Though Aomori Prefecture’s most beautiful sights are found in its extensive natural environment, don’t underestimate its small but fierce capital city. Every summer the city explodes with the spirited sounds of the Nebuta Matsuri, one of the best festivals in Japan. Nebuta can be appreciated year-round in the Nebuta Warasse, just one of Aomori city’s stellar museums and galleries.
Nebuta is the city’s claim to fame, and every year from August 2-7 it draws audiences up to literally ten times the size of the local population. Recognized as one of the best festivals in Tohoku and all of Japan, it’s a solid week of frenzied parade fun.
Dazzling 30-foot floats, featuring everything from mythical gods to Star Wars characters, are marched through the streets on the backs of small armies of float bearers. They’re accompanied by taiko drummers, flutists, announcers with microphones, and teams of dancers known as haneto. The haneto dance and chant are extremely easy to pick up, and anyone is welcome to join in the festivities: just rent or buy the costume, and you can jump in front of the floats to your heart’s content.
Close to the station there’s the Nebuta Warasse, where floats from previous years are displayed. Visit the Furukawa Fish Market for lunch, where you can turn your dream sashimi donburi into reality, by purchasing a set of tickets and selecting your toppings fresh from the market vendors.
Aomori has Japan’s highest production of apples, so stop in at the tourist centre ASPAM or souvenir shop A-FACTORY to pick up some tasty apple-themed confections.
A 20-minute bus ride away, the Aomori Museum of Art is worth a visit for any contemporary art fan. Aomori Prefecture is the birthplace of Yoshitomo Nara, one of the leading artists of Japan’s pop art movement, and many of his works are on display in the museum—including a towering dog statue punnily named Aomori-Ken.
A short walk away from the museum lies the Sannai Maruyama Archaelogical Site, a well-preserved village from the ancient Jomon Period. Check out the informative museum and ongoing excavation site for rare insight into Japan’s early history.