If you came to Japan looking for the best maguro (tuna), then Oma is the destination for you. The town of Oma in Aomori prefecture is known nationwide for having some of the best tuna in Japan. There, you can have freshly fished tuna right by the sea.
At Oma, you can see the tuna fishing process at the port, see tuna shows and more. Here are some ways to enjoy Oma and all of its tuna wonders.
The town of Oma is located in the Shimokita peninsula of Aomori prefecture, the northernmost prefecture in Honshu (Japan’s main island). At Cape Oma, you can find a monument signifying Oma as Honshu’s northernmost point. You can even purchase a certificate commemorating your visit to Honshu’s northernmost point at the Tourist Information Center.
Also at the Tourist Information Center, a special gold card is handed out to every 1,000th visitor. If you’re particularly lucky, you might be able to receive the gold card.
About the Oma Tuna
Pacific Bluefin Tuna
The tuna fished in Oma is the Pacific Bluefin. If the fish weighs over 30 kilograms, it is considered an Oma Tuna and shipped out nationwide.
On average, the tuna fished in Oma weigh around 100 kilograms. In 1994, a record-breaking 440-kilogram tuna was caught.
Every New Years day, the first auction of the year is held at Tsukiji Market. The most expensive fish ever bid at the first auction was an Oma Tuna, and was sold for over one million US dollars.
Why is Oma Tuna so popular?
A meal with Maguro Rice Bowl and soup
Oma Tuna is considered one of the best tuna available in Japan. The reason behind this lies in the geographical features of the area and fishing method of the Oma Tuna.
Oma Tuna is found about 5 kilometers away from Cape Oma. This area is where three different currents meet, bringing high quality plankton into the water. The plankton are eaten by pacific saury, which are the Oma Tuna’s favorite food.
While most tuna are fished with a round haul net, Oma Tuna is fished by pole fishing. The fishing lines used are only 2 millimeters in diameter. The pole fishing technique is used during the day, and at night, the line fishing technique is used. About 3,000 hooks are attached on a 200-kilometer rope.
These two techniques allow for the tuna to be caught with minimal damage and scarring. This also allows for a fast blood-extracting procedure, which allows the tuna to maintain its freshness.
When is Oma Tuna in season?
Oma Tuna season is between August and January. Tuna-fishing is especially thriving during the autumn and winter months, when the water temperature decreases.
The best restaurants to eat Oma Tuna
Throughout the town of Oma, there are a plethora of restaurants erving Oma Tuna. Here are three popular restaurants in no particular order.
Omanzoku is a restaurant ran by Takeuchi Kaoru, a former fisherman. Takeuchi comes from a family of fishermen, and his son, Daisuke, was the one who caught the million-dollar tuna in 2013, which was the most expensive bid in history.
Tuna sashimi bowl (photo credit: @marica4.7)
You can enjoy the tuna sashimi bowl, with both lean and fatty meat, for ¥2,800. There are other dishes as well, such as the sea urchin bowl (¥2,500) and the mackerel meal (¥900). During Oma Tuna fishing season, the restaurant holds tuna shows irregularly.
If you want Oma Tuna is sushi form, then head to Hama-zushi. The ¥5,800 sushi set with fatty tuna and lean tuna is especially popular.
To try out other dishes other than sushi, such as tuna steak and tuna hotpot, make a reservation before your visit. You can try out those dishes in the tuna course (¥7,800).
Hama-zushi doesn’t fixed days off, so make sure to call before your visit to check if they are open on the day of your planned visit.
Kaikyoso is a guesthouse and a restaurant. The owner of Kaikyoso is a fisherman, and serves Oma Tuna for an affordable price.
The must-have dish at Kaikyoso is the maguro-dake don (tuna-only bowl) (¥2,800). Only 20 meals are served a day, so arrive early if you want this tuna rice bowl! The kaisen-don (seafood bowl) (¥3,300) is a popular choice too.
Kaikyoso is closed between November and April.
Sightseeing in Oma
Before, after or in between your tuna-eating adventures, you can go to these spots and explore Oma.
Fresh tuna fished at Oma Port
The fishing boats leave Oma Port and return there with the Oma Tuna. If you visit during tuna-fishing season, you might able to see the huge Oma Tuna on the boats.
Kyurei Former Cold Storage Facility
The Kyurei Former Cold Storage Facility locates right by Oma Port. It was once used as a huge storage for tuna, and is now used as an event space.
In August, the Blue Marine Festival, a summer festival, is held. At the festival, you have some fresh tuna for free. Sundays in September and October are called “Maguro (tuna) Day”, and tuna shows are held on those days (for free!)
Getting to Oma
Since Oma is located so far up north, it is a little difficult to get to. If you go from other cities in Aomori, such as Aomori or Hachinohe, you will have to go on several busses and trains. However, from Hakodate (in Hokkaido), there is a direct ferry (Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry) connecting to Oma.
Join the tuna fishing tour!
Starting autumn 2017, tuna fishing tours have begun. Although you can’t fish the tuna yourself, you can watch professional fishermen test their skills as they fish Japan’s most delicious tuna. The success rate for tuna fishing is said to be around 25%, so you’ll be lucky if you get to witness a successful fishing trip.