The sprit of nature in the north
The northern tip of Tohoku, Aomori prefecture is the boundary between the known and unknown Japan.
From the pristine waters of Lake Towada to the last surviving virgin beech forest of Shirakami-Sanchi to the sulfurous hellscape of Mount Osore, people have long been drawn to Aomori prefecture’s other-worldly powers.
It’s a place where nature’s spirit is strongly felt.
Hot springs abound – an important source of restoration for those traveling north from the main island of Honshu to wild Hokkaido (which lies practically within touching distance across the Tsugaru strait). Rent a car if you can, it’s the best way to stumble upon Aomori’s therapeutic secrets.
Seasons are Aomori’s showcase. In spring, cherry blossom petal-filled moats around Hirosaki castle look like liquid bubblegum, while in autumn the valley between Towada and Oirase is a kaleidoscope of reds, golds and browns. During winter, you’ll spot wild snow monkeys bathing in the volcanic waters to warm up. In the summer, you can commune with the dead through blind mediums known as itako at the sacred Osorezan (Mount Osore) on the Shimokita Peninsula, also known as “Fear Mountain.”
The prefecture’s capital city is Aomori, a modern hub that offers convenient access to the rest of the region. Catch the famous Nebuta festival, one of Japan’s biggest, where giant floats are paraded through the streets along with dancing, drumming, drinking and other typical festival revelry. Aomori city is also a good place to hear tsugaru-jamisen, a virtuoso style of playing the three-stringed shamisen instrument. You can catch the ferry to Hakodate in Hokkaido from Aomori port (about 4 hours).
Aomori is famous for its apples, producing over half of the nation’s stock, and there are apple-related products everywhere across the prefecture. The apple juice is ridiculously good, and you might find it a challenge to stop yourself from scoffing a Kininaru Ringo whole baked apple pie in one go. Besides apples, Aomori has a few more local dishes instore, including horse meat!
If you haven’t had your fill of fresh food yet, wandering the backstreets and shorelines of Aomori’s capital city, Hachinohe is a must. The city offers local fare and some fun nightlife.