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Japan Regional Information

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Aomori

A World Natural Heritage Site, the world's largest virgin forest of beech trees - Vestiges of ancient chronicles
Aomori Prefecture is situated on the northernmost tip of the Japanese main island facing Hokkaido, with Tsugaru Strait in between. The Ou Mountains that run from north to south divides the prefecture, thus, forming very different climates in the east and the west - lots of snow on the Japan Sea side and low temperatures even in the summer on the Pacific Ocean side.

Aomori Prefecture has abundant nature still left within: the Shirakami-Sanchi Mountain Range which embraces the world's largest virgin forest of beech trees that is the World Natural Heritage, Oirase, famous for the beauty of its valley, Lake Towada-ko known for its mystic beauty, Tsugaru National Park which boasts of scenery, and Shimokita-hanto Peninsula Quasi-National Park on the northernmost tip of the mainland. You can also indulge in the ancient atmosphere of the San'nai-Maruyama Ruins, Japan's largest, that is said to have been established in 4,000 to 5,000 B.C., Korekawa Ruins and Kame-ga-oka Ruins.

Aomori is a host of many festivals throughout the seasons, through which you can get a feeling of the lives of the people. The festivals include the Aomori Nebuta-matsuri Festival and the Hirosaki Neputa-matsuri Festival that paint the skies of summer in Aomori.

Iwaki Oyama Pilgrimage in Iwaki Town, the festival that adds poetic charm to the autumn in Tsugaru, and Hachinohe Enburi in Hachinohe City, a traditional winter festival to wish for prosperity and safety.

Getting there
An hour 10 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Aomori Airport, and 1 hour 30 minutes from Osaka Itami Airport. Thirty-five minutes from Aomori Airport to Aomori Station by bus. Four hours 55 minutes from Tokyo Station via Morioka Station (by JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line) to Aomori Station (by Tohoku Honsen Line).
 

  • Aomori City
    A modern city with a history as an old port town - The mood of the Nebuta-matsuri Festival carries on throughout the year
    The city of Aomori is located at the base of the Tsugaru-hanto Peninsula, and is the political, economic and cultural center of the prefecture of which it is the capital. It has a history as a port town, but is continuing to develop as a modern city.

    The bay area is full of modern facilities, including popular spots like the Asupamu (prefectural tourism and souvenir hall), the Hakkoda-maru, the memorial ship that commemorates the days of the Seikan Ferryboat, and Aomori Bay Bridge which is beautiful when lit up at night.

    The Munakata Shiko-kinenkan (Munakata Shiko Memorial Museum of Art) presents the works and achievements of that world-famous woodblock print artist from Aomori. If you want to find out more about Aomori's history and culture, you can go to the Aomori City Forestry Museum, Aomori Prefectural Folk Museum and the Keikokan (Aomori City History and Folk Arts Museum), which displays documents relating to folklore.

    The Nebuta-matsuri Festival in summer features huge lanterns, and is one of the biggest festivals in the Tohoku region (the northeastern region). It attracts lots of people, both from inside Aomori and from other places. Nebuta warrior dolls are on display at the Nebuta-no-sato Museum in the southern suburbs of the city. These dolls have lights inside, and are made by sticking paper on wood and bamboo. They enable you to enjoy the mood of the festival throughout the year.

    Getting there
    Morioka Station is 2 hours 22 minutes from Tokyo Station by the JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line, and Aomori Station is 2 hours 15 minutes from Morioka Station on the JR Tohoku Honsen Line.

     

  • Hirosaki
    A historical castle town - Tohoku's pride - Neputa Festival
    The castle town Hirosaki is situated in the southwestern part of Aomori, sitting on the south of the Tsugaru Plain. Hirosaki is a castle town that has always played a major role in politics and economics in the region since Hirosaki Castle was built in the 17th century. Once you have exited Hirosaki Station and have left the busy area that is crowded with shops and hotels, you will come to the tranquil streets with the little stream called Dobuchi-gawa River where you are suddenly transferred into the past glory of the castle town.

    The Hirosaki Castle Ruins with its castle tower is now open to the public as Hirosaki Park. The park is surrounded by a triple moat and earthworks and is famous in Japan for its spectacular cherry blossoms in spring. There are many historical spots around Hirosaki Park including Nakamachi Buke-Yashiki (old samurai residences), Chosho-ji Temple that was built in the early 16th century and the heavy and steady looking 5-story pagoda of Saisho-in Temple, which boasts a height of 31 meters.

