We recently had the opportunity to spend a day at the house of Hitomi, a Hachimantai local, in the Ashiro neighborhood. She is not only a master of local cuisine, but also the wife of a retired “matagi” – or bear hunter. A group of us got to spend the day here, learning to make soba noodles and feasting up other traditional dishes that she made for us. But beyond the food, just exploring her house was a treat. It felt like it was a time capsule from 100 years ago. The soba and wild veggie dishes were both healthy and tasty. Hitomi-san is opening up her house to tourists to share the best parts of traditional Hachimantai culture. Take advantage of this great opportunity if you can!
Bear hunting in Japan is a long tradition in the north, and no parts of the bear are wasted. Besides the delicious meat, there are various items that can be made from all parts of bears. In modern Japan, however, the number of bear hunters is dwindling. In fact, I was invited to learn bear hunting by the family, though sadly my work schedule won’t allow for the addition of that very exciting hobby.