Aomori is a prefecture in the Tohoku Region, about 700 kilometers north of Tokyo. It is the northernmost region facing Hokkaido across the sea with heavy snowfall every winter. The nature in the tip of Honshu island is of exceptional beauty with mountains, onsen, lakes and beaches. The capital city carries the same name, like many other prefectural capital cities, and is home to the famous Nebuta Festival, one of the best summer festivals in Tohoku and even all of Japan.
The region is produces over 50% of the apple market of Japan and is home to the most beautiful apple orchards. You can witness some local traditions related to the apple culture, including apple harvesting, trying some delicious apple pie or drinking the refreshing apple juice or cider. You can even take an apple bath – it supposed to be beneficial to your blood circulation and natural beauty!
Although it is not necessarily listed among the most popular travel destinations in Japan, it offers enjoyable experiences for visitors! In this article, we will introduce some of the must visit places in Aomori prefecture!
Hirosaki Castle is an iconic castle in Aomori established in 1611. The first feudal lord Oura Tamenobu, who ruled the area originally, started to build the castle but he never lived to see the end results. The construction was continued after he passed away by his son Oura Nobuhira, the second feudal lord. The original main tower, tenshukaku in Japanese, was struck by lightning and as a result burned down, but was reconstructed during the Edo era later.
Hirosaki Castle is officially listed as one of the 12 original castles in Japan with a main tower that was built during the Edo era or even before. Designated as National Important Cultural Property, it has been visited by lots of tourists all year round.
A large park called Hirosaki Park is situated next to the castle, and there are around 2,600 cherry blossoms, making it one of the most popular cherry blossoms viewing spots in Japan. Over 2 million (!) people flock to the park to admire the breathtaking scenery every spring. As they are located far in north where the temperature doesn’t start to get higher until in the late April, you can enjoy the later-bloom cherry blossoms even in early May! It is fascinating to watch the flower pedals dancing in the wind with the historical castle in the background!
9am – 5pm (closed Nov. 24 – Mar. 31)
Admission fee ￥320 (adult), ￥100 (child)
Aomori has one of the biggest summer festivals which is visited by over 3 million people every year! Nebuta Festival is celebrated for 6 days in a row every August. It was designated as Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1980. The highlight of the festival is the huge floats with a warrior figure which has an extraordinary size. Their framework is mainly made with wires, timbers, and washi, which is common Japanese traditional paper. There are about 800 to 1,000 light bulbs inside illuminating the floats at night and you’ll be surprised how big they actually are!
Dancers, called haneto, perform around the floats along with a lively music played with Japanese traditional instruments. The fun part is that everyone can take part as a haneto, as long as you are wearing a costume with a designated design!
There is also a museum called Nebuta Museum WARASSE where you can observe the details of the floats more closely. They also held enjoyable events including a Nebuta Papering Experience where you learn the construction process of the huge floats step by step!
9am – 7pm (May – Aug.)
9am – 6pm (Sep. – Apr.)
Admission fee ￥620 (adult)
Hakkoda refers to a cluster of stratovolcanoes and lava domes located in the heart of Aomori prefecture. The highest one is 1,585-meter-tall, the second highest mountain in Aomori. The area is commonly known for its heavy snowfall, there is a movie which is set in the mountains based on a true story. In 1902, a group of Japanese soldiers lost their lives due to the heavy snowstorm there. Lucky for us, the weather is more predictable nowadays thanks to the development of technology.
Hakkoda Ropeway is a cable car taking tourists up 1,326 meters, to the Tamoyachi-dake in the Hakkoda mountains. From the station your can hike to Odake peak at 1584 meters. The ropeway originally opened in 1968, and has been operating all year around since.
From the window, you can enjoy the 360-degree amazing view of Hakkoda mountains with seasonal changes created by mother nature! Aomori is known for its spectacular kojo or autumn colours. It takes around 10 minutes to get to the summit station Sancho Park Station, where you can start refreshing trekking. In winter, it can get rather crowded with tourists who want to enjoy winter sports such as skiing or snowboarding. There are also cafes and restaurants offering a light meal nearby. In addition, a comfortable observation deck is available at the Sancho Park Station.
9am – 3.40pm (4.20pm during winter season)
Admission fee ¥2,000 (round trip)
Towada-Hachimantai National Park
Towada-Hachimantai National Park is a beautiful park in the Tohoku region, connecting Aomori, Akita and Iwate prefectures. It is made up out of two areas: Lake Towada and Mount Hakkoda in the north and in the Hachimantai area in the south. Both places offer beautiful forests, mountains, hiking trails and relaxing hot springs, but the park is most famous for being one of Japan’s best spots for watching the spectacular autumn colours in autumn.
