They say the best things come in pairs.
That’s certainly true at this charming little ohagi shop in Aomori.
This is the first time I’ve even heard of ohagi much less tried it, but there is no better way to experience something for the first time than from someone that specializes in it.
Japan is full of specialty shops. From world-renowned sushi restaurants to side-street shops that have making nothing but senbei for the past 80 years, Japan definitely gets the value of focusing on one thing and doing it ridiculously well.
By contrast, America is the land of the catch-all, where freedom of choice is paramount.
If I want pizza and you want burgers, any food court in any mall across the country will be able to accommodate you.
It’s terribly convenient, but this abundance of choice comes at the expense of quality. In the effort to meet every need, they end up not satisfying anyone.
A Powerful Lesson
Despite Japan’s long history with specialization, even this country isn’t immune to the allure of options. Late one night in Tokyo, we found ourselves wandering the streets in search of something to eat. Though we were tired and hungry, we just couldn’t find something that we both wanted to eat.
It was late and our options were shrinking by the minute as restaurants were closing their doors for the night. It was time to make a choice or go hungry.
Or was it?
Just as we were nearly out of options, we stumbled upon a restaurant whose menu in the window shone like a beacon of hope. After passing restaurants that specialized specifically in soba, ramen, or katsu, we were shocked to find that this little shop offered all three!
Amid a sea of specialty restaurants, this soba–ramen–katsu (and more) shop was an oddity, but it catered to both of our cravings so we went in and ordered some katsu and some ramen.
It was a disaster.
Well, dinner wasn’t quite a disaster, but it wasn’t good either. The katsu should have been crunchy and flavorful but it was limp and bland, while the ramen noodles were mushy and sloshed around in overly salty broth.
We learned a valuable lesson from that meal– seek out the specialists and avoid the generalists.
This is why the choice is clear as we now find ourselves in front of a little corner shop in Aomori that makes nothing but ohagi.
We’re getting some ohagi!
Never heard of ohagi? I don’t blame you, it’s not one of the more popular treats to find its way out of Japan yet. Basically, ohagi is a ball of rice covered in a layer of mashed up azuki beans.
It turns out that ohagi really isn’t my thing– too much mush. Still, I’m glad to have tried ohagi from a shop that specializes in it.
Inari in Case of Emergency
Before leaving the ohagi shop, I spy an item that I am very well acquainted with– inari!
Inari is a ball of rice wrapped in a thin layer of aburage (marinated deep-fried tofu). Inari is both sweet and savory, delicate yet toothsome.
While this is not a specialty inari shop (I’m still on the lookout for one of those), inari is similar to ohagi (rice ball wrapped in something), so it doesn’t seem totally out of place here.
I’m always up for some good inari, so I pick up a pair for the road.
We tried something new, and though ohagi isn’t an instant favorite, I am thankful to have enjoyed something made by an expert.
Onward to new discoveries!
Summer in Aomori
- Northward at over 100mph — We leave Tokyo and head 400 miles to Japan’s northern tip.
- Tonkatsu & Apple Gyoza — First Meal in the North
- Quiet Streets of Aomori — Exploring Aomori’s peaceful streets
- A Mix of Modern & Tradition in Aomori — Old & New Living Together in Harmony
- Eating Nokke Don in Aomori — The freshest seafood in all Japan
- Rise of the Nebuta — They’re everywhere
- Hot Ramen on a Cold Night in Aomori — Hits the spot.
- The Signs of Amenity Street — How many can you figure out?
- Visiting Aomori’s Apple Factory — Aomori is all about the apples.
- Ohagi & Inari — They say the best things come in pairs.
- Leaving Aomori — It was fun, but it’s time to leave.