Scrumptious September: Gifts of the harvest season
The month of September is often regarded as a period of transition for season, a time when we see the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Although many people would opt to travel later in October and November to witness autumn’s foliage, do you know that September is also just as amazing?
That’s because September is also often known as the “harvest season”, and rather than simply being known as the precursor to autumn, the month is the time when we see the start of bountiful harvests of autumn’s seasonal foods. It’s when we see the sweetest and most delicious fruits getting ready to be picked, the forthcoming of the fattiest fish from the sea, and golden rice fields that are ripe for reaping. The scenery of the colourful trees as they begin to bear seasonal fruits is also a brilliant sight to behold, so September is not only a time for the most scrumptious food, but also magnificent scenes that’s quite unique compared to those from the four main seasons.
Many people would confirm the sheer deliciousness of the food harvested in September, especially the fruits. This is not just because of the ideal environment—clean air and water, fertile soil, suitable differential temperatures—but also because of the sheer diligence and meticulous care put in by the farmers who cultivated them. It takes a lot of dedication to ensure that the fruits are at their best, attracting the most ardent fans to get their hands on them when the season arrives.
Harvests of September and their main production areas. (Image credit: Google Maps)
For this article, we are going to explore the best seasonal delicacies that you can enjoy in Eastern Japan for the month of September. It’s an underrated period in the year, and to fully enjoy savouring the first harvests in the month, visitors must make their way to the places of harvest in person to experience it to their heart’s content. Along the way, they can even enjoy the colours of the natural scenery around them before full autumn arrives because in September, the climate begins to cool down and become more enjoyable for the locals. There's even a local saying that goes like this: "No summer's heat or winter's cold lasts beyond the equinox." Hence, it's actually one of the best times for visitors to come and visit the country.
Are you ready to explore the delicious offerings for the period, and where you can find them? Let’s go.
Dakekimi corn. (Image credit: Aomori Prefecture)
Although the top producer of corn in Japan is Hokkaido, some places like Aomori Prefecture (青森県) also specialise in producing corn (とうもろこし tōmorokoshi), specifically in the city of Hirosaki (弘前市). In this city, visitors can enjoy Dakekimi (嶽きみ), a special type of premium sweet corn that is specially grown in the district of Dake (嶽) near the foot of Mount Iwaki (岩木山 Iwaki-san) in the prefecture. The name is a combination of “Dake”, the area where the corn is grown near the foot of the mountain, and “Kimi” (きみ), which actually means corn in the local Tsugaru dialect.
Dakekimi cornfield near the foot of Mount Iwaki. (Image credit: Aomori Prefecture)
What set Dakekimi corn apart from other regular ones are their irresistible sweetness, which can be attributed to the area's ideal climate. The corn is grown at an altitude of 400–500m, and there is a large difference in temperature between day and night in the area especially in early autumn. At night, when the temperature drops, the corn’s sugar content is at highest, and hence they are harvested in the morning when their sweetness is at their peak.
Dakekimi corn can be enjoyed in many ways—as soups, toppings, and even teas—but the best way might be the simplest one: simply steam it for a few minutes. This way, you can taste the sheer natural sweetness of the corn (in fact, the corn can even be eaten raw). If you’re in the area from late August to mid-September, you can even see pop-up stalls selling the corn.
Freshly harvested Shinano corn (left) and baking them (right). (Image credit: Nagano Prefecture)
There’s another bonus place in Eastern Japan that you can explore if you can’t get enough of corn. In the town of Shinano (信濃町) in Nagano Prefecture (長野県), there’s a street called Morokoshi-Kaidō (もろこし街道). Shinano, with an altitude of around 700m and surrounded by the Hokushin Gokaku (北信五岳) mountain range, is blessed with clean mountain air, plentiful fresh water, and organic volcanic ash-filled soil that provide the perfect environment for growing corn, and you can enjoy all of it along this street.
In late August, the corn is sold along this street, and visitors can stop by and savour their incredible sweetness for themselves. Many locals and out-of-towners would flock here during the season, and they can even bake them on the spot.
