Iwate is an unforgettable place. It’s a land of simple pleasures, sportsmanship, incredible design, great food, untouched natural delights and one of the most inspiring modern histories in the country. Let’s get to know what makes Iwate one of the most exciting destinations in northern Japan.
Sitting inside Morioka Station Aeron Coffee is – literally – one the first ports of call for coffee in Morioka. Aeron’s sleek, monochromatically designed interior gives the impression that the folks here take their coffee very seriously, and they do. On offer, you’ll find a range of house-blended specialist beans for caffeine connoisseurs. However, upon quick inspection of the more than extensive menu, it’s clear Aeron isn’t afraid to get experimental and have a little fun either.
The menu features the classics you’ll find in most reputable coffee shops; espresso, americano, and the slow pour hand drip. But beyond those cafe staples is a world of lassis, teas, and juices, and hybrid lattes.
You can try a jet-black gothic latte – hot or iced – a refreshing espresso tonic, honey latte or maybe a cappuccino smoothie for something a little sweeter. If that’s too in-the-box for you, then the royal mint tea shake topped with pastel aqua-blue cream could be more to your taste.
No matter what you get, you can feel safe in the knowledge that the foundation is the same. The folks here believe that high-quality coffee is paramount, no matter which in form you like it.
Aeron opens at 7 am daily, but it’s more than just a grab-and-go coffee joint. The small smattering of tables which run along the back wall are a great place to take a load off and get some work done before venturing out into the city.
Or, even hang around for lunch, the cafe serves four types of deli-style sandwiches, thick and chunky inspired by the stylish rustic appeal of Portland’s cafe scene.
While it’s coffee in the morning, later in the day, beer is also a key player on Aeron’s menu. And the beer selection rivals that of the coffee menu. Most of the brews you’ll find here are US imports, shipped fresh from Portland. They’re displayed in brightly colored cans each emblazoned with designs as unique as the delights inside. If you’re having trouble selecting where to begin, ask the well-versed staff for their recommendations.
『AERON COFFEE AND BEER STAND』
Address: 1-44 Moriokaekimaedori, Morioka, Iwate 020-0034
Phone number: 019-909-0475
Regular Holiday: N/A
Nearest station: Morioka Station
Positioned between Kamimorioka and Morioka Station lives Fukuda Pan, home to what the locals claim to be the most popular sandwich shop in the city.
Fukuda Pan looks almost like an old western-style schoolhouse; its equal parts imposing, and inviting. But it’s near steps from the front where all the real sandwich-making action happens.
Fukuda Pan’s legacy dates back to 1948. It was founded with a humble and pragmatic purpose in mind: to serve hearty, cheap, satisfying sandwiches to the city’s students from the nearby college.
Before long word of Fukuda Pan spread and no longer was it just students lining up outside to get a slice of the action. It was a humble coffee and bread store that while it has evolved slightly over the past half-century, but stays true to its original ethos. The food is always top-notch, and the prices are still cheap. A typical sandwich here will cost you somewhere between 200-300 yen.
The sandwiches are served on a bread called “koppe pan.” It’s like a slightly wider, and fluffer Japanese version of a hot dog bun. The koppe pan served at Fukuda Pan is fluffier again. But it’s what’s on the inside of these cushiony buns that makes this shop famous throughout Iwate.
Fukuda Pan has around 60 different types of sandwich toppings, and as the process goes, guests can request any combination of the two. There are sweet and savory options, but the outcome is only limited by your imagination. If you’d rather go with something tried and tested, the most popular classic combinations include ‘anko’ (red bean paste) and butter, teriyaki chicken, or strawberry and cookie. It’s simple Morioka soul food at its best.
Address: 12-11 Nagatacho, Morioka, Iwate 020-0062
Phone number: 019-622-5896
A four-minute walk east from Morioka Castle Site Park sits Pairon, an unassuming little restaurant that serves up the authentic taste of Morioka.
Morioka, the most vibrant city in Iwate, has a lot going for it. But one of its biggest drawcards is the city’s ‘three great noodles of Morioka.’ These great noodles are wanko soba, Morioka reimen and the Pairon specialty, Morioka jajamen.
Local legend has it that Pairon is the original founding location jajamen. It’s is a noodle dish inspired by the Chinese zhajiangmian. A popular staple for the past 60 or so years now jajamen has thick, udon-like noodles that are soft and chewy with just the right amount of resistance. The noodles are topped with a scoop of nikumiso, a combination of ginger, meat and miso paste, which sits of a bed of vivid-green cucumber.
What makes this such a popular dish is its diversity, the bases are simple, but the combination of all the essential elements makes for a strong foundation. You have texture, color, taste, and the freedom to customize your bowl with the vast selection of spice, oils, sauces, and condiments lined across the table.
As you pull up a stool along the counter of Parion, it’s likely you notice a pile of big brown eggs sitting precariously in a near-overflowing bowl. These eggs are for the second step of the jajamen ceremony. Once you’re done eating your noodles, it’s time for ‘chi tan tan’ the second course.
Just crack one of the eggs into the bowl and use your chopsticks to mix the raw egg with the remnants of your noodles and sauce. Then pass this soupy concoction to the chef who will quickly fill it with a delicate tasting broth that cooks the egg, thus creating chi tan tan.
The Pairon experience is the epitome of what makes Iwate dining so great; it’s cheap, filling, delicious, and effortlessly understated. There are Morioka jajamen restaurants across the city, but for the original and the best it’s worth waiting in line for a spot inside the aging but cozy Pairon.
Address: 5-15 Uchimaru, Morioka, Iwate 020-0023
Phone number: 019-624-2247
Hours: 9:00〜21:00 Mon – Sat, 11:30〜19:00 Sun