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Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Places To Visit, Seafood, Outdoors, And More!

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Places To Visit, Seafood, Outdoors, And More!

Aomori 2019.08.01 Bookmark

Aomori in northern Tohoku draws visitors with its stunning natural environment such as Shirakami-Sanchi and Hirosaki Castle. It’s also filled with hot springs, art, and delicious food. Read to learn about must-see sites and reasons to travel to Aomori!

Translated by Sandy Lau

Written by ISHIGAKI KUMIKO

Travel in Aomori

Aomori Prefecture, located in the Tohoku region and surrounded by the ocean on three sides, is characterized by its two large peninsulas—Tsugaru Peninsula (pictured left) and Shimokita Peninsula (pictured right)—that protrude on the northern edge of the prefecture.

Aomori has an abundance of nature, and is brimming with things to see and do, such as dipping into hot springs and enjoying local dishes. The large prefecture is about 4.5 times the size of Tokyo; it is recommended to visit after planning places and activities to make the best of your visit.

Your travel itinerary in Aomori should include at least three days and two nights. Some places will have farther distances to travel, so we recommend visiting with enough leeway in your schedule. In this article, we introduce suggested sightseeing spots, activities, and travel tips.

Table of Contents

Hot Springs - Immerse Your Mind and Body in Nature

1. Oirase Stream

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism Association

Oirase Stream, continuously flowing from Lake Towada for fifteen kilometers, is located on the prefectural border between Aomori and Akita Prefecture. It is from the unique waterfalls scattered along the stream that gave it its nickname “Waterfall Highway.

Oirase

Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism Association

The most popular seasons are the fresh greenery in the summertime and fall foliage in autumn. These two seasons are when its form, created by nature over a long period of time, is especially beautiful and radiant.

There is an easily walkable promenade at the stream. How about first entering the stream from Nenokuchi in Lake Towada, then walking towards either the Ashura Rapids, a popular photo spot, or the extremely impressive Choshi Otaki Waterfall?

Oirase Stream
Address: Aomori, Towada, Okuse Google Map
Official Website: http://towadako.or.jp/ (Japanese)

2. Lake Towada

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism Association

Lake Towada, boasting a maximum water depth of 327 meters, is the the third deepest lake in Japan. It is said to resemble “a giant mirror that reflects the sky and surrounding mountains” in its deep, ultramarine surface. Sightseeing cruises set sail onto the lake from spring to autumn, allowing you to fully enjoy the open air of nature directly from the boat.

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism Association

If you want to experience nature more closely, we also recommend embarking on a boat and kayak tour. The Lake Towada Winter Story is an annual event held during the snowy winter. The event is reputed for its fireworks and illuminations above the lake.

Lake Towada Google Map
Official Website: http://towadako.or.jp/ (Japanese)

3. Shirakami-Sanchi

beech forest

Shirakami-Sanchi is a Natural Heritage Site that is the pride of Aomori. Its gigantic 16,971-hectare virgin beech forest is the largest in the world. This valuable piece of nature is also registered as a World Heritage Site.

The recommended trekking period is from June—when the mountain-climbing season typically begins—to October when you can see fall foliage. The greenery intensifies during July and August, allowing you to experience the overwhelming power of Aomori's great outdoors.

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Aoike Pond

At the center of attention is Lake Juniko, which consists of a group of 33 lakes and marshes in various sizes. Among them, Aoike Pond has a surprisingly transparent, mystical blue surface and is definitely a spot you should visit.

Shirakami-Sanchi Visitor Center
Address: Aomori, Nakatsugaru, Nishimeya Oaza, Tashiro, Kanda 61-1 Google Map
Official Website: https://www.experience-shirakami.com/

4. Sukayu Onsen

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism Association

Sukayu Onsen has approximately 300 years of history. Its acidic, sulfur-scented waters are said to be beneficial for various illnesses and is often visited by people who come to help relieve their body from fatigue and poor condition. It is conveniently accessible in one hour and 20 minutes by JR bus from Shin-Aomori Station, a stop on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Sukayu Onsen has one traditional Japanese inn at the entrance of the Hakkoda Mountains. Inside is their famously huge public bath called the Hiba Sennin Buro or “1000-Person Japanese Cypress Baths.” There are four types of baths with varying water sources in the bathhouse—which are as large as a tennis court—as well as a mixed bath for men and women.

