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New Seafood Discoveries Delight the Senses in Ibaraki and Fukushima

Discover the most delicious Pacific seafood only a stone's throw from Tokyo on a quick trip to the coastal cities of Hitachinaka and Iwaki in East Japan.



Arielle Busetto and ChenFang Chang at the sashimi restaurant Kaikatei, in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki. (© JAPAN Forward)

The fatty tuna sashimi is mouthwatering. Taking a bite, the consistency is perfect and it melts like butter. This is the restaurant Kaikatei, (海花亭 in Japanese) at the Nakaminato Fish Market in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki. It specializes in the freshest raw seafood. 

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The dishes on the table include a sashimi bowl brimming with the local raw whitebait (shirasu), sea urchin, tuna, and sweet shrimp. As an extra luxurious treat, there is also a rice bowl with salmon roe (ikura). It, too, is perfectly balanced with the right amount of savory and satisfying consistency. 

Sashimi bowls at the restaurant Kaikatei, in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki. (© JAPAN Forward)

Chizuko Suda manages Kaikatei. She explains that the whitebait and horse mackerel (aji), among many other fish, were caught at the port right outside. Customers were queuing before 10 AM when the shop opened. 

"It's delicious," said motorcyclist Yuki Igami, who drove there for the day with his father and friend. 

After the Discharge of ALPS Treated Water into the Sea

In late August 2023, Tokyo Electric Power Company started releasing Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, one of the prerequisites to its decommissioning. 

With this in mind, on November 4 and 5, JAPAN Forward set out to explore two nearby seaside locations along the eastern coast of Japan. The aim was to hear from those most closely watching the treated water release. The first stop was Hitachinaka City in Ibaraki, and then on to Iwaki City in Fukushima.

A selection of the seafood available at Barbecue Banya, a restaurant in Iwaki, Fukushima. (© JAPAN Forward)

Safety is A Given

Customers at the local fish market in Hitachinaka seem to be voting with their feet. A queue of cars waiting for parking extends for several kilometers outside of the fish market this weekend morning. 

In both Ibaraki and Fukushima, interviewees are aware and comfortable with the safety precautions taken to protect their food and livelihoods. Vendors express confidence in the seafood products they serve. 

"The fish is safe to eat, it's being tested and there is nothing to worry about. People come from all over because no market in the area has as much fish variety as we do," said Nakaminato Fish Market vendor Yasuyuki Oe. 

Vendors in Iwaki shared similar comments. Barbecue Banya, a restaurant in Iwaki La La Mew, provides a fun and tasty way to enjoy freshly caught seafood. There are oysters and clams, for example, which customers can freshly cook on a grill at their table. Kazuto Harada, an employee, explained: 

"Various things have been reported about Fukushima and the [ALPS] treated water. But we would like customers to come visit us and see for themselves. [Then] they will understand the appeal of Fukushima," he said, as a tour group with dozens of people arrived. 

Ryota Ogawa speaks about his experience in Iwaki, Fukushima. (© JAPAN Forward)

A family of three was there from Saitama. The father, Ryota Ogawa, was happy to speak to us. In his view, the treated water "was not a factor in the decision to come to Iwaki." 

"There isn't anything to worry about. We just really like the fish here, it's very fresh," he said, as he happily grilled squid. 

Further north along the Iwaki coast, the same point was made by Kenji Shirato. He is the director of Yotsukura Michinoeki, a market and food court that has become a gathering spot for the community and a place to buy local produce. 

"Fukushima has various areas. We have everything. Fresh fruit and vegetables inland, Joban Mono (seafood) along the seaside, beautiful mountains and scenery, there is plenty to enjoy. People are very welcoming here, so we hope many will come and visit us!" 

Monkfish hotpot at Japanese tavern Tenya. (© JAPAN Forward)

Delicious Food to Enjoy

Hitachinaka in Ibaraki is just two hours from the capital, a stone's throw by express train. Iwaki is in Fukushima and an hour further north. In both, the quality of their seafood is a reminder that nothing can beat the region's unique and delicious fish delicacies from start to finish. 

An izakaya, or Japanese tavern called Tenya is not far from Katsuta Station in Ibaraki. There, every dish is made with the freshest seasonal fish, from sanma (Pacific saury) sashimi to the local specialty of ankou nabe, or monkfish hotpot. 


Monkfish, sometimes called anglerfish, is a local seasonal winter favorite. Locals describe it as so delicious that it's "the fish with no waste," meaning all parts of the fish are good to eat. 

True to its fame, the hotpot includes the skin, the flesh, and the fins, as well as vegetables and tofu. For extra flavor, the fish's steamed liver, called ankimo, is mixed in the soup, giving extra depth in flavor. It is a wonder for the senses. 