    There are many seasonal attractions in Hirosaki throughout the year. Two spectacular festivals in Hirosaki are the Hirosaki Sakura-matsuri (Cherry blossom festival) and Neputa-matsuri Festival that is held in summer. Huge paper lanterns are made in the shapes of samurai warriors, birds and animals. The highly decorative lanterns are lit up and are displayed on floats during the procession down the main street. Fan-shaped lanterns with Neputa paintings that are displayed along the streets are a very familiar sight in Hirosaki, which brings a festive atmosphere to this historical castle town all year round.

    Getting there
    From Tokyo Station to Morioka Station by JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line, from Morioka Station to Aomori Station by JR Tohoku Line - 4 hours 55 minutes in total. Thirty minutes by JR Ou Line from Aomori Station to Hirosaki Station.

     

  • Lake Towada-ko
    Dual crater lake reflects four seasons with its clear blue water.
    Lake Towada-ko is at the top of a 400-meter-high mountain on the border between Aomori and Akita. It is a dual crater lake that was formed by the caving in of a volcano mouth formed by a giant eruption. With a depth of 327 meters, the lake is the third deepest in Japan. The water is so translucent that you can see down into it for 10 meters. Lake Towada-ko reflects the four seasons in its clear blue water accentuated by the fresh green of spring, autumn leaves, and the snow in winter, giving the lake a mysterious beauty.

    There are four observation points set up around the lake, so you can enjoy the lake's appearance from different angles. Sightseeing boats leave from the Yasumiya bus terminal, and go to Nenokuchi at the entrance to the Oirase Mountain Stream and Utarube, which is always alive with fishing-lovers. Seeing the lake from a boat shows a different kind of beauty than can been seen from the lakeshore. Near Yasumiya there are all sorts of facilities, including a campsite, Lake Towada-ko Visitors' Center and Lake Towada-ko Tansuigyo Suizoku-kan (Freshwater Fish Aquarium).

    If you walk a short distance from Yasumiya, there are a sculpture of a maiden by the lake, the last work of the poet and sculptor Kotaro Takamura, and Towada-jinja, a shrine said to have been built in the 9th century.

    Getting there
    Morioka Station is 2 hours 22 minutes from Tokyo Station by the JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line, and Towada Minami Station is 1 hour 50 minutes from Morioka Station on the JR Hanawa Line. A JR bus from Towada Minami Station to Lake Towada-ko takes 1 hour.

     

  • Mt. Hakkoda-san
    Virgin forest, alpine plants, and swamps and marshes left over from volcanic eruptions
    Mt. Hakkoda-san is the name given to a range of dormant volcanoes in central Aomori. It consists of Kita Hakkoda, whose main peak is O-dake, and Minami Hakkoda, whose main peak is Kushi-ga-mine. The area is dotted with swamps and marshes left over from volcanic eruptions, and the virgin forest and alpine flora show off the beauty of the four seasons. There are many varieties of plants, and visitors can enjoy the changes as the altitude increases through sub-alpine and alpine zones.

    The most important points are Tashiro Marshland, a treasure trove of alpine plants, and Suiren-numa Swamp, an area of lakes and marshes where you can see beautiful mountains and alpine plants. Mt. Hakkoda-san also features fresh green plants in spring and orange- and gold-tinted leaves in autumn. There is a ropeway, on which you can enjoy the views of woodlands for 10 minutes as well as other walkways where you can go for walks.

    There are many other things to see in Mt. Hakkoda-san, such as the Jo-ga-kura Mountainous Stream and Jo-ga-kura arch bridge. In the surrounding area there are several hot springs, like Suka-yu-onsen, Sarukura-onsen and Yachi-onsen Hot Springs. In winter you can enjoy skiing in a beautiful fantasy world of trees covered with snow and ice.

    Getting there
    Morioka Station is 2 hours 22 minutes from Tokyo Station by the JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line, and Aomori Station is 2 hours 15 minutes from Morioka Station on the JR Tohoku Honsen Line. A JR bus takes about 1 hour from Aomori Station to reach the ropeway station.