Staying at the inn costs 15,000 yen per night for one person. You can also visit on a daytrip by paying the 1,000 yen bath fee. For women who are reluctant to use the mixed baths, we recommend heading to the women-only bathing periods from 8:00 to 9:00 and 20:00 to 21:00.

Sukayu Onsen Ryokan
Address: Aomori, Aomori, Arakawa, Minami-Arakawayama, Kokuyurin, Sukayuzawa 50 Google Map
Official Website: https://www.sukayu.jp (Japanese)

5. The Frost-Covered Trees of Hakkoda Mountains

Do you know of Aomori’s famous winter feature, the "snow monsters" of Hakkoda Mountains?

hakkoda mountains' frost trees

Photo by Pixta

The trees in Hakkoda are called "juhyo" or frost-covered trees. These huge, snow monster-like trees are a mezmerizing artform part of Aomori’s unique snowy landscape. You can take a ropeway and admire this view from the sky, or enjoy the snowscape while skiing or during a guided snow hiking tour.

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture from A World of -20°C: See Frost-Covered Trees at Hakkoda, Aomori

It is about one hour by JR bus from Shin-Aomori Station to the Hakkoda Mountains where you’ll be able to see the frost-covered trees. It’s also just fifteen minutes by JR bus from Sukayu Onsen, which is located in the same area, making transportation very convenient.

Hakkoda Ropeway
Address: Aomori, Arakawa, Kansuizawa 1-12 Google Map
Official Website: http://www.hakkoda-ropeway.jp/english

6. Hotokegaura (Shimokita Peninsula)

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism Association

Hotokegaura is a series of cliffs and unusual giant rock formations that rise steeply across two kilometers on the coast of the Shimokita Peninsula. Coupled with a deep blue ocean, the scenery will make you feel as though you stepped into a parallel universe. It's from this very landscape, which was likened to the Pure Land of Buddhism, that it came to be known as Hotokegaura (“hotoke” is the word for Buddha in Japanese).

There are also promenades for sightseeing, but we recommend taking the sightseeing cruise from Sai Port, the nearest port. This one-and-a-half-hour course where you can feel the refreshing sea breeze costs 2,400 yen for a roundtrip adult ticket. You can also disembark the boat and stroll along Hotokegaura during the course.

Hotokegaura
Address: Aomori, Shimokita, Sai GoogleMap
Official Website: http://hotokegaura.jp (Japanese)

7. Mt. Osore (Shimokita Peninsula)

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism Association

Mt. Osore is another must-visit spot on the Shimokita Peninsula. The entire area of Lake Usoriyama has been considered a sacred place to offer your prayers to the deceased since ancient times. The otherworldly scenery—spanned by a rough, rocky area—almost seems as if it were the actual afterlife.

There is also a hot spring that can be freely used by visitors on the temple grounds. The components of the spring are strong and will immediately rust iron, so be sure to remove your rings and watches if you’ll be bathing.

Additionally, the Shukubo Kisshokaku—a lodging facility—can be found in the temple on Mt. Osore. Here, you can do a temple stay and participate in their early morning service (sutra chanting). It costs 12,000 yen per person for a night and two complimentary meals (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine).

Mt. Osore Onsen Shukubo Kisshokaku
Address: Aomori, Mutsu, Oaza, Tanabu, Usoriyama 3-2 Google Map
Official Website: http://www.mutsu-kanko.jp/en/miru_01.html

Cherry Blossom Spots - See Sakura and Historic Spots

8. Hirosaki Castle and Hirosaki Park

hirosaki castle

Photo by Pixta

Hirosaki Castle is a famous castle with over 400 years of history. Hirosaki Park, which surrounds Hirosaki Castle, is known for its cherry blossoms and considered one of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom spots.

hirosaki park

Photo by Pixta

The cherry blossoms begin to bloom from around late April every year on the 2,600 trees planted on the grounds. The cherry blossoms along the moat surrounding Hirosaki Castle are especially famous. The sight of fallen petals blanketing the water’s surface is enchanting and makes a great photo.

As of 2019, only the keeps in Hirosaki Castle are accessible and open to the public due to the current repair work on the castle’s stone walls. It will open to the public on November 23, 2019.

Hirosaki Park
Address: Aomori, Hirosaki, Shimoshiroganecho 1 Google Map
Official Website: https://www.hirosakipark.jp/ (Japanese)

9. Starbucks Coffee Hirosaki Park

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture from A Retro Atmosphere At Starbucks Coffee In Hirosaki, Aomori

Hirosaki, which flourished as a castle town, has not only retained its castle, but also its historic structures throughout the town. Many of these buildings are being reused as cafes, which makes the town irresistible to cafe lovers.

