallop pizza, but they had a lot of different varieties of pizza on the menu. I also tried their famous “omuraisu” (a Japanese dish consisting of tomato sauce flavored rice covered in a nice hot gooey omelette. I know it sounds a little unbelievable, but “omuraisu” is one of those Japanese dishes you just have to try to appreciate.

Shrimp Omuraisu

Savory Scallop Pizza

After this delicious lunch, it was time to head to the docks to catch a boat ride to Yunoshima, the small mountain island just about 800 meters from the shore.

Anglers enjoy the great weather with Yunoshima in the background

Boat bringing visitors to the island

After a short 5 minute boat ride we were there on the island. From a distance it looked gray and bare, so I had my doubts about being able to see any signs of spring. However, it wasn’t long before I stumbled upon fresh life poking its head out of the fallen dead leaves.

Bakke flowers of the Fuki plant, a mountain vegetable relished in the spring time

It was very impressing to see the variety and beauty of all these early blooming spring wildflowers as I made my way up the steep sloping trail up to the 132 meter summit of the island. With of course, plenty of breaks to smell and take some pretty good shots of the flowers.

Kikuzaki Ichirinsō (Anemone pseudoaltaica) a harbinger of spring, this woodland wild flower opens graciously in sunlight

Kibana no Amana or Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem

Otome-Engo-Saku, a type of Corydalis

Slope blanketed in fresh spring greenery

Finally, our guest of honor, the elusive katakuri flower, or Dogtooth Violet

The day I visited Yunoshima was at the very beginning of the festival so there were few Dogtooth Violets in bloom on that particular day, but a great deal of buds were just a few days shy of blossoming. One of the volunteer guides on the island told me that it takes approximately 7-8 years for the Dogtooth Violet to grow before it blooms. The Dogtooth Violet is also a treasured plant in Japan since ancient times, gathered for its starch for use in cooking, similar to cornstarch. Today it is one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, and is also the most famous of the “spring ephemerals”, flowers which flower the earliest in spring and wither before summer. Satisfied on finally find a blooming Dogtooth Violet, I started my descent down the trail after taking in the scenery from the summit of the mountainous island.

A great view of the azure ocean from the top

Torii gate before the small shrine on the island

Sea urchins, clam, and abalone shells

By the time I had reached the shore and finished taking all my photos it was time to catch the boat back across to Asamushi. I was still pretty full from lunch but there’s always room for ice cream…

So I decided to treat myself to the “cassis” (black currant) ice cream at Yu-Sa, the Michi-no-eki (Road Station) at Asamushi. Aomori is the top producer of not only apples, but also black currants! You can find plenty of black currant jelly and even black currant wine in Aomori City, but I’m a fan of the ice cream.

Anyway, the “festival” at Yunoshima is just starting and will continue for two more weeks so if you have a chance, please check it out!

Yunoshima Dogtooth Violet Festival (Yunoshima Katakuri Matsuri)

April 3-25, 2010

Cost: 1000 Yen for a roundtrip boat ride (Board at the Asamushi Docks)

A glimse into Aomori’s artsy side – Munakata Shiko

Posted in Aomori-city with tags , on April 1, 2010 by Christy

Munakata Shiko (1903 -1975) is one of Aomori’s most noted artists.  Born and raised in Aomori City, his artistic interest developed throughout his elementary school years, and by the time he was a high school student Munakata decided that he was to become ‘the next van Gogh of Aomori.’  The ambitious Munakata was originally captured by oil painting. However, after he was deeply influenced by woodblock print artist, Kawakami Sumio, his artistic focus shifted and he began woodcarving.

Munakata Shiko

Munakata received several awards for his work and was internationally acknowledged when he was awarded a special prize at the 1952 International Woodblock Print Exhibition in Switzerland.

Munakata’s works are displayed internationally, but if you find yourself in Aomori City, the Munakata Shiko Memorial Museum of Art is a nice option to directly immerse in Aomori’s art culture.

Memorial Museum Entrance

The museum pamphlet highlights just a few of Munkata’s noted works.

Museum pamphlet

The museum has several exhibitions running throughout the year, typically changing with the season.  The current spring exhibition through June 20 features many of Munakata’s works that highlight influences from nature.

Spring Exhibition Sign

The museum is encompassed by a beautiful garden and the design of the museum itself imitates an architecture style called ‘Azekura’  that was quite popular during the Nara period.

Museum

Although the garden has just started peeking out from the snow, with spring just around the corner, the museum is bound to be a popular spring attraction.

the soon to be lush spring garden

The Aomori Museum of Art is also a great place to grab a glimpse at Munakata’s work.  But, keep your eyes wide open as you travel through the prefecture, because Munakata’s influence is often just around the corner.  As Zack mentioned in a previous entry on art in Towada, even store front designs are showing Munakata imitations.

The Munakata Shiko Memorial Museum of Art website has great English information about the gallery and access.


Munakata Shiko Memorial Museum of Art
Open Tuesday – Sunday
Hours 9:30 – 17:00
Admission 400 yen.
15 minute taxi from Aomori Station. Also accessable by bus.
Website http://www.lantecweb.net/shikokan/

Upcoming Event: Koharu Doori Festival in Aomori

Posted in Aomori-city with tags , , on February 18, 2010 by Yuko

I am pretty sure almost no foreigners know about this small festival, because this has never been introduced in English and I’ve never seen foreigners coming to this festival before. 

So why don’t you come this year????

This annual festival was actually started 4 years ago, to celebrate the completion of sidewalk road heating system along the national road route 4 & 7 (around the area of government and other public offices).     It was to be the one-shot event, but since the committee including local companies, branches of Nationwide company, volunteer staff enjoyed working together to cheer up the residents in a torpid state, the committee decided to hold the festival every year in February. 

This year Koharu Doori Festival will be held from February 18  – 20.     In these 3 days, I recommend you to join the festival on the 20th, Saturday from 10:00am!   Why?  Because EVERYTHING is FREE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Picture from the last year - get on the snow plow!

You can test-ride the snow plows, enjoy Maccha green tea with Japanese sweets, Aomori specialty seafood (Nanako-hacchin) miso soup, bread making  like Christy did in Gappo park, Oshiruko(hot & sweet bean soup with rice cake), making cotton candy,  cake & tea heated with IH stove (sponsored by the electric  power company)….you don’t have to bring your purse to buy food in this festival.   You can get many giveaway by answering the questionnaire, by winning at rock-paper-scissors and so on.

Bread making- always fun.

The main place will be the parking lot of Aomori City Hall, so you can’t park there on Saturday.   If you are coming by car, probably need to park at the Yanagimachi Underground Parking.

This festivel is subtitled,”Enjoy by walking” because 12 places and buildings along the route 4 & 7 are the festival venue (you can find the map at the bottom of the flyer).

I will be at this festival all day, emceeing in the Aomori City Hall parking area.  If you need help in English, please come and feel free to talk to me.     Hope to see you there!   

 Koharu Doori Festival

Date: February 20 (Sat) 10:00am – 3:00pm

Place: Aomori City Hall parking area and other 11 buildings