     

  • Oirase Mountain Stream
    A forest of white cedar, Japanese beech and maple trees, with lots of clear waterfalls
    Oirase-gawa River flows from Lake Towada-ko, and the 14 kilometers source section between Nenokuchi and Yakeyama is called Oirase Mountain Stream. It runs through a virgin forest rich in variety, containing white cedar, Japanese beech and maple trees. Along with Lake Towada-ko, it has been designated as a special scenic spot and natural monument. If you walk along the banks of the stream, you can see close-up the beauty of nature, such as dense green vegetation, splashes in the river, and rocks poking above the water covered with plants and moss.

    Also worth seeing are the various waterfalls along Oirase Mountain Stream. All of them have different appearances - the 25-meter-high Kumoi-no-taki Falls; Choshi-O-taki Falls with its big flow of water; Tamasudare-no-taki Falls, where the water rolls down in the shape of balls; and Shiraito-no-taki Falls (White Thread Fall). If you walk slowly along the mountain stream it will take about 5 hours in all. Or you may take a bus that runs parallel to the walkway. Bicycles are also available for rent at Nenokuchi and Yakeyama. You can ride these just one way and then turn them in at the end of your trip.

    Getting there
    Morioka Station is 2 hours 22 minutes from Tokyo Station by the JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line, and Towada Minami Station is 1 hour 50 minutes from Morioka Station on the JR Hanawa Line. A JR bus from Towada Minami Station to Nenokuchi takes about 1 hour 30 minutes.

     

  • San'nai-Maruyama Remains
    Bringing back to life the largest remains of a Jomon-period village in Japan
    The San'nai-Maruyama Remains in the southwest of Aomori are the largest remains of a Jomon-period (about 10,500-300 B.C) village in Japan, and are estimated to date from 4,000 to 5,500 years ago. As excavation advanced, it became clear that the remains were of a large village that was lived in for a period of over 1,500 years - something that excited the archeological world. At present, most of the excavated items have been reburied for preservation, but a few ditches and artifacts are on display, giving you a sense of ancient times.

    In one site measuring about 12 square meters, several buildings have been restored: a large building made with pillars sunk into the ground; a large dwelling built into a dugout; and a warehouse with a raised floor. The large building made with pillars sunk into the ground was a great discovery, because it showed that people at that time possessed high-level construction techniques, and refuted the previously held theory that the techniques to construct this kind of building had not been developed in that era. Also, the large dwelling built into a dugout is a huge construction, measuring 32 meters long, 10 meters wide and 8 meters high.

    In the exhibition room you can see interesting items such as flat clay figures, earthenware, personal ornaments and small knitted baskets called "Jomon pochette." If you want a guided explanation while looking at the exhibits, a volunteer from the San'nai-Maruyama support group will be happy to show you round the exhibits.

    Getting there
    Morioka Station is 2 hours 22 minutes from Tokyo Station by the JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line, and Aomori Station is 2 hours 15 minutes from Morioka Station on the JR Tohoku Honsen Line. The Aomori City Bus takes 25 minutes to reach San'nai- Maruyama Remains from Aomori Station.

     

  • Shimokita-hanto Peninsula
    Created by severe gales and crashing waves - The northernmost tip of Honshu facing the Tsugaru Straits
    The axe-shaped Shimokita-hanto Peninsula is the northernmost tip of Honshu Island (the main island of Japan), facing the Pacific Ocean and the Tsugaru Straits, which is situated in the northeastern part of Aomori. This rugged land, both beautiful and dignified, is the creation of dynamic gales and severe raging waves.

    Hotoke-ga-ura stretches out along the coastline, 2 kilometers between Fuku-ura and Ushitaki. The sequence of sheer cliffs is spectacular to see and there is also a group of rather peculiar looking pale rocks at Hotoke-ga-ura. Each rock somehow reminds one of Buddha - hotoke in Japanese - and this is the origin of the name of the place. Mt. Osore-zan is where it is said that the souls of the dead gather. The whole area smells of sulfur and there are few signs of vegetation - everywhere you look, it is gray. Therefore, the area has become an imaginary hell. There are many make-believe items from hell that are created in the precincts of Osore-zan Bodai-ji Temple such as Sai-no-kawara (shores of the river to hell) where the smell of sulfur steaming up from the ground fills the air. Hot springs are also located in the precincts of the temple.

