Packing Exquisite Local Flavors and Craftsman’s Pride

Tohoku (Aomori, Miyagi, Iwate)

(Month information was collected: September 2017)

Blessed with changes of four seasons, Tohoku is home to a wide variety of foods, from the sea to land, to the mountains. Home to Sanriku, one of the best fishing grounds in the world, Tohoku still has the most active fishing industry in Japan. Though impacted by the Great East Japan Earthquake, the fishing industry is still delivering its blessings to all corners of Japan, thanks to people’s unfaltering efforts toward recovery.

This time from Tohoku, E-ZEY JAPAN offers you an assortment of carefully selected foods from Aomori, a prefecture surrounded by the sea on its three sides, as well as Iwate and Miyagi, the prefectures with the Sanriku fishing ground off their shores.

How can freshly gathered ingredients be delivered across Japan without losing any of their freshness? Each food envelops the pride of local craftsmen who handle their products with utmost attention.

Smoked by 40 years of experience: Mutsu Bay scallops

Let’s look at scallops from Aomori first. Aomori has the second most catches of scallops in Japan, the first being Hokkaido. Situated in the northern part of Aomori, Mutsu Bay is the place buoyant with years of active scallop farming. With clean, mineral-rich water from Mt. Hakkoda and Shirakami Sanchi mountain range flowing in, lots of phytoplankton grow in the bay. Because of its unique shape surrounded by land, it does not get affected by large currents, making it the best ground for scallop farming. Grown without stress, the Mutsu Bay scallops are thick, distinctly sweet and are an established brand.

De Mer is a seafood processor from Hachinohe, Aomori, who uses the Mutsu Bay scallops to create new products. They have a reputed unique smoking technology, used also for smoking Hachinohe’s special Maeoki mackerels, their hit product. To the Mutsu Bay scallops, they applied a special smoking technique called cold-smoking.

Smoking is usually done with cherry and other woods, and is typically categorized into heat-smoking, warm-smoking and cold-smoking. Generally, meat and cheese are heat- or warm-smoked, but this can sometimes overheat the foods.

“We wanted the scallops to be well-preserved, but we wanted to keep the Mutsu Bay scallops’ great juiciness no matter what. We wanted to retain their raw texture and make them aromatic. After much trial and error, we ended up with cold-smoking,” says Junetsu Ito, Head of Product Development. Ito has over 40 years of experience in smoking. He is the master of smoking, with a national grade-1 manufacturing skill professional certificate. Everyone calls him smoke-master.

The scallops cannot soak up enough aroma, unless the generated smoke can always be kept at 20℃ or below, and smoking and drying time be adjusted carefully depending on the day’s temperature and humidity. Ito’s years of intuition was what made it possible to cold-smoke Mutsu Bay scallops.

But that is not all, there is a final attention to detail, to put condensed scallop extract from the water dried scallops are cooked in, into the smoked scallops. The completed cold-smoked scallops are simply exquisite, with layers of a faint cherry wood scent and the scallop’s original, juicy sweetness entangled together. With a touch of the smoke master’s wisdom, the blessings from Mutsu Bay became even tastier.

As well as Mutsu Bay scallops, De Mer has also developed cold-smoked chicken, using purebred Japanese chicken from Iwate called Tatsuno with just the right elasticity and rich flavor. It is also part of this E-ZEY JAPAN assortment.





Undiscovered delicacy: Making Hirono’s North Pacific giant octopus known in Japan

Next, we visited Hirono, a town located on the shore of the northernmost part of Iwate. While Sanriku is known for its complex shoreline, this area has no bays and directly faces the Pacific Ocean. With rough waves lashing against the shore it is not fit for fish farming but it is home to natural wakame and kombu seaweeds, and quality sea urchins and abalones that gather to feed on these seaweeds.

The predator to these sea urchins, abalones and other shellfish, known also as a giant octopus, is the North Pacific giant octopus. Caught in Sanriku with ample sources of food, the octopus is strongly sweet, has tight flesh nurtured by the rough tides, and has a great chewy texture.

A local seafood product producer Hironoya is currently in the process of branding the octopus and developing products using it, to sell it nationally. The company said they chose smoking from a variety of processing methods.

“Smoking was just so fit for the giant octopus. Smoking does not deform the octopus and it keeps it just moist enough. The octopus also smoothly soaks up the smoking solution. It does not work this well with other ingredients,” says Yusuke Suzuki, Head of Sales.

