Tokyo is a wonderful city; there’s no denying that. But sometimes you might want to get out into the country and experience some of the different cultural areas of Japan. Of course, if you’re busy working all week or only in the country for a brief time, you may not be able to get out to a place like Aomori Prefecture.

Recently, however, we were in the mood for some tsugaru-jamisen and a few glasses of Aomori Prefecture’s distinguished sake. We didn’t have time to jump on a train to the northern prefecture, but, fortunately, Tokyo is home to Haneto Izakaya, an establishment featuring food and music from Aomori Prefecture. Check out the food, drinks, and a video of their amazing shamisen player rocking the joint!


Haneto Izakaya is actually a bit of a franchise with three locations around Tokyo. Being in the mood to hear some tsugaru-jamisen, we decided to head to the Kanda location where they have live performances on Saturdays and weekdays. Unfortunately, the live schedule seems to be a bit random, so you’ll definitely want to call before you go–and making a reservation wouldn’t hurt either. There were two performances on the night we visited–one at seven and another at eight–and both of them lasting for roughly 20 minutes. We’d recommend getting there a few minutes before 7pm so you’ll have enough to time to order, enjoy the first performance, eat, and then enjoy the second performance.


The izakaya is located underground, less than three minutes on foot from Kanda Station. Walking into Haneto, you’re immediately greeted with Aomori art, including various images of warriors and glowing displays that look like they just fell off an Aomori Nebuta Festival float. The walls are lined with gorgeous works of art that will make you want to grab a sword after you’ve put back a few glasses of Aomori sake.


▼With this guy setting the mood, it’s less “eating” and more “ravaging.”


▼Sadly, your food will not come with swords…



▼We can’t prove that they stole this from a Nebuta float…


▼…but we can’t prove that they didn’t either.


Once you’ve found your seat, it’s time to order! The menu is all in Japanese, but it looks like they do have English and French-speaking staff, so you can ask if you find yourself getting lost in a sea of kanji. That said, a lot of the food features ingredients from Aomori, in addition to dishes straight from the Aomori cook book. It might not be quite the same as heading to Aomori for lunch, but it’s not a bad substitute!


They have a wide range of drinks available, but if you’re going to an Aomori izakaya, you may as well order some Aomori sake! The Houhai pictured below was incredibly drinkable sake, with just enough sweetness to be tasty but not so much as to be obnoxious.


They also have cocktails, like the aptly named Haneto cocktail below, which features vodka and Tsugaru apple juice. In case you haven’t been told by a proud Aomori native, the prefecture produces over half of the apples grown in Japan. It had a hint of vodka, but most of the flavor was pure apple juice. And very smooth and delicious!


The final drink we ordered was another Aomori Prefecture sake called Shirakami. This was a nigori sake, which, as you can see below, is unfiltered, leaving it with a cloudy color. We found it a bit stronger in taste than the Houhai, but it was a great drink to end our meal.


The drinks weren’t exactly cheap–the cocktail was around 550 yen (about US$4.50) while the sake drinks were over 860 yen (about $7.13) and 780 yen ($6.47) respectively–but they were very reasonable for Tokyo. If you want to take a look at their drink menu before heading out, you can do so here.

And the food pulled its weight as well! While some izakaya seem to focus a lot more on their drink menu than their food menu, Haneto delivers authentic Aomori food.

Our first dish was the kekko miso (also called kaiyaki-miso), a dish featuring sliced, marinated scallops and cooked with egg. The seafood taste isn’t particularly strong, but if you don’t like seafood at all, you might want to skip it. The dish (pictured below) is a little pricey at 790 yen (about $6.55) per plate.


We also ordered some kuroishi yakisoba, an Aomori variation on the traditional yakisoba dish. The noodles were slightly thicker than standard yakisoba noodles and definitely a great addition to your meal!


This next dish was our favorite: Takko-san garlic chaahan. Takko is a city in Aomori famous for its garlic production, and the garlic was a perfect match for this fried rice.


If you’re a fan of chicken, you’ll definitely want to try the Aomori-san himesakura yakitori, pictured below. Sakurahime chicken is produced, as you have probably already guessed, in Aomori and has fans all over Japan.


Finally, we ordered Nagaimo no karage, or fried nagaimo (long potatoes). While Hokkaido is the number one producer of nagaimo in Japan, Aomori is a close second.

▼And they are excellent when fried!


Of course, for us, the highlight of the right was enjoying the live tsugaru-jamisen music, performed by Saki Saito.


Though only 21 years old, Saki has been competing in and winning various shamisen competitions throughout the country–starting when she was only 14! She performs at Haneto every Saturday and irregularly on weekdays–depending on her university class schedule. We captured a short video of the young woman performing, to give you a taste of the atmosphere.

We had an excellent time at Haneto and really enjoyed the food, drinks, and music. It was a bit pricey–around 8,000 yen ($67) for two people–but nothing outlandish. If you decide to stop by Haneto, we definitely recommend getting a reservation, and calling ahead to check if Saki is playing is a must, even if you’re going on a Saturday.

Haneto Izakaya
Address: Floor 1B, Dai 2 Touei Building, 2-2-9 Kajicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-0044
                 101-0044 東京都千代田区鍛冶町2-2-9 第2登栄ビル地下1階
Phone number: 03-5294-7455
Homepage: Haneto Izakaya
Map: Google Maps
Hours (Open Monday through Saturday, closed Sundays and holidays)

            Lunch: 11:30 – 14:00
            Dinner: 17:00 – 24:00 (last order 23:00)

References: Haneto Izakaya, SaKi.S
All images © RocketNews24