"I would love for people to come to visit, enjoy the fresh fish and local sake, and make memories!," said Tenya owner-chef Koichi Kawasaki. 

Shohakukan Ryokan in Iwaki, Fukushima. (© JAPAN Forward) 

Joban Mono in Iwaki 

There is still more to the region. A one-hour train ride takes visitors from Ibaraki to Iwaki City, Fukushima. 

The area boasts a Japanese hotel with more than 300 years of history. Shohakukan Ryokan is in the hot spring area of Iwaki. A one-night stay includes dinner and breakfast with local Fukushima products and Japanese sake. Their fish stew is a highlight. It's so tender that the meat comes apart easily with chopsticks. 

At Shohakukan, the fish stew is so tender that it easily comes apart with chopsticks.(© JAPAN Forward) 

Shohakukan chef Toru Akage quickly reassures customers about Fukushima products, saying that "everything is monitored and tested so you can eat it without concern." In addition, he explains the unique appeal of local products. 

"Iwaki is an area blessed with two different ocean currents in one place: Kuroshio and the Oyashio. They bring plenty of plankton and therefore lots of delicious fish, which we call Joban Mono. We hope that many people will visit, and enjoy our local products," said the chef. 

"The onsen dinner was my favorite part of the second day," reflects ChenFang Chang, who joined the trip. "The food was so fresh and delicious, with lots of variety." 

The view from the terrace at Aquamarine Fukushima, in Iwaki. (© JAPAN Forward) 

Learning More From the Sea: Aquamarine Fukushima

Notably, the culture of both localities is deeply entwined with the sea. Aquamarine Fukushima, an aquarium located by the sea in Iwaki, testifies to this. In the central glass building, visitors can see up close sharks, seals, and many colorful fish. 

A terrace area shows a variety of fish habitats, from rivers to tropical areas. The institution even offers a fishing experience. Interestingly, participants can eat their freshly caught fish, but only after having a short course on the importance of appreciating the live creatures. 


There is also an outdoor water play area resembling a naturally formed paddle pool. Children can wade into the pool and touch small local fish and starfish.

"I think it is a very educational experience for my children. I am from Fukushima, and I often come here with my family," said a mother in a family of four.  

Culture Reflecting the Seaside Locations

The landscape and the attractions of these seaside towns are perfectly set in the context of their relationship to the ocean. 

Hitachi Seaside Park is famous in the region for Japanese cypress (kochia) in autumn. (© JAPAN Forward)  

Hitachi Seaside Park faces the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can enjoy dramatic views of Japanese cypress (kochia) in the autumn and stunning fields of baby blue nemophilia flowers in the spring while soaking up the ocean breezes. 

For a different kind of fun family outing, tourists might try Oarai Mentai Park in Hitachinaka. The park has a museum about the much-loved Japanese delicacy, mentaiko, and exclusive goods like fresh rice balls, and cod roe ice cream. 

Bentenjima Shrine in Iwaki has a haunting atmosphere. (© JAPAN Forward)  

On your way, make sure to stop at the eye-catching shrines, such as Oarai Isozaki-jinja in Hitachinaka and Bentenjima Shrine in Iwaki, with their torii gates along the sea. Bentenjima Shrine in particular is haunting, perfect for enjoying the sunset before your next stop. 

"When in Tokyo, one forgets that there are such unique locations so close to the capital," Chang reflects. "I have traveled a lot around Japan, but these were both locations I had never been to. I would like to bring my family in the future."

Travel Information and Acknowledgements

The trip was possible thanks to all those who collaborated with the schedule and interviews. 

Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture 

Accessible by express train from Tokyo in just under two hours. Get off at Katsuta Station. 

All locations are approximately 15 to 30 minutes by car from the station. 


If going to Nakaminato, there is a local train line (Hitachi Kaihin Tetsudo Line) from Katsuta Station.  

Nakaminato Fish Market

Kaikatei (part of the Mare Thalassa group of restaurants)

Hitachi Seaside Park

Oarai Isozaki-jinja Shrine

Oarai Mentai Park

Izakaya Tenya

Sawayakana Taxi Group


Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture 

Accessible by express train from Tokyo in 2 hours 40 minutes. Get off at Iwaki Station. All locations are within an approximately 30-minute drive of the station. 

Iwaki La La Mew

Banya Barbecue

Aquamarine Fukushima

Road Station Yotsukura Harbor (Yotsukura Michinoeki)

Bentejima Shrine

Yumoto Onsen Shohakukan Ryokan 

Iwaki Taxi


This article was written in collaboration with the Government of Japan.

Author: Arielle Busetto

Video by Shaun Fernando

Chinese by ChenFang Chang