Where bridge and boardwalk meet music and museums. The Aomori Bay area has food, culture and fun.By Joshua Meyer
With the Aomori City harbor on one side and Tsugaru Peninsula on the other side, Aomori Bay is a nexus of Nebuta floats and shamisen music, towered over by one of the prefecture’s longest bridges.
Aomori is famous for its lantern-lit Nebuta Festival, which traditionally draws up to three million visitors annually. However, several prominent landmarks are within the city’s bayside area, including the triangle-shaped Aomori Prefecture Tourist Center, ASPM and the soaring Aomori Bay Bridge, designed to convey a similar “A for Aomori” appearance with its suspension cables.
Strolling along the boardwalk will take you right up next to the bridge, which has a windy lookout point and an open-air promenade accessible via stairs. From it, you’ll have an elevated view of the Hakkoda-Maru Memorial Ship, which once ferried passengers and trains across the bay to Hokkaido. It now serves as a museum, complete with intact railway cars in its lower hold.
Waves from the bay lap up against the artificial “A-Beach,” short for Aomori Ekimae (“Station-Front”) Beach. The Nebuta Museum and A-Factory market bound the beach, both popular tourist spots where you can see parade floats from the festival on display and sip cider produced in-house with local Aomori apples.
Outside the museum, where the sand ends and the pavement begins, you’ll often find shamisen players drawing a small crowd among the various food vendors. The music offers a hint of history across the bay on the eastern coast of the Tsugaru Peninsula.
Aomori Bay is within Honshu’s northernmost gulf, making up part of the larger Mutsu Bay and offering a window to Hokkaido through the Tsugaru Strait. Among other things, the Tsugaru Peninsula is the birthplace of author Osamu Dazai, who immortalized the area in his travelogue Return to Tsugaru: Travels of a Purple Tramp.
The Tsugaru Peninsula also gave rise to the well-known tsugaru-shamisen (sometimes called tsugaru-jamisen) a genre of music, noted for its faster, more percussive style of playing. Another venue where you can hear this type of string music live is the Nebuta-no-Kuni Takakyu izakaya restaurant, east of Aomori station.
Fish from Aomori Bay once helped sustain the Jōmon people, whose ancient settlements can still be visited at archeological sites further inland in Tsugaru or at the head of the bay in Aomori’s Sannai-Maruyama Site. With so much history and culture surrounding it, Aomori Bay is a worthwhile stopover on any visit to Aomori Prefecture.