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture from A Retro Atmosphere At Starbucks Coffee In Hirosaki, Aomori

The Starbucks Coffee in front of Hirosaki Park was renovated from a cultural property that was built as an official residence 100 years ago and is presently being reused as the store. From the lighting to furniture, the space is a blending of Japanese and Western styles that adopt Aomori’s traditional crafts throughout its interior. It'll definitely increase your excitement to be on a trip.

Starbucks Coffee Hirosaki Park
Address: Aomori, Hirosaki, Kamishiroganecho 1-1 Google Map
Official Website: https://www.starbucks.co.jp/en/search/detail.php?id=1302&search_condition=Aomori

10. Fujita Memorial Japanese Garden and Taisho Roman Tea Room

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism Association

Another wonderful cafe you should stop by during your Hirosaki sightseeing is inside Fujita Memorial Japanese Garden right next to Hirosaki Park.

The Western house was built in 1921 as the vacation home of Kenichi Fujita, a local businessman, and it's a wonderful building with a red conical roof. A part of the house is used as the Taisho Roman Tea Room, where you can revel in the spectacular atmosphere from that time period.

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

We recommend eating the apple pie in seats with sunlight pouring in from the large windows. Made from Hirosaki’s specialty apples, the apple pie is available in a total of six different ways!

Takumikan, located in another area of the garden, is used as a space for displaying and selling Hirosaki’s traditional handicrafts. It would be fun to stop by in search of travel souvenirs!

Fujita Memorial Japanese Garden
Address: Aomori, Hirosaki, Kamishiroganecho 8-1 Google Map
Official Website: http://www.hirosakipark.or.jp/hujita/english.html

Art and Culture - Stimulate Your Senses

11. Aomori Museum of Art

Aomori Museum of Art, situated right next to the Sannai-Maruyama Site—Japan’s largest Jomon period village site—is an art museum where you can frequently find the works of artists native to Aomori.

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

©Yoshitomo Nara 2005

Among them is the Aomori Dog, a sculpture by the world famous artist Yoshitomo Nara, that is an iconic centerpiece of the museum. The large white dog, which measures 8.5 meters in height, is said to have been based on the image of uncovered ruins.

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

The minimalistic building designed by Japanese architect Jun Aoki will mezmerize visitors. You will be drawn to its lustrous design shining at every turn.

Aomori Museum of Art
Address: Aomori, Yasuta, Chikano 185 Google Map
Official Website: http://www.aomori-museum.jp/en/

12. Towada Art Center

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture from Towada Art Center: All Art, Inside & Out

Based on the concept of creating a new experience through art, the Towada Art Center exhibits works from well-known artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Ron Mueck inside and outside the building.

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture from Towada Art Center: All Art, Inside & Out

The outdoor artworks are gorgeous year-round, and change in appearance depending on the season and weather. These pieces are colorful and full of imagination, making it possible for couples, families, and even those unfamiliar with art to easily admire and enjoy the artworks.

Towada Art Center
Address: Aomori, Towada, Nishi-Nibancho 10-9 Google Map
Official Website: http://towadaartcenter.com/en/

13. Nebuta Museum WA-RASSE

nebuta

Picture courtesy of Nebuta Museum WA-RASSE

When it comes to special summer attractions in Aomori, it has to be the Nebuta Festival. It is a festival where giant lanterns made from paper and bamboo are placed onto a float called “nebuta” and paraded through the town. Dancers coined "haneto" liven up the festival by hopping and shouting.

This festival is held throughout Aomori, but the Nebuta Festival in Aomori City is particularly incredible and impressive because it's held on a larger scale. The actual nebuta used in the festival are exhibited at the Nebuta Museum WA-RASSE, located in front of Aomori Station, and you can even participate in a haneto dance workshop that is sure to put you in a festive mood.

Nebuta Museum WA-RASSE
Address: Aomori, Yasukata 1-1-1 Google Map
Official Website: http://www.nebuta.jp/warasse/foreign/english.html

14. Stove Train

stove train

Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism Association

The Stove Train is beloved in the Tsugaru Peninsula during the winter. It has a long history, initially starting as a winter-limited train in 1930. Comfortably operating in the snowy landscape, coal stoves are equipped on board the railroad cars, which has a charm that will make you forget the busyness of everyday life.