Sliced peaches. (Image credit: photoAC)
Peaches (もも momo) are among the most popular fruits in Japan, and are synonymous with the autumn season. Known for their delicate sweetness, juicy flesh, and pleasant aroma, they are coveted fruits in Japan and there are several kinds available too, but the two most common ones are Hakutō (白桃 white peach), which is known for pale pink exterior and white flesh, and Ōtō (黄桃 yellow peach), which is known for mango-like yellow flesh.
Peaches are typically in season from July to August, but there are some types that are harvested in late August. Several prefectures in Japan are famous for their peaches, and one of them is Fukushima Prefecture (福島県). The peaches from Fukushima are known to be extremely sweet, and like the Dakekimi corn of Aomori, their sweetness is thanks to the area’s cool climate, plentiful sunlight, and drastic temperature change between day and night during the harvest season. In this prefecture alone, there are over 30 types of peaches available that you can try, but the most famous type in Fukushima is Akatsuki (あかつき) which are in season in August.
And do you know what the best part is about Fukushima Prefecture? If you really love your fruits, you should go seek out a road that is known to be a fruit paradise. Fukushima Prefectural Road No. 5 (福島県道5号線 Fukushima Kendō go-gōsen) is a 14km stretch of road at the foot of the Azuma Mountains (吾妻山 Azuma-yama) on the western side of the city of Fukushima (福島市), and this road is lined with fruit orchards and farmer’s markets where you can go pick out the best seasonal fruits, including peaches. Also known as “Fruits Line”, it’s a road that is essentially a fruity wonderland, and is not to be missed.
Do you know which prefecture is the top producer of peaches in Japan? If you guess Yamanashi (山梨県), then you are absolutely correct. The prefecture is recognised as the top producer of many fruits, and the peaches here are said to be among the tastiest in the country. People will flock especially to the city of Fuefuki (笛吹市), where there are many fruit farms to welcome everyone to enjoy their harvests. Visitors to the farms can take part in peach-picking, and enjoy them right on the spot.
And here’s an insider tip: keep a lookout for two types of peaches in Yamanashi, the Hikawa Hakuhō (氷川白鳳) and Misaka Hakuhō (みさか白鳳). The former are renowned for their strong and refreshing peachy flavour, and the latter are famous for their subtler taste which is more suitable for making desserts. Both are in season in August.
Peaches from Fukushima. (Image credit: 福島県観光物産交流協会)
Another prefecture that produces amazing peaches is Nagano (長野県). The fertile soil, cool climate with warm days and chilly nights, and clean air make Nagano a suitable place for growing peaches. They also thrive in areas with low rainfall as too much water can affect their growth, which makes Nagano's climate suitable for their cultivation.
Nagano is famous for peaches not just because they’re delicious, but also because of the sheer variety available. As the third highest peach producer in Japan, Nagano has many varieties that are specific to the prefecture itself, such as Natsuki (なつき) and Natsukko (なつっこ). One unique brand of peach from the city of Nagano (長野市) is Kawanakajima Hakutō (川中島白桃), which are in season from late August onwards.
Delaware grapes (left) and Kyohō grapes (right). (Image credit: Yamagata Prefecture, 福島県観光物産交流協会)
When it comes to an iconic fruit for the month of September, it would be grapes (ぶどう budō). Eastern Japan is one of the top producers of grapes in Japan, and there are many varieties to choose from. Although most people would know the more popular types such as Shine Muscat (シャインマスカット), known for its light green colour and crunchy texture, and Kyohō (巨峰), known for its huge size and bluish-purple colour, there are others more specific to the region they’re grown in, such as Nagano Purple from Nagano. There are also some types that are popular in certain regions, such as Delaware grapes in Yamagata.
