Do you remember the travel to Japan of 3000 B.C. that I shared with you? Many of Sannai Mariyama Relics visitors stay in Aomori City. Actually, there are great, unique and very interesting things in the city, too. This time, I’d like to share 5 things to see in Aomori City with you. Amazingly, all of them are in a walking distance.
1: Nebuta Museum Warasse
The best of bests in Aomori City is this Nebuta Museum. Your first question will be, “What’s a nebuta?”
Nebutas (also, neputa) are huge lanterns like the photos – 5 meters high, nearly 10 meters wide, 7 meters depth and 4 TONS!
Aomori holds Nebuta Festival on 2 – 7 August every year, which is visited by more than 3 MILLION people. It is undoubtedly one of the biggest, and the most exciting festivals in Japan.
Performers called haneto (meaning, “jumping people” or something like that) draw nubutas in the parades. Nebuta culture is seen only in Aomori, so it is very interesting to everyone, including Japanese people like me.
The festival is totally exciting, but the problem is that your travel schedule won’t be on 2 – 7 August in most cases. So… No nebutas for 359 days…?
That’s why Nebuta Museum was established! We can meet award-winning nebutas, learn the culture, see haneto stages and even try some things of Nebuta Festival every day!
Nebutas’ designs come from historical characters and Japanese classic literature. Famous scenes pop up as nebutas.
Just seeing those huge nebutas is stunning, but we can learn the culture more. For example, there is a display of Nebuta Festival costumes.
We also learn how to make a nebuta. Amazingly, we can touch the paper and wires! The Japanese paper is quite thick.
Nebuta Museum cannot be anything but STUNNING. I am not responsible even if you literally get stunned at the huge nebutas.
When you visit Aomori, this red interesting building is definitely a MUST-SEE!
(Visitor information is at the bottom of this article.)
2: Utou Shrine
In Japan, traditional shinto shrines and Buddhist temples (Want to learn the differences here?) are always things to see. There are in Aomori, too. Especially, Utou Shrine is the oldest shrine in the city.
Utou Shrine is said to be the birthplace of Aomori. Established in 807 (or before that), it has been a shrine loved by Aomori locals.
It is not as big as Japan’s biggest shrines, but very beautiful and comfortable. Aomori is a city of fishers, so Utou Shrine has many stories related to water. For example, this dragon is believed to be the guardian for people involved with sea. We can wash our hands freely here.
The atmosphere was quiet, beautiful and elegant. I felt that it is very Northern Japan like.
Whichever your hotel is, Utou Shrine will be near you. Why not go there?
This A-shaped building is the center of sightseeing and products of Aomori. The ground floor is full of Aomori’s souvenirs – not “Japanese” souvenirs, but Aomori’s products, right?
The highest floor is an observatory. We can see 360 degrees of views of Northern Japan. Even Hokkaido is seen beyond the sea!
There are good local restaurants in the building, so you can enjoy the beautiful views with foods, too. I especially recommend the local cuisine restaurant. Aomori is a city of fishers – there are some traditional soul foods started by them. “Kai-yaki miso” is a scallop grilled with eggs and miso, which is originated from fishers lunch.
In the morning in Aomori, you can find some places to have rice bowls with fresh seafood (nokke-don). I’d like to encourage you to have lunch at Nebuta Museum or here to experience Northern Japan, not just Japan.
4: Hakkoda-maru the Memorial Ship
You saw an yellow ship from Aspam observatory, didn’t you? It is Hakkoda Maru, which had been a ship coming and going between Aomori and Hakodate in Hokkaido. After retired, the ship loved by locals is now on display.
Let me note that it is a big ship with 4 floors and an underground floor. I mean, it took me half an hour to see all! If your travel schedule is too tight, or you are too tired to go up and down many stairs, you can say hello to Hakkoda Maru from the outside. If not, enter the ship and feel the atmosphere of life in Aomori decades ago.
The best spot I selected is the observatory!
The last of things to see in Aomori City is this cute triangle roofed building near the bridge. This is A-Factory, which is the center of Aomori’s fresh foods!
Here is a common sense of Japanese people; Aomori is famous for apples. In A-Factory, they are making cider from Aomori’s apples!
What makes us happy is that they offer cider tasting! You’ll buy a card and get the drink as self-service, but the instructions are friendly enough to be malti-lingual.
When you find the best cider, you can get a bottle of it in the ground floor. The cool cafe is in the ground floor and the restaurant is in the 2nd floor.
All of these 5 things to see are in a walking distance in the city. You won’t miss anything with this article.
Have a wonderful trip in Northern Japan!
Travel Information & Helpful Links of Aomori
Nebuta Museum Warasse
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 19:00 in May – August, 9:00 – 18:00 in September – April.
Closed on 31 December, 1 January. On 9 and 10 August, the museum is closed to change all the nebutas into new ones, but the restaurant and souvenir shop are open.
Admission Fees: 600 yen for adult, 450 yen for high school student, 250 yen for elementary or junior high school student.
Nebuta Museum Warasse Official Website: http://www.nebuta.jp/warasse/ (English, Korean, Chinese and Japanese)
Nebuta Festival Official Website: http://www.nebuta.jp/ (English, Korean, Chinese and Japanese)
Admission Fees for the Observatory: 400 yen for adult, 300 yen for high school student, 200 yen for elementary or junior high school student
Opening Hours of the Observatory: 9:00 – 19:00 in April – October, 9:00 – 18:00 in November – March
Official Website: http://www.aomori-kanko.or.jp/web/ (in Japanese)
Hakkoda Maru the Memorial Ship
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 19:00 in April – October, 9:00 – 17:00 in November – March
Admission Fees: 500 yen for adult, 300 yen for high school or junior high school student, 100 yen for elementary school student
Official Website: http://aomori-hakkoudamaru.com/ (in Japanese)
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 20:00
Official Website: http://www.jre-abc.com/wp/afactory/ (inJapanese)
How to Get to Aomori from Tokyo
Take JR Shinkansen (bullet train/super express) from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori. It takes around 3.5 hours. Take JR Ou Line to Aomori. It is a 5 minutes ride, 190 yen.
Travel Tip: Get Discounts by the Combined Ticket
There are several types of combined tickets for the places above.
I recommend “Aomori Bay Area Ticket” most, which is for Nebuta Museum & Aspam Observatory & Hakkoda-maru (1300 yen for adult, 900 yen for high school student, 700 yen for junior high school student, 500 yen for elementary school student). If you don’t enter Hakkoda Maru and visit Nebuta Museum and Aspam, you don’t need to buy any of combined tickets.
Accommodation in Aomori City