Exploring Aomori

Welcome back to Exploring Japan, where I take you on a quick tour of a different prefecture each week.  This week is Aomori.

Aomori is the northernmost prefecture on the main island of Honshu in the Tohoku region. It has a population of 1,373,164.  The capital city is Aomori, not surprisingly.  The 5 largest cities are:

  1. Aomori (302,068)
  2. Hachinohe (235,464)
  3. Hirosaki (180,917)
  4. Towada (65,072)
  5. Mutsu (59,951)

Aomori is another prefecture that is losing people to other regions of Japan, particularly the big cities.


Hirosaki Castle – This castle, in the city of Hirosaki, is an original castle. While it doesn’t look particularly large, of course I want to see it.

Ne Castle – A reconstruction of an old 14th century castle in Hachinohe. Also, there’s the Hachinohe Castle ruins.

Things to see and do

There’s so much to see in Aomori.  Lake Towada is a popular place, shared with Akita prefecture, and has the beautiful Oirase Valley. There’s a Big Buddha in Seiryuuji Temple in Aomori City, and it’s the largest seated Buddha in Japan.  Hakoji Temple in Nanbu has the largest 3 storey pagoda in Japan, as well as the oldest Buddha ashes in Japan.  Mount Osore, near Mutsu, is one of the 3 mountains in Japan dedicated to Buddha, and is popular with tourists, as well as having a very bleak-looking landscape.  The Hakkoda Mountains are a group of volcanic cones that are great for hiking.  I think it would be pretty interesting.  Also, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakami-Sanchi is in Aomori.  It’s a large unspoiled mountain wilderness that would be great to see.

Aomori City is home to one of Japan’s most famous festivals, the Aomori Nebuta Festival. This festival features many large illuminated floats.  I’d really like to see it.

In Aomori City, there are several things I’d like to see.  The Aomori Prefectural Museum would be interesting, as it shows the history of Aomori.  The Aomori Museum of Art is apparently pretty big, too.  Then there’s the Sannai Maruyama, a historical site dedicated to the Jomon people.  Aspam Center is a tourist centre that has an observation deck with views of the city.  Asamushi Aquarium is a pretty decent aquarium, as well.

Hachinohe has a very interesting looking island called Kabushima with the Kabushima Benzaiten shrine on top of a hill.  It’s a major bird breeding area, mainly for seagulls. Nejo Plaza has a reconstruction of an old castle. The Sansha Taisai is a big festival featuring many floats and parades each day.

Hirosaki is known as Kyoto of the north.  There are a lot of temples here.  Zenringai is a group of 33 temples brought to Hirosaki to protect the castle.  Choshoji is known for its Sanmon Gate and Saishoin for its 5 storey pagoda.  The Neputa Festival is very similar to Aomori’s Nebuta Festival.

Mutsu is home to a Japanese Marine Self-Defense Forces base, where you can request a tour of the base.

Goshogawara is home to the Tachineputa Festival, which is quite obviously similar to the Neputa and Nebuta Festivals.


Aomori is very famous in Japan for its apples.  I like apples.  I’ve probably eaten Aomori apples.  So, I can safely recommend these apples for anyone who likes apples.  Aomori also has very good seafood.

Have you been to Aomori?  What would you recommend?



Filed under Aomori, Japan

14 responses to “Exploring Aomori

  1. I grew up in the Aomori prefecture–Misawa to be exact. I LOVE that entire area! Don’t forget the Hachinohe horses! 🙂

    The Oirase Gorge is absolutely gorgeous and I highly recommend hiking there, especially in the spring/summer. Unfortunately, one of my favorite beaches got wiped away by the tsunami, but I do have fond memories of the Misawa beach as well.

  2. Aomori…for some reason another food comes to mind but it escapes me right now?…..must be a sign I gotta get some sleep? Aomori Aomori?……I like a food from there I just can’t remember which one ? 😦

  3. NyNy

    Are there any pictures of your travel to Aomori? It sounds like a lovely place nevertheless.

  4. Aomori was the first place I lived in Japan, so I have a soft spot for the city. I was there in winter though, so no Nebuta. My wife and I took a trip through Tohoku several years ago and slept at a really dingy love hotel in downtown Aomori before heading up to Osore-zan. We stayed at the only ryokan there (the whole place smells terrible, so nobody stays) and passed the time with the batty owners. It’s a wild place. The castle in Hirosaki is just a single tower I if I remember correctly, but there were food trucks when we went that were fun. There are probably pictures of all this somewhere on my wife’s blog, though I’d have to search.

    • Sounds like you had some interesting times there. It says Osore-zan is a popular tourist site, but no one stays there? Just a day trip?

      • It’s not far from Mutsu, just an hour or two by bus, so most people stay in Mutsu. Only one ryokan. There’s not actually enough to do there for a whole day I think, unless you want to sit with the ryokan owners and learn crazy stories about Osore-zan. Also, the whole place smells awfully of sulphur.

        • I would expect the smell, since it’s in an active area with hot springs. Mostly go for the view?

          • Unless you want to talk to dead people, yes. The scenery is striking and the lake is amazing. Whatever is in the hot springs prevents anything from growing in the lake or on the mountains where it runs down. There is also an ofuro inside the shrine, so you can bathe after talking to dead people. There’s a mud pot behind the ryokan that some guy randomly put into an Onsen Guide, so periodically people try to climb in and get sucked into the boiling mud, usually with fatal consequences. (The ryokan guy told us about this and his attempts to put fences and signs up around it.) Unfortunately, the pictures that we used to have online are down, so I’d have to re-upload everything somewhere to show it.

            • Oh, that sounds like a painful death. I would hope that warning signs and the fence would stop people. I can guess that some people would still think that it’s an onsen and try it anyway.

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