Eastern Japan includes prefectures that have the highest production of grapes in the country: Yamanashi, Nagano, and Yamagata (山形県) yield the most volumes in Japan. Yamanashi is the top producer of grapes in Japan, and the best ones are in the cities of Yamanashi (山梨市) and Kōshū (甲州市). Fun facts about Yamanashi: it’s also the top producer of wine in Japan, contributing to almost a third of the total domestic production of wine, and there’s even a railway station named after grapes: JR Katsunumabudōkyō Station (JR勝沼ぶどう郷駅). In Nagano Prefecture, the grapes are plentiful in cities Suzaka (須坂市) and Nakano (中野市); for Yamagata, they are abundantly grown in Nanyō (南陽市) and Takahata (高畠町).
Grapes thrive in the prefectures above thanks to their ideal climate. They grow well in places with long warm summers, where the ample sunlight and satisfactory amount of humidity allow grapes to grow at their best. Plus, the drastic temperature differences between day and night in these prefectures are ideal for grapes. As such, early autumn is usually the time when grape harvests begin, and the sight of grapes alone would conjure the beautiful imagery of autumn for many people in Japan.
Shine Muscat grapes from Nagano. (Image credit: Nagano Prefecture)
Here is an interesting fact about grapes. Seedless grapes are very common nowadays, and in recent times, they have grown in sheer popularity because of the convenience of consuming them without needing to remove the seeds. But do you know that grapes with seeds taste better than their seedless counterparts? For example, there are seeded and seedless types of Kyohō grapes, but the sweeter type is actually the seeded one. Many people can attest to this observation, so you can try to compare them and see for yourself!
Here’s another interesting observation about grapes grown in Japan. Some Japanese grapes have relatively thin skin that gives a crunchy texture such as Shine Muscat and Nagano Purple, and people often enjoy them with the skin. Plus, their skins are rich in polyphenols, which are said to have many health benefits. But do you know that a lot of people in Japan would peel the skin off some grapes before eating them? Some like Kyohō have thick skin, so people would remove them before eating. But when it comes to peeling them, it is said that doing so from the bottom is better than from the top because the grapes are said to be sweeter by doing so. Why don’t you try doing this too, the next time you get your hands on these treasured fruits?
Chestnuts with their husks. (Image credit: Nagano Prefecture)
When it comes to food that perfectly represents autumn, nothing comes as close as the chestnut (栗 kuri). Chestnuts are specially grown and harvested from early autumn onwards, which typically begin in September, and they have been consumed and enjoyed by the locals since ancient times. They are also featured in dishes during special occasions, such as osechi (おせち traditional food enjoyed during New Year’s holidays). When locals see chestnuts, most will instinctively picture the image of autumn and anticipate their arrival.
Most people would know that chestnuts are most commonly enjoyed roasted: heating them in high heat would cook the flesh on the inside, while making the peeling of the shells easier. Roasted chestnuts (焼き栗 yaki-guri) are part of the quintessential autumn experience, and the sight of chestnut street vendors becomes a common sight in Japan as the season approaches. Plus, enjoying warm roasted chestnuts in the chilly weather is an amazing feeling, don’t you think? But do you know that there are so many ways to enjoy chestnuts in Japan?
Kuri-okowa (left) and Mont Blanc (right). (Image credit: 竹風堂, 小布施堂)
One of the best ways to enjoy chestnuts in Japan is with rice, and the locals commonly enjoyed it as a dish called kuri-okowa (栗おこわ chestnut rice). This iconic autumn dish is quite simple to make, and many locals love the savoury chestnuts that perfectly complement the short grain rice, and its distinctive nutty aroma. When in autumn, it’s almost impossible not to see this humble dish everywhere you go.
One of the most popular contemporary ways to enjoy chestnuts in Japan is in the form of Mont Blanc (モンブラン monburan), a dessert made with a sponge cake base, layered with puréed chestnut cream and whipped cream, and topped with a candied chestnut. The dessert originated in France, but when it was brought into Japan, it became so popular over time that the dessert is more commonplace here than in its country of origin.
When it comes to prefectures famous for their chestnuts in Eastern Japan, two in particular are worth mentioning: Ibaraki (茨城県) and Nagano. Ibaraki is the top producer of chestnuts in Japan, with the city of Kasama (笠間市) as the main production area, but Nagano has the most famous "chestnut town" of Obuse (小布施) in the country.