Too much heat kills the octopus’ original freshness, so the company adopted cold-smoking, to keep the temperature of the smoke low. The octopus is matured thoroughly after smoking to sink in the flavor. The smoking chips, instead of using cherry wood that is used generally, are made from culled beech from Yamada Town, Iwate. Apparently, the cherry smoke oozes too much sweetness and overwhelms the octopus’ original flavor.

When we had a bite of the smoked octopus, we felt a faint smoking scent, as well as the juiciness much like sashimi, and the octopus’ distinct, crispy texture.

“We just wanted to keep this freshness unique to the octopus, no matter what. We can proudly claim that no other smoked products are made with such attention to flavor and texture. I feel this is of a national quality.”

Hironoya actually bought their smoking machine, used for cold-smoking the octopus, with support from Kirin Kizuna Project, which is part of Kirin group earthquake recovery initiative. Using the same smoking machine, Hironoya also developed smoked Sanriku salmon, which also constitutes part of this E-ZEY JAPAN assortment.




Sanriku’s collaboration born out of recovery effects

Kirin Kizuna Project is a project Kirin Group launched in July 2011 to help the recovery efforts of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Themed on “nurturing connections,” the project is based on three key activities: supporting the recovery of local cultures and food industries, making children smile, and helping people get healthy physically and mentally. Speaking of the supporting activities, Shinichi Fuchida, Kirin’s Vice President of External Relations, Kizuna Promotion Division, CSV Headquarters, says “Beer is made from barley and hops. Meaning, our beer brewing is based on agricultural products. Since immediately after the earthquake, we have supported the agriculture and fishing industry in many ways, from hardware like equipment and facilities, to software like product development and marketing channel expansion. Six years on, we have developed many products together with the people we have supported. I would like consumers to taste these products and visit Tohoku as well.”

This time, as well as Hironoya’s products, E-ZEY JAPAN’s assortment comes with Ishinomaki Onagawa salmon wrapped in kombu seaweed and golden Kesennuma Pacific saury crafted with producers and manufacturers who received Kirin Kizuna Project’s support, as well as limited-region offer 9 Plant Kirin Ichiban beer, from Kirin’s plants across Japan offering different flavors and characters.



Unique beers from nine plants to compliment Tohoku’s delicacies

With 9 Plant Kirin Ichiban, you can enjoy different flavors and characters from Kirin’s nine plants across Japan. Prior to product development, the company held workshops in each location with the locals. The recipes perfected after bringing in each region’s attitude and culture, that matched the regions’ food culture.

Project member Masataka Ohashi from Kirin Brewery’s Marketing Division, Marketing Headquarters, said “We wanted to make beers that are not designed by our Tokyo headquarters, but beers made from the viewpoint of our customers in various locations across Japan, that would make them say these are our local beers. We actively adopted ideas and opinions from our local customers and brewing masters of each plant. We feel we created unique beers grounded in each region. We would like our customers to find their favorite.”

The assortment offers a wide array of flavors. For instance, Sendai Zukuri is a beer with a light taste of Sasanishiki rice from Miyagi, and a gentle and flamboyant flavor of Tohoku hops, while Hokkaido Zukuri has an all-clear taste, with Hokkaido’s rice and reputed water. Okayama Zukuri has a refined texture, owing to its use of Omachi rice. Why not enjoy comparing these flavors, with the delicious foods from Tohoku?



Kirin Ichiban from nine plants


Kirin Ichiban
Hokkaido Zukuri


Kirin Ichiban
Sendai Zukuri


Kirin Ichiban
Toride Zukuri


Kirin Ichiban
Yokohama Zukuri


Kirin Ichiban
Nagoya Zukuri


Kirin Ichiban
Shiga Zukuri


Kirin Ichiban
Kobe Zukuri


Kirin Ichiban
Okayama Zukuri


Kirin Ichiban
Fukuoka Zukuri

※Selected photos courtesy of De Mer Co., Ltd.

E-ZEY JAPAN Assortment Pack of Selected Smoked Foods from Tohoku and Kirin Ichiban Shibori Beer from Nine Breweries Across Japan

URL http://shun-gate.com/en/ezey/product/product_51.html

Aomori Prefecture Tourism Information

japan-guide.com http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1202.html
Japan Travel http://en.japantravel.com/aomori/

Iwate Prefecture Tourism Information

japan-guide.com http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1204.html
Japan Travel http://en.japantravel.com/iwate/

Miyagi Prefecture Tourism Information

japan-guide.com http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1206.html
Japan Travel http://en.japantravel.com/miyagi/