Dried cuttlefish, a local specialty, is grilled on top of the stove by many passengers. If it’s your first time, don’t worry. The conductor or salesperson will be happy to assist you. The train is in service every year from December to late March and transforms into a furin (Japanese wind bell) train decorated with wind chimes in the summer.

The ride is around 40 minutes from Tsugaru Goshogawara Station to Tsugaru-Nakasato Station, along the Tsugaru Railway.

Stove Train
Official Website: http://tsutetsu.com/stove.html (Japanese)

15. Takayama Inari Shrine

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture courtesy of Aomori Tourism Association

Takayama Inari Shrine, located on the Tsugaru Peninsula, is a spiritual spot for people in the know. While it's a prestigious shrine said to be effective for gokokuhojo (*1) and business prosperity, visitors continuously come from far distances for the innumerable rows of torii gates on the grounds.

It may be called the 1,000 Torii Gates, but it is said that there are 2,000 gates in total. Fushimi Inari Taisha is famous for its own 1,000 torii gates, but the series of red torii gates that continue in twists and turns inside a Japanese garden can only be found here in Japan. This is a mysterious spot you should try walking through at least once.

*1 Gokokuhojo: a compound that refers to an abundant harvest in the crops.

Takayama Inari Shrine
Address: Aomori, Tsugaru, Ushigatacho, Washinosawa 147-1 Google Map
Official Website: http://www.tsugarubrand.jp/web/detail.html?id=00000530 (Japanese)

Fresh Seafood - Eat to Your Heart's Content

Aomori is surrounded by the ocean and is a treasure trove for fresh seafood products. For example, tuna caught in Oma at the northernmost point of Shimokita Peninsula will impress all with its flavor and quality. Below are restaurants and places where you can eat gourmet seafood that will make you want to visit Aomori again and again.

16. Aomori Nokkedon

nokkedon

The Original Aomori Nokkedon, a rice bowl piled high with seafood, is a dish you can enjoy at the Furukawa Fish Market in front of Aomori Station. Choose the ingredients you would like to place in your bowl from the shops inside the market to create a one-of-a-kind rice bowl. There is also a selection of meat and non-seafood side dishes so diners can choose exactly what they want to eat.

nokkedon

Picture courtesy of Nokkedon Co., Ltd.

First, purchase meal tickets that can be exchanged for ingredients (1,300 yen for 10 tickets) at the information office inside the market. After receiving rice in a bowl, walk around the market to find your favorite ingredients. There is also a rest area on the second floor of the market where you can eat your food.

Furukawa Fish Market
Address: Aomori, Aomori, Furukawa 1-11-16 Google Map
Official Website: https://nokkedon.jp/nokkedon/ (Japanese)

17. Minato Shokudo

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture from Award Winning Flounder Dishes At Minato Shokudo In Hachinohe, Aomori

Minato Shokudo in Hachinohe is reputed for its excellent flounder. Because it's a restaurant for the fishing harbor, its business hours begin early in the morning at 6:00, and end at 15:00. It's a popular shop that has long lines out the door even before lunchtime.

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture from Award Winning Flounder Dishes At Minato Shokudo In Hachinohe, Aomori

A popular dish is the Hirame Zukedon (marinated flounder bowl; 1,000 yen with tax), a rice bowl generously topped with flounder sashimi. It is eaten mixed with an egg yolk. Their Maguro Don (tuna bowl) and Uni Don (sea urchin bowl) are also popular--many locals are regulars, and even visitors from far away repeatedly come to eat at this small diner. If you’re visiting Hachinohe, then this is a famous shop you’ll want to wake up early in the morning to visit.

Minato Shokudo
Address: Aomori, Hachinohe Oaza, Minatomachi, Kubo 45-1 Google Map

18. Hasshoku Center

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture courtesy of Hasshoku Center
At Hasshoku Center, you’ll find an array of delicious Hachinohe fare ranging from seafood to delicacies to alcohol! Fish dealers stock a variety of freshly-caught seafood and sashimi, making this a must-visit spot.

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

Picture courtesy of Hasshoku Center
There are also several restaurants inside the facility. Shichirin-mura is a particularly popular place, where you can grill and enjoy the seafood and meat you’ve bought at the market. You can cook the food over the charcoal fire, making these quality ingredients will even more delicious. Barbecuing is fun, unique activity that will be sure to create many memories.