*Limited time seasonal menu using fresh chestnuts: Suzaku (left) and Kurikomochi (right). (Image credit: 小布施堂, 竹風堂)
If you’re a huge fan of chestnut desserts, you should make your way to the town of Obuse in Nagano. It has an amazing, idyllic ambiance, and there are many dessert shops here that would come up with limited menus featuring chestnuts for the harvest season. In particular, here lies one of the most established patisseries in Japan called Obusedo (小布施堂 Obusedō), which specialises in chestnut-based desserts, and their star dessert is Suzaku (朱雀), which is made with chestnut cream that resembles sōmen noodles. Suzaku isn't sweet like most other chestnut-based desserts; it's the savoury taste of pure chestnuts, and chestnut lovers will immediately fall in love with it upon first try. Another store that specialises in chestnut-based seasonal items is Chikufudo (竹風堂), and their famous dessert is the Kurikomochi (栗子餅), which is chestnut cream on top of sticky rice cakes.
(*Note: Suzaku and Kurikomochi may not be available on certain days, as it depends on the chestnut production for the days. Also, the sales period for seasonal dishes such as Suzaku and Kurikomochi varies from year to year. However, kuri-okowa and Mont Blanc are available all year round.)
Kurimushi yokan. (Image credit: photoAC)
Chestnuts are also featured in traditional Japanese sweets (和菓子 wagashi). For example, they are used in making yōkan (ようかん)—which are traditional Japanese jellies made with red bean paste, agar, and sugar—and a variant with chestnuts in it is called kurimushi yōkan (栗蒸しようかん).
⑤ Japanese pears
Japanese pears. (Image credit: 福島県観光物産交流協会)
Another popular fruit that is harvested from September onwards is the Japanese pear (梨 nashi). The fruit is loved by many locals in Japan for its refreshing taste, irresistible juiciness, and delightful sweetness with a perfect hint of tartness. Japanese pears are in season in late summer and autumn, and are often harvested from September onwards. It is often used in high-quality food souvenirs and Western desserts in patisseries because of its delicate sweetness.
Nansui pears from Nagano. (Image credit: Nagano Prefecture)
Three cities in Eastern Japan where you can enjoy delicious Japanese pears are Fukushima, Niigata, and Iida (飯田市). The city of Fukushima is particularly famous for its production of Japanese pears, and the best place to check them out while in season is the “Fruits Line” (see above). For Niigata, they even have own local specialty types such as Shin-Mizuki (新美月) and Shin'Ou (新王), both of which are said to be among the sweetest Japanese pears in the country. In Nagano, one local specialty type to take note of is Nansui (南水), renowned for its juicy flesh, and its main production area is in Iida. Other popular types that are available in many areas are Kōsui (幸水), renowned for its soft, juicy and sweet flesh; Hōsui (豊水), known for its rich taste; and Nijūseiki (二十世紀), which is gaining immense popularity for its balance of sweetness and tartness.
Apples in Aomori. (Image credit: Aomori Prefecture)
The apple is one of the most recognisable fruits in the world, and in Japan, they are also recognised as a seasonal fruit that is best enjoyed from autumn onwards. With their harvest season stretching from August to November, apples require a unique climate that combines warm days and cool nights to thrive, which makes their cultivation difficult for many areas. For Eastern Japan, two prefectures particularly stand out when it comes to apple production, one of which is known to many as the “Kingdom of Apples”.
When it comes to apples in Japan, no other prefecture conjures a stronger image of it than Aomori Prefecture. It is the most famous apple-producing prefecture in Japan not only because it is the country's top apple producer—it produces up to 60 percent of total apple production in Japan—but it is also home to many apple varieties that have reached all corners of the world. In Aomori, the one high-producing place is the city of Hirosaki.
