A Guide to Folk Crafts in Hachinohe, Japan

Hachinohe has a rich history, including a long tradition of exquisite folk artistry

Hachinohe has a rich history, including a long tradition of exquisite folk artistry. From Nanbu sakiori weavings to wooden Yawata-uma horse figurines that have been made there for more than 700 years, the area produces some of the best folk crafts in Japan. Culture vultures, souvenir-hunters and designers will delight in the artisanal offerings. Hachinohe’s folk crafts history is linked to Nanbu rule when many of the area’s unique techniques and styles were developed. Thus, the “Nanbu” prefix is attached to several styles and products. See our top picks of places to visit to experience folk craft traditions in Hachinohe.

Hachinohe City Museum

Hachinohe City Museum is a great place to get a feel of the area’s history and culture, including its traditional folk crafts. The permanent collection has exhibits dedicated to archaeology, history and folk customs. In addition, it showcases several precious artefacts, from hand-crafted suits of armour to Nanbu hishizashi embroidery and earthenware pottery. Hishizashi is an embroidery style that developed out of the practice of reinforcing (hemp) garments with cotton threads. It is characterised by its diamond patterns made in different shapes and colours.


Senshin Art Museum

The fine exhibits at the Senshin Art Museum give visitors great insight into yesteryear’s talented local artists and craftspeople. The display range of items and techniques is impressive, from rare sculptures to bronzes, fine pottery, ceramics and woodwork. The Nara and Tempyo Era sculptures are particularly mesmerising, made using hollow dried lacquer techniques. These pieces are unique to the area.


Hakutsuru Sake Brewery

The Hachinohe Area has a long history of struggling with rice cultivation due to the cool summer winds known as yamase. As a result of the Hachinohe Area being part of the Nanbu clan, and thanks to their support and connections, the sake brewers were led by Nanbu brewmasters, famed throughout the country for their skill. Nanbu brewers and their skilled craftsmanship paired with an abundance of natural spring water perfect for brewing alcohol led Hachinohe to overcome the challenges posed by its troubles with rice cultivation. Many historic breweries in the region offer memorable factory tours where visitors can learn all about traditional brewing methods. Hakutsuru is one of the most famous local sake brands, established in 1786 during the Edo Era. Its name alludes to the pair of cranes on the Nanbu family crest (tsuru meaning crane). Factory tours include sake tasting and take place during the brewing season (December–March). Various sake production implements are on display, including a huge vat made of Japanese cedar once used for fermentation. In the sake-tasting area, visitors can enjoy freshly pressed, unpasteurised sake that cannot be found anywhere else.


Takebayashi Senbei Shop

Senbei, the region’s traditional rice crackers, has been produced in Hachinohe for as long as anyone can remember. These iconic snacks are now created in a dazzling array of flavours and varieties, and one of the best places to try one is at the Takebayashi Senbei Shop. The shop has been run by a couple for more than 50 years using traditional and authentic techniques. Their methods use iron moulds to shape the thin and crisp crackers and over the years they have expanded the flavours to cater to more adventurous tastes. A trip to the Takebayashi Senbei Shop is a great way to experience a part of local Nanbu culture. Its location right down the street from Nanbu Doki Cafe and the Sannohe Station makes it a convenient stop on any trip to the area.