Aomori prefecture, located on the northern tip of Honshu, has long been known for both its rice production and its cold weather. So it should come as no surprise that the sake production here is among the best in Japan. However, Aomori also has an amazing scene for craft beer, wine bars, and cider made from its bountiful apple harvests. Here are 10 bars that we absolutely love!
Gastropub, Japanese, $$$
Ichinosuke is an izakaya gastropub that specializes in the traditional food of Aomori and top-shelf varieties of jizake, or local artisan sake. Located on the northernmost coast of Honshu, Aomori cuisine unsurprisingly has a heavy emphasis on seafood. Be sure to try delicacies like ika-menchi (minced calamari patties) and kaiyaki-miso (seafood in miso sauce grilled on a large scallop shell over a flame) paired with one of the recommended local sakes.
Gastropub, Japanese, Seafood, $$$
At Shougantei, you’ll find reasonable prices and seasonally available varieties of jizake, or regional sake. This traditional Japanese gastropub is known for its deliciously juicy kushiyaki grilled skewers and tasty oden stew. Enjoy them while sipping on a wide selection of local Aomori jizake and Japanese draft beer.
Tsugaru Joppari Isariya Sakaba
Gastropub, Japanese, Seafood, $$$
For a wide selection from all of Aomori’s top sake breweries in a uniquely traditional atmosphere, visit Tsugaru Joppari Isariya Sakaba. This old farmhouse-style izakaya incorporates themes from Aomori’s famous Nebuta Festival, as well as perforances using the shamisen instrument, a traditional three-stringed Japanese instrument similar to the banjo. The food here highlights both the prefecture’s excellent seafood and the down-home cooking that has been enjoyed in Aomori for centuries.
Gastropub, Wine Bar, Japanese, Seafood, Fusion, $$$
At Mitsuboshi, discover rare and uncommon sake varieties and very good food to boot. Elegant fusion dishes like uni cream pasta and hoya-sui (sea squirt shooters) will have you coming back again and again.
In Japan, the term “cider” (pronounced saidaa) typically refers to the clear fizzy soft drink, while “cidre” (pronounced shee-doru) is used to refer to the alcoholic apple wine. See and learn all about Aomori’s apple cidre brewing process at A-Factory, a hip space that combines a cidre factory with eight different brewing tanks and a tasting bar, where you can try different kinds of cidres (for a fee) before making a purchase. You can also take your drink outside to enjoy on the terrace.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Wine Bar, Japanese, European, Fusion, $$$
One of the top bars in Aomori, Confit sees plenty of repeat customers—and for good reason. Its elegant gastronomy combines Japanese ingredients with French and European techniques so superbly that you will forget every bad fusion dining experience you’ve ever had. The modish atmosphere is perfect whether you’re on a date, a girls’ night out, or just looking for an all-around classy good time.
Pub, Pub Grub, $$$
While the castle town of Hirosaki, surrounded by apple orchards, may be the last place one would expect to find an Irish pub that doubles as a music venue and rehearsal space, Robbin’s Nest is just that. Styled after the pubs that the owner encountered on his travels in Ireland, Robbin’s Nest aims to bring the friendly community feel of small-town European pubs to Hirosaki City. Come for the cheap drinks, craft beers, and tasty grub, and stay for the music and lively atmosphere.
Bar, Cafe, Cocktail Bar, Contemporary, Dessert, $$$
The classy, yet comfortable Bar N40, located inside of Art Hotel Hirosaki City, captures the hotel’s elegant boutique atmosphere while providing a quiet and subdued space in which to relax. Enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of cake if you’re craving dessert or a nice after-dinner tipple. The extensive drink menu offers a fine selection of Scotch, Japanese and North American whiskeys, as well as local selections like Nikka Apple Brandy from Hirosaki and sake and umeshu from the Tsugaru area.
Bar, Pub, Japanese, $$$
At the retro barcade and entertainment space Jyuhachiban, discover the kind of kitschy Showa-era fun that can only be found in Japan. Enjoy pub quizzes and private karaoke rooms, as well as Space Invader arcade booths and a weekend magic show performed by a bonafide magician. Drink to your heart’s content on a nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink) course.
Yottemare Sakaba at Hoshino Resort Aomoriya
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Gastropub, Wine Bar, Japanese, Seafood, Pub Grub, $$$
Located inside the Aomori branch of the up-scale Hoshino Resort brand, Yottemare Sakaba thrives on nostalgia. A phrase that means “Come and drink!” in the local dialect, the Showa-style izakaya invites hotel guests to pop in for a nightcap in their yukata dressing gowns before heading up to bed. With stylish counter seating, standing tables for a bit of tachinomi, and intimate tables-for-two, the spacious gastropub can accommodate all groups great and small. The menu includes both jizake and local Aomori wine, as well as traditional pub grub delicacies prepared with a gourmet flair.