For instance, do you know that Fuji, one of the most popular apple varieties in the world, originated in Aomori Prefecture? They were first introduced in the early 1960s, and were originally cultivated in the town of Fujisaki (藤崎町) in Aomori Prefecture. The variety was named after the town itself, and today they are grown in many other countries such as China and the US. Fuji accounts for up to 50 percent of the total apple production in Aomori, and is the best-selling apple variety in Japan, with many people loving them for their amazing sweetness, crispy texture, large size, and most importantly, their very long shelf life.
Apple picking. (Image credit: Aomori Prefecture)
People who have tried the apples from Aomori would know just how amazing they are, and this is the result of the sheer amount of work and care taken by apple farmers in growing them. Cultivating apples is labour-intensive, and processing them would take an entire year, beginning from winter in late-January. Below are just some of the important tasks that farmers have to do to ensure that the apples are grown optimally:
- Pruning apple trees to ensure that all apples will get enough sunlight and not be blocked by too many leaves.
- Fertilising the soil to ensure that the apples get enough nutrition.
- Mowing the apple farms so that overgrown grass doesn’t compete with apple trees for water.
- Applying organic insecticides to prevent the apples from being infested by insects.
- Turning the apples manually so that each apple is directly facing the sun and gets enough sunlight.
- Harvesting the apples by picking them one by one so that the apples don’t get damaged.
So the next time you sink your teeth into one of these fruity treasures, just remember the sheer dedication of the apple farmers that put in their heart and soul into growing each and every one of them.
The different ways to enjoy apples. (Image credit: Aomori Prefecture)
Of course, apples can be enjoyed on their own, but why do only that there are so many ways to enjoy it? Apples are used to make different kinds of products such as apple juices and ciders, apple jams, wines, and most importantly, apple pies. Do you know that in Hirosaki, you can find over 50 different kinds of apple pies? Apple pie lovers will be spoiled for choice, and they should be ready to try all the different kinds of pies come harvest season.
Shinano Gold. (Image credit: photoAC)
The next top producer of apples in Japan is Nagano, a prefecture that has garnered a reputation for their high-quality fruits—especially their grapes, peaches, and of course apples—and it’s again thanks to their climate and fertile soil. The best apples in the prefecture are found in the cities of Nagano and Nakano. While famous varieties such as Fuji are easily available in Nagano too, visitors should check out their local specialties such as Shinano Sweet and Shinano Gold. Fun fact: the apples’ name “Shinano” (しなの) refers to Nagano’s old name.
⑦ Matsutake mushrooms
Matsutake mushrooms. (Image credit: 岩手県観光協会)
When it comes to autumn, do you know another foodstuff that would naturally come to mind? Mushrooms (きのこ kinoko). They are a seasonal food item during autumn, and are an essential ingredient in many autumn-themed dishes in Japan. The locals have an intimate relationship with them as a delicacy, and while there are so many varieties available, one in particular stands out from the rest.
Matsutake (松茸) is one of the most prized mushrooms in Japan; in fact, it’s the most expensive type. They are synonymous with the autumn season when they are harvested, but due to their limited availability, they are often sought-after every season.
The many ways to enjoy matsutake mushrooms. (Image credit: Nagano Prefecture / JNTO, JR East / Akio Kobori)
Matsutake mushrooms are loved for their complex taste, which has an earthy and spicy flavour, and their meaty, firm texture. Equally tantalising is their unmistakable aroma, which would invoke the vivid image of autumn for many locals. They can be enjoyed in many ways, too—grilled, cooked together with rice, in hotpots—but in order to bring out their flavour in full, it’s best served grilled.
What also makes matsutake mushrooms highly coveted is their limited availability. They cannot be cultivated and are found only in the wild, so their availability depends entirely on how much can be found for the season. Nagano Prefecture is the top producer of matsutake mushrooms, but they are also produced in other prefectures such as Yamagata and Iwate (岩手県). For Iwate, the best producing cities include the town of Iwaizumi (岩泉町) and the city of Kuji (久慈市).
Fun fact: In Nagano, there’s a place in Ueda called Matsutake Goya (まつたけ小屋), a restaurant that specialises in using matsutake mushrooms. The menu features many special items that centers around the iconic mushroom, and it's worth visiting for lovers of the coveted ingredient. Do note that the restaurant operates during autumn only.