Lake Towada is a beautiful lake on, located in both Akita and Aomori prefectures. It is Japan’s third largest and deepest lake and known for the clarity of its water. It stunning beauty makes it a popular tourist spot. You can also explore the lake by boat that will take you to spots that are not usually easily accessible. Or if you are more the active type, you can also go kayaking or rafting.
Oirasa Gorge is one of the prettiest river valleys of Japan. It stretches for 14 km from Yakeyama at the foot of Mount Hakkoda till Nenokuchi on the shore of Lake Towada. The water of Oirase river, running parallel along the main road, flows through a beautiful forest, another amazing spot for autumn colour viewing, with a number of stunning waterfalls. When you are into cycling and hiking, Oirase Gorge is a must-go place if you are in Aomori.
Sannai Maruyama Special Historical Sites
If you would like to visit some place where you can learn more about the Japanese ancient history, this is your option! Sannai Maruyama Special Historical Sites is an archeological site of an old village dating back to the Jomon Period, roughly about 5,500 years ago. It was discovered in 1992, and designated as Special National Historical Site in 2000. The site covers well over 40 hectares and is dotted with reconstructed ancient structures and ruins such as mounds and pit-dwellings!
There is a museum that displays excavated artifacts that offer an insight to the daily life of the people living there in ancient times. If you aren’t much of a history or archeology fan, it is still worth visiting to enjoy a relaxing walk while exploring the unique ruins and structures!
Sannai Maruyama Special Historical Sites
9am – 5pm (open until 6pm during Golden Week & from Jun, 1 – Sep. 30)
Admission fee ￥410 (adult)
Aomori Museum of Art
Aomori Museum of Art is an art museum opened in 2006. It is located right next to Sannai Maruyama Special Historical Sites, and about 10 minutes bus ride from Shin-Aomori station. The architect who designed the museum got his inspiration from the historical sites nearby, and the appearance of the building is well designed in harmony with the historical sites. Visitor can find some similarities in the both spots while experiencing the different aspects of Japan. The museum also exhibits contemporary art by local artists, a valuable opportunity to understand Aomori more deeply.
Aomori Museum of Art
9.30am – 5pm (from Oct. – May)
9am – 6pm (from Jun. – Sept.)
Admission fee ￥510 (adult)
Like the other areas in the Tohoku region, Aomori has several hot spring resorts. Asamushi Onsen is one of them and is situated in Natsu-domari Peninsula, on the northern tip of Honshu island. It is said that Asamushi Onsen was originally found by Enko, also known as Honen, a Buddhist priest in the Heian Era.
Asamishi Onsen is not only great for the relaxing hot springs, it also offers a number of outdoor activities such as fishing, kayaking, (sea) swimming, hiking, and more! Winter sports are also available, so no matter what season you choose to visit, there is always something enjoyable to do! There are many hotels and ryokan (Japanese traditional inns) along the street on the coast, all with their own unique features.
Asamushi Onsen (※ Available only in Japanese)
Northeast of Aomori city, you will find Shimokita Peninsula, easy recognisable because of its axe shape. The peninsula is known for its volcanic landscape, hot springs and amazing ocean views. Another highlight of the area is the sacred Mount Osore. Osorezan or Fear Mountain is often referred to as hell on earth or the gateway to the afterlife. The mountain is home to Bodai-ji Temple, founded in 862 AD by the monk Ennin. If you’re in for another unique experience: here you can meet itako, often blind female mediums that connect to summon the souls of the dead. Because of the harsh weather conditions in winter, the temple closes on November 1 and reopens in May.
Don’t forget to check out our private tour
If you need some help to organise your trip to Aomori, you should definitely check out our private tour including English guide. We’re happy to help you plan your trip to the most northern prefecture of Honshu and make it a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!
We also offer great tours in Sendai & Matsushima located in Miyagi prefecture, which is also located in Tohoku region. We can recommend to take part in the tour and visit Aomori on your own afterwards!
Read more about our Sendai Matsushima tour
We hope we gave you an idea of some of the amazing experiences you can have is one of Japan’s most beautiful prefectures. Aomori is definitely worth visiting with a lot of tourist attractions not often available in urban areas. People living there are very proud of their city and community, and always welcome tourist with their heartwarming words. You will be able to feel a strong bond between local people and mother nature there while enjoying some very special, unforgettable experiences yourself!
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