Earlier in the evening I stopped inside a small bar called Prince. A sign outside read “Deep Hachinohe,” and with an increasingly intimate understanding of what that meant, I knew it was exactly where I wanted to be. The interior was welcomingly garish: strangely lit, decorated with tchotchkes and portraits of celebrities from eras long gone by, oldies on the stereo, and a ceiling lined with the business cards of its many, many patrons. I perched at the end of the bar with my drinking buddies, ready to get serious.
Prince is owned and operated by a fabulously dressed duo. There’s Sasaki-san, the bartender extraordinaire everyone warmly refers to as master, and Sachiko “Sa-chan,” a friendly hostess who keeps the drinks flowing. Throughout the night, the place was packed, and neither of these seasoned pros so much as broke a sweat.
I have to make a quick confession. I love living in Japan for a ton of reasons, but one thing I miss about the states (especially the city I used to live in, Chicago) are small, unashamedly quirky local hangouts that can mix up a good cocktail without taking you to the cleaners; the sort of place you frequent so often that you don’t have to fight to get service. On that front, Prince delivers in spades. It's a cocktail bar in every sense of the word, with an impressive collection of spirits and house cocktails you won’t find anywhere else. All priced at ¥500 (about US$4.50).
Take, for example, the Kabushima. Named after the area’s Kabushima Shrine, built by fishermen to venerate the abundant population of black-tailed gulls, it was a lightly sweet, refreshing cocktail that I would call a “patio slammer” if I could get my hands on one in the summer. The best part of the Kabushima is that a portion of the proceeds for this cocktail go towards reconstruction of the shrine, which was damaged by a fire. For every first-time order, Sasaki-san gets the customer’s signature, as a small reminder of the town’s generosity. It's the perfect reason to stop by for just one drink. That is, if you can resist ordering another.
There was also the Hayabusa, named after the Shinkansen line that stops at the town’s station—which is apparently how fast it hits you. Warned that it wasn’t a cocktail for the faint of heart, I threw caution to the wind and ordered it to end the night in style. I found myself with a fragrant green cocktail that looked like an Appletini with a dusted rim. But it was surprisingly drinkable. Surprising because the base of it was Spirytus, the 95 percent ABV rectified alcohol from Poland that smells, tastes and drinks like paint thinner. Bottoms up!
My night in Yokocho is one I’ll be thinking about for a long time. It was the perfect storm of food, drinks and company, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the warm hospitality of the people of Hachinohe, and my secret weapon, YORIP.
Your Life Needs a Little Yorimichi
I’ve mentioned YORIP throughout the article, and it’s time to spill the beans. YORIP is a multi-lingual smartphone app developed by Dai Nippon Printing with one simple goal: to give travelers both local and abroad an inside line on fantastic places they simply can’t find in guidebooks or an online search, wherever, whenever. Based on the concept of yorimichi, which means “to stumble upon an unexpected place,” YORIP has several unique features that make it an invaluable traveling companion.
There’s a planning feature, where you can search cities for experiences curated by YORIP’s editorial team, a traveling feature that sends alerts whenever you’re near a place you wouldn’t want to miss, and even a feature that lets you look back on all the memories you’re sure to make along the way. With so much functionality, YORIP is easy to use for every step of your journey. When you have an appetite for a truly local experience, look to YORIP! Even if you get lost, you never know what you might find.
For more information on other excellent experiences Tohoku has to offer travelers, visit All About's portal for all things Tohoku!