Located on the northern tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu, Aomori Prefecture is known for its great seafood. Aomori scallops are especially prized, and any shellfish fan visiting the area should definitely make time to have a few.
But how can you be sure you’re eating the freshest scallops possible? Easy: catch them yourself. Even if you don’t have the time to venture out onto the open seas, there’s a restaurant right across the street from Aomori Station that lets you do just that.
Right across the street from Aomori Station you’ll find Aomori Hotategoya, or “Aomori Scallop Shack.” With a tank full of live scallops and fishing poles for customers to use, they’ve got everything you’ll need to get started.
The dinky one-handed poles may look like they should be called fishing twigs instead, but with scallops’ lack of mobility, they don’t exactly put up much of a fight once they’re on the hook. In fact, you don’t even need to use bait. Just dangle the hook in front of one until it clamps down on it, and pull it out of the water. Frankly, this seems a little more like “hunting” than “fishing” to us, but with the chance to eat seafood this fresh, we’ll leave the semantics debate to those less hungry than we were.
A single 500 yen (US $5) coin gets you three minutes of fishing time, during which you can catch as many scallops as you like. This was our first time trying to catch them, and our lack of experience showed as we came away with only three, but since the restaurant will prepare any scallops you catch free of charge, it still worked out to less than 200 per scallop, far less than what you’d usually pay at a sushi restaurant for food of this caliber.
Of course, if you don’t feel like fishing for your food, the restaurant also has a full line-up of dishes you can just order straight off the menu, like their outstanding squid sashimi.
You can have your scallops made into sushi, sliced into sashimi, or grilled in the shell, and it’s no problem if you want to split your catch among the three styles. Since we came all the way to Aomori, though, we opted to have all of ours as sushi, the better to appreciate their unadorned flavor. This turned out to be a good call, as aside from their excellent texture, they turned out to be the sweetest-tasting scallops we’ve ever had.
The bullet train that connects the prefecture with Tokyo comes in at Shin Aomori Station, but plain old Aomori Station is just a five minute ride away. Hotategoya is just a 30 second walk from the east exit, and since there’s no need to spend time cooking the scallops if you have them as sushi or sashimi, it’s a great spot to kill time while waiting for your train back to the capital. Our three scallops made a tasty little snack, but we’re hoping to come away with a full meal, like the woman we saw who hauled in 10, the next time we’re in town.
Aomori Hotategoya / あおもり帆立小屋
Address: Aomori Prefecture, Aomori City, Yasukata 1-3-2, Aomori Building 1st floor
青森県青森市安方1-3-2 青森ビル 1F
Open 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
[ Read in Japanese ]