⑧ Maitake mushrooms
Maitake mushrooms. (Image credit: Nagano Prefecture)
Another type of mushroom to look out for in the autumn is maitake (舞茸), whose quirky name literally means “dancing mushrooms”. Also known as hen-of-the-wood and easily recognised for their unique appearance, maitake mushrooms are a delicacy that is known for their tearthy taste, and more particularly, their succulent texture. Like matsutake mushrooms, they can also be prepared in many ways but the best one is as tempura, when their texture is much more irresistible after coated lightly with batter and deep-fried to perfection.
Maitake tempura. (Image credit: Nagano Prefecture)
Maitake mushrooms are a specialty in the region of Shōnai (庄内), especially in the city of Tsuruoka (鶴岡市). Wild maitake mushrooms are especially valuable and hard to get, and they are in season only in September and October. But in Niigata, they are commercially grown and exported to many countries, so people get to enjoy them all year round.
⑨ Taro roots
Taro roots. (Image credit: photoAC)
Taro roots (里芋 satoimo) are very much part of Japanese cuisine especially in autumn, and are cultivated in many regions in Japan, including Eastern Japan. The ones in Japan are slightly smaller than most other taro roots, and their flesh has a slightly slimy texture, but don’t let that turn you off. Its mild flavour makes it the perfect ingredient for soups and stews, and even an essential component to an iconic dish for one prefecture.
Imoni. (Image credit: Yamagata Prefecture)
For the locals of the mountainous prefecture of Yamagata, autumn is the time for a special homely dish imoni (芋煮). It’s a hearty stew filled with taro roots, thinly sliced meats, konnyaku, and leeks in a soya-sauce based broth. Other ingredients that can be added include burdock roots, carrots, tofu, mushrooms, and so much more. The meaning is also expressed in its name: “imo” (芋) means “tuber” (or in this case, the taro roots used in the dish), and “ni” (煮) means “simmer”.
What makes imoni special is how it’s enjoyed: typically regarded as an outdoor group dish, it is best eaten with groups of families and friends around a huge pot simmering over a fire, and enjoyed out in the open. The locals enjoy this dish by having imoni-kai (芋煮会 imoni parties), where the fun is in having it with your friends and loved ones in early autumn. Such parties are meant to deepen friendship, and the slightly chilly temperature makes imoni much more fun to be enjoyed outside.
Although imoni is commonly associated with Yamagata, the dish is enjoyed in other neighbouring prefectures as well, such as in Miyagi (宮城県), Fukushima, and Akita, and each even has its own variation. But there’s something special in Yamagata that is held every late September, and it is the Autumn Imoni Festival (芋煮会フェスティバル Imoni-kai Fesutibaru).
A 6-metre iron cauldron used to prepare imoni. (Image credit: Yamagata Prefecture)
During this event, thousands of people would gather and witness an amazing event where imoni is prepared in an enormous 6-metre cast iron cauldron. Such imoni festivals are held in other prefectures too, but the one in Yamagata is by far the biggest and most spectacular one, and it’s an event that visitors shouldn’t miss in autumn.
Koshihikari rice from Uonuma. (Image credit: 新潟県観光協会)
Japanese food lovers would know that when it comes to Niigata, their best offering is definitely rice. More specifically, it is home to the highly prized Koshihikari (コシヒカリ) rice, which is even considered to be the best type of rice in Japan.
Rice ears during harvest season. (Image credit: 魚沼市観光協会)
Niigata is home to some of the best rice in Japan thanks to its geography. With direct access to large amounts of water, and large differential temperatures between day and night, it makes for an ideal environment for rice to thrive, and when autumn comes, the rice fields are covered with golden rice ears that are ready to be harvested. Newly harvested rice is known as shinmai (新米 new rice), and its taste is unparalleled to any other rice. When it comes to cultivating the best rice in Niigata, the most famous production area is in Uonuma (魚沼).
