To truly commune with the full scope of Japan’s natural beauty and cultural prowess, it behooves intrepid and casual wayfarers alike to escape the seductive urban confines of Tokyo and Osaka and the singular heritage hot spot of Kyoto. If a trip off the island of Honshu, perhaps to the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa or Sapporo and Shiretoko National Park in Hokkaido, is not in the cards, do yourself a service and take the Tōhoku bullet train from Ueno Station to phenomenal Aomori.
If the name of Honshu’s northernmost prefecture sounds a lot like the Italian word for “love”, well, chalk it up as a happy coincidence. Despite the senseless destruction of the eponymous prefecture capital in World War Two, there is indeed a lot to love in Aomori. The city of more than 300,000 people is a lively gateway to not only the scenic tip of Honshu but the island of Hokkaido as well. Aomori is a prefecture with UNESCO World Heritage charm, inimitable cultural festivals and priceless national monuments.
In the city itself, it begins with terrific points of interest like Asamushi Onsen and Aquarium and the iconic Aomori Bay Bridge. On the doorstep of the prefecture capital, a litany of wonders unfurl, from Mount Osore and the Shimokita Peninsula to Lake Towada and Towada-Hachimantai National Park, Yagen Valley to the lush Shirakami-Sanchi UNESCO World Heritage Site. Without question, for culture, four seasons outdoor fun and photogenic scenery, Aomori is a must-see Honshu experience.
Aomori's Top 10
10. Aomori Bay Bridge is a new symbol of Aomori city built in the early 1990s.
5. Sannai-Maruyama site is a spectacular archaeological site from the ancient Jōmon period.
9. Mount Osore is the mythological gateway to Hell in Japan and resides in a desolate corner of the Shimokita Peninsula. About 3 hours from Aomori city by car and 5 hours by public transport!
4. Asamushi Onsen is a popular resort in Aomori city with roots in the late 9th century!
8. Yagen Valley is a beautiful onsen/hot springs area in Ohata-machi, Mutsu city!
3. Aomori Prefectural Museum is the foremost cultural archive in the region.
7. Towada-Hachimantai National Park spans a veritable hall of fame hit list of Tōhoku region natural wonders, from Lake Towada to the Hachimantai plateau.
2. Hirosaki Castle dates back to 1611 and was the power base of the Tsugaru, a samurai clan that held sway over northern Honshu for several hundred years. The castle is a one hour drive from Aomori city.
6. Shirakami-Sanchi or White God Mountain Area, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that shelters a singular primeval mountain forest.
1. Asamushi Aquarium easily one of the best in Japan, if not East Asia, is home to over 11,000 marine animals. The facility has been a vital landmark in the prefecture since 1923.
- Sannai Maruyama – Some of the ancient artefacts revealed at this Aomori historical site are more than 5,000 years old, dating back to the Jomon period.
- Showa Daibutsu – This famous statue is not the only reason to visit this Aomori landmark; there are also ancient temples and pagodas.
- Snow Corridor – This amazing Aomori landmark is one of the most beautiful and unique historical attractions in the area.
- Hakkoda Ikoi no Bokujo – A must-see for visitors who are interested in the history of the region.
- Osamu Dazai Residence – The home of the most famous and prominent writer in all of Aomori.
Aomori Art & Culture
- Aomori Museum of Art – Both ancient and contemporary local art can be found here.
- Aomori Asamushi Aquarium – Many exotic species of Aomori fish are on display at this aquarium.
- Seikan Ferry Memorial Ship Hakkodamaru – This ship turned museum is a great place to see the seafaring history of Aomori.
- Wa Rasse – The real nebuta displayed in this spacious museum draw crowds from all over Aomori.
- Aomori Contemporary Art Centre – One of the best displays of modern Aomori art.
- Fresh Market – This Aomori mainstay features fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables from the area.
- A Factory – This open-air street market is a great place to grab a snack and look at the beautiful views.
- Aomori Sakana Centre – This popular Aomori shop allows customers to design and make their own bowls.
- Auga – The best place to find name-brand items and trendy designers.
- Shinmachi Street – This main street of Aomori features an array of department stores, small shops and unique boutiques.
Gay & Lesbian Aomori
- Aomori LGBT International Film Festival – This annual Aomori festival features the works of gay and lesbian filmmakers, as well as gay-themed films.
- Dino Bar – One of the favourite hangouts of the young gay crowd.
- Red – This low-key Aomori gay bar features a small and intimate staff and is known for its great music.
- Club Metro – This popular Aomori dance club caters to a mixed crowd that likes to dance the night away.
- Nest – Featuring top DJs from around Japan, this techno club is popular among the gay community.
- Hakkoda – This Aomori mountain is one of the most-loved places for locals to take a hike.
- ASPAM – The views from this park attract visitors from all over the city.
- Blue Forest Central Park – This lovely park in Aomori is one of the best places in the city to get away from the noise and traffic.
- Gappo Park – Another park that offers a great place to spend the day outside.
- Asamushi Umizuri Park – A popular place for locals to have an outdoor picnic.
- Ski and snowboard on Moya Hills in Aomori.
- Trek to the top of Kayano Heights for great views of Aomori.
- Hike the trails of Asamushi Onsen Forest Park.
- Climb to the top of Tashirotai Heights.
- Stay in shape at the Aomori Sports Club.
Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is a key Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property and one of 100 Soundscapes of Japan.
Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival is held at Hirosaki Castle every year.
When To Go
The Tōhoku region of Honshu has a humid temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters. Aomori city is at the midline of a humid continental and humid subtropical climate with average temperatures from 29.5 °F (−1 °C) in January to 73 °F (23 °C) in August.
The capital of Aomori Prefecture enjoys more annual snowfall than any other city in Japan. The average total of 305 in (775 mm) eclipses even Sapporo.
While summers lure considerable tourists, the most amenable months in Aomori may be May and October. The zeniths of the cherry blossom and fall seasons saturate the prefecture with remarkable scenery.
Aomori Airport is a small but important hub in Honshu, with service to and from the likes of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya and Seoul.
Aomori city is the northernmost terminus of the Shinkansen and several bus lines. Total travel time from Tokyo is approximately 2.5 hours by train and 9.5 hours by bus.
The core of Aomori city is fairly easy to navigate on foot but a private car or taxi is necessary to see the entire prefecture. Visitors with a basic to mid-level grasp of Japanese will be able to explore Aomori autonomously by bus.