    There are a number of scenic spots in Shimokita-hanto Peninsula such as O-ma-zaki Point, which is the northernmost promontory, and Shiriya-zaki Point where the chalky lighthouse stands gracefully. Meet northernmost wild Japanese monkeys in Wakino-sawa or appreciate the beauty of Yagen Valley and Kawauchi-gawa Gorge.

    Getting there
    From Tokyo Station to Morioka Station by JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line, from Morioka Station to Noheji Station by JR Tohoku Line, from Noheji Station to Shimokita Station by JR O-minato Line - a total of 5 hours 10 minutes. Seven minutes by Shimokita Kotsu O-hata Line from Shimokita Station to Tanabu Station.

     

  • Shirakami-Sanchi Mountain Range
    One of the world's largest beech forests - The splendor of untouched nature
    Shirakami-Sanchi Mountain Range spreads 130,000 hectares over Aomori and Akita and its central part has been listed as a World Natural Heritage Site since 1993. The untouched primeval beech forest in the range is one of the world's largest and provides an important environment for vegetation and animal habitats.

    Anmon-no-taki Falls, the most beautiful scenery in the Shirakami Range, is a must to visit. You can stroll along the nature trails through the lush woods and along the river where crystal clear water flows. At Shirakami Range Visitors' Center and Shirakami World Heritage Center you can learn a lot about the nature of the Shirakami Range. There are many exhibition rooms and a visual image hall as well.

    Lake Ju-ni-ko, a lake of mystery in the northwestern foothills of the Shirakami Range, is surrounded by a dense beech forest. Lake Ju-ni-ko actually consists of a group of 33 lakes and marshes in total. Among them, Ao-ike Pond is particularly beautiful - it fascinates visitors with its mysterious cobalt blue water.

    Getting there
    From Tokyo Station to Morioka Station by JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line, from Morioka Station to Aomori Station by JR Tohoku Line, from Aomori Station to Hirosaki Station by Ou Line - 5 hours 30 minutes in total. Fifty minutes by bus from Hirosaki Bus Terminal to Tashiro. Three hours 55 minutes from Tokyo Station to Akita Station by JR Akita Shinkansen Line. Thirty-three minutes by JR Ou Line from Akita Station to Higashi-noshiro Station. Thirty-three minutes by JR Gono Line from Higashi-noshiro Station to Akita Shirakami Station.

     

  • Tsugaru-hanto Peninsula and Tappi
    Lake Ju-san-ko - home of swans - The splendid creation of the northern sea
    The Tsugaru-hanto Peninsula is situated in the northwestern part of Aomori. Its eastern side faces Shimokita-hanto Peninsula across Mutsu Bay, its western side faces the Japan Sea and Hokkaido can be seen in the distance from the northern side of the Tsugaru-hanto Peninsula across the Tsugaru Straits. The Seikan Submarine Tunnel, which is the world's longest undersea tunnel, is the artery that links Honshu (the main island of Japan) and Hokkaido.

    Tappi-zaki Point, the promontory at the tip of the Tsugaru-hanto Peninsula, is one of the places well-known for its severe gales, where the average force of the wind is 10 meters per second. The view from Tappi-zaki is magnificent and picturesque and on a very clear day Hokkaido can be seen far across the Tsugaru Straits. Tappi-zaki Point also becomes aflame with pink hydrangea flowers in summer, which is another picturesque sight that pleases your eyes. There are many literary monuments, Tappi Wind Park, where many windmills are lined up and, Seikan Submarine Tunnel Memorial Museum in Tappi-zaki Point.

    Let's not forget that Tsugaru offers many wonderful places to visit. If your favorite subject is history, why not visit Kamegaoka Site (Ancient Remains) or the very historical Gikei-ji Temple. Lake Ju-san-ko is the home of swans and Horozuki-kaigan Coast welcomes you with the dignified beauty of the northern sea.

    Getting there
    By JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line from Tokyo Station to Morioka Station, from Morioka Station to Aomori Station by JR Tohoku Line - a total time of 4 hours 55 minutes. An hour 40 minutes by JR Tsugaru Line from Aomori Station to Minmaya Station. About 45 minutes by bus from Minmaya Station to Tappi.

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  Information provided by Japan National Tourist Organization.

 

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