⑪ Pacific saury
Pacific saury. (Image credit: 岩手県観光協会)
Some prefectures such as Miyagi and Iwate are blessed with the abundance of the freshest seafood thanks to their close proximity with the Sanriku Coast, where the mixing of water currents Oyashio (親潮) and Kuroshio (黒潮) within the region result in an ideal environment where seafood, especially fish, can thrive. When it comes to the season of autumn, no other seafood symbolises it better than the Pacific saury (さんま sanma).
Pacific saury is a seasonal fish that is best enjoyed in the autumn, especially from September onwards, when its southward migration along the Sanriku Coast from the northern Pacific Ocean result in bountiful catches for the season. In fact, the fish’s seasonality is even included in its name: “sanma” is written as 秋刀魚 in kanji, which directly translates as “autumn sword fish”!
Pacific saury in Kesennuma. (Image credit: 宮城県観光プロモーション推進室)
Pacific saury is known for its distinctive sword-like shape, but more importantly, is famous for its delicate flavour and savoury, fatty taste with the right amount of oiliness. In fact, Pacific saury is best enjoyed in the autumn also because it’s at its fattiest during this season. It can be enjoyed in several ways, but the two most common ways are grilled or as sashimi.
Personally, I love to have it grilled and enjoy it with a dash of grated radish and on a bowl of warm rice, which makes for a simple yet satisfying meal. Other people would attest that the fish is best enjoyed in its simplest form, and thus as sashimi where you can savour its heavenly fattiness.
The best place to enjoy Pacific saury in Eastern Japan is in the northeastern prefecture of Iwate and Miyagi, where coastal cities such as Ōfunato (大船渡市), Kesennuma (気仙沼市), and Ishinomaki (石巻市) have ports with ample productions of the fish (in fact, Ōfunato’s fishing port is one of the top producers of Pacific saury in Japan). Unfortunately, due to the effects of climate change, the volume of Pacific saury being caught has been dwindling, and they’re becoming scarcer, making them even more sought-after.
Here’s an interesting surprise for you: do you know that there’s an annual festival held right in the heart of Tokyo that is specially devoted to Pacific saury? Every year in early September, the Meguro Sanma Festival (目黒のさんま祭り Meguro no Sanma Matsuri) is held at a shopping street in front of JR Meguro Station, and up to 30,000 people would come and enjoy all the delicious grilled Pacific saury that are brought in from Kesennuma.
Note: the 2020 and 2021 editions of the event were cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Unknown to many people, the month of September is actually one of the best times to travel to Japan, especially if you’re a foodie and scenery enthusiast. It’s a time when the food is at its best, and with the natural scenery starting to welcome the season of autumn, it’s a special time of the year that people ought to visit and enjoy, especially in Eastern Japan where the freshly harvested foods are simply decadent. Come visit the region for September next time, and look forward to all the scrumptious foods you get to enjoy.
JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area)
The JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) and where you can use it. (Image credit: JR East)
The JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) is an affordable pass that offers unlimited train rides on JR East lines, including bullet trains, within the valid area for 5 consecutive days. It's only ¥20,000, making it a considerable option for rail travellers. You can also make seat reservations for bullet trains, some limited express trains and Joyful Trains online for free, up to 1 month in advance, here. It can also be used for automatic ticket gates, and foreign passport holders living in Japan are also eligible to use this pass.
JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area)
The JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) and where you can use it. (Image credit: JR East)
The JR EAST PASS (Nagano, Niigata area) is an affordable pass that offers unlimited rail travel on JR East lines (including bullet trains) in the valid area for 5 consecutive days. At only ¥18,000, you can save a lot of money if you travel extensively by trains in the region. You can also make seat reservations for bullet trains, some limited express trains and Joyful Trains online for free, up to 1 month in advance, here. It can also be used for automatic ticket gates, and foreign passport holders living in Japan are also eligible to use this pass.
Header image credit: (clockwise from top left) Aomori Prefecture, Nagano Prefecture, Yamagata Prefecture, 福島県観光物産交流協会, photoAC, 魚沼市観光協会, 岩手県観光協会