Hasshoku Center
Address: Aomori, Hachinohe, Kawaragi, Kansai 22-2 Google Map
Official Website: https://www.849net.com/en/

Shopping - Bring Home the Taste of Aomori

19. Shikanai Senbei’s "Rapple"

rapple

Apples are a speciality of Aomori. Created by a well-established confectionery shop in Hirosaki called Shikanai Senbei, "Rapple" is a popular confection consisting of a refreshingly sweet apple compote kneaded into a soft and airy dough.

The pxweets are bite-sized and easy-to-eat, and contains apples with a delicious crunchy texture. You can enjoy them chilled from the refrigerator during the summer or warm it up in the oven in the winter.

Shikanai Senbei Flagship Store
Address: Aomori, Hirosaki, Shinteramachi 32 Google Map
Official Website: https://shikanai.co.jp/english/hirosaki/

20. A-FACTORY

Aomori Travel Guide – 20 Sightseeing Spots With Food, Nature, Art, And More

A-FACTORY carries a variety of stylish items, from popular sweets, drinks, and other goods. It’s conveniently located in front of Aomori Station.

Inside the building is a cider factory that makes liquor from apples grown in Aomori. It’s also possible to purchase and sample the liquor at a restaurant on the premises. This alcoholic beverage is carbonated and has a tasty bittersweet fruitiness to it. There is also a gelato shop and hamburger restaurant that specializes in Aomori-grown ingredients inside the factory.

A-FACTORY
Address: Aomori, Aomori, Yanakawa 1-4-2 Google Map
Official Website: https://www.jre-abc.com/wp/afactory/ (Japanese)

Access Information

Access from Tokyo

If you’ll be traveling from Tokyo to Aomori via the bullet train, then you will be utilizing the Tohoku Shinkansen. Get off at either Hachinohe Station or Shin-Aomori Station.

Route Travel Time One-Way Fare
Tokyo Station – Hachinohe Station Approx. 3 hours 16,090 yen and up
Tokyo Station – Shin-Aomori Station Approx. 3 hours and 20 minutes 17,150 yen and up

Below, we’ve introduced the nearest station with a Shinkansen stop for each major destination.

Destination Nearest Station
Oirase Stream, Lake Towada Hachinohe Station
Shimokita Peninsula Hachinohe Station
Sukayu Onsen, Hakkoda Mountains Shin-Aomori Station
Shirakami-Sanchi Shin-Aomori Station
Tsugaru Peninsula Shin-Aomori Station
Hirosaki Park, Hirosaki Castle Shin-Aomori Station

Caution: Shin-Aomori Station, a stop on the Shinkansen, is different from Aomori Station. If traveling to Aomori Station, transfer to a local train from Shin-Aomori Station and get off at the next stop.

If traveling to Aomori by express bus, it will take approximately eleven hours from Tokyo Station to Hachinohe Station. However, the fare is inexpensive at 7,000 yen for a one-way ticket in comparison to the Shinkansen.

Flights from Haneda Airport to Aomori Airport leave regularly. The fare starts at around 17,000 yen for a one-way ticket, but the travel time is short at approximately one hour along with having great access into Aomori City.

Recommended Travel Methods

If you’ll be sightseeing around popular tourist areas, then tour buses are an option. For example, the sightseeing tour bus that connects Hirosaki Station to Lake Towada (Japanese) operates from April to November and costs 3,000 yen one-way. The bus is reservations-only and it's possible to reserve up to seven days before your boarding date.

There is also the Aomori Shuttle de Route Bus Nebutan-Go, a shuttle bus that services the Aomori Station area for 300 yen per ride (a one-day pass costs 700 yen), as well as 100-yen buses that connect Hachinohe Station to Hasshoku Center.

Additionally, you can ride almost all of the JR railway lines, including the shinkansen, an unlimited number of times over a five-day period for 20,000 yen by using the JR EAST PASS offered to international tourists by the East Japan Railway Company. This is an extremely great value.

Areas outside of central Aomori will not have well-developed transportation networks, so rent a car if you’ll be including the entire Aomori prefectural area during your travels.

Take in the Outdoors, Onsen, and Food in Aomori

Aomori is known for its fairytale-like winters, as it receives heavy snowfall due to its northern latitude, shared with Beijing and New York. However, the summertime is cool, which also make it a great destination to visit in summer. The climates of all four seasons are very different, making the prefecture enjoyable year-round.

Aomori charms all who travel there and will make you want to visit again and again.

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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