The Soul of Aomori

Journey to Aomori Prefecture at the tip of mainland Honshu to uncover some of the most aged-old traditions, dramatic landscapes and a smorgasbord of excellent cuisines in this less-trodden region that has kept its soul through the ages with its strong identity. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Experience fine lodgings with exquisite cuisine

Admire epic landscapes of Aomori

Experience less trodden towns and villages 

Visits to local artisans and craftman studios

ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE AOMORI / OWANI

Arrive into Aomori Airport where we then travel into Aomori City, the northernmost prefectural capital city in mainland Honshu. Begin our visit to the Furukawa Fish Market where fresh seafood, local produce and fruits and vegetables are sold in abundance and perhaps have the opportunity to sample a "nokkedon" with different variety of sashimi. Later, we then visit the Nebuta Warasse Museum, dedicated to Aomori's famous Nebuta Matsuri festival. Be fascinated with the giant floats depicting characters from folklores and legends. Spend some leisure time later to visit the A-Factory, a modern market with cafes and restaurants selling a variety of apple products including cider, jams, pastries and more with fantastic views of the Aomori Bay Bridge.

 

Spring Season (late April to beginning of May)

A chance to journey out of the city to the southern section of the Tsugaru Peninsula to arrive at the beautiful Ashino Park where more than 1,500 cherry trees bloom in Spring for one of the best chery blossom viewing spots in Japan. Thereafter, we continue to another cherry blossom spot to the Tsugaru Fujimi Lake where over 2,000 cherry trees provide more spectacular visual feast. Worth a visit as well is the city of Goshogawara - birthplace of the Tsugaru Shamisen where you will learn about the three-stringed instrument that embodies the spirit of Aomori Prefecture and a chance for a first encounter of artisans playing some inspiring and uplifting tunes at the Tsugaru Shamisen Hall (all year round). 

Retreat to the peaceful environments of Owani, a sleepy hot spring town renowned for its ski slopes in winter and for its therapeutic apple onsen. 

Overnight: Kai Tsugaru, Owani

Meals: Dinner

DAY 2: OWANI (EXCURSION TO HIROSAKI & SHIRAKAMI SANCHI)

Today, a short drive takes us into the castle town of Hirosaki - the undisputed "Number One Cherry Blossom Viewing Spot" in all of Japan in Spring (late April to beginning of May). With more than 2,500 cherry trees covering the entire Hirosaki Castle complex including its moats, be wowed by the sensory adventure. Worth visiting also is the Samurai District of the Tsugaru clan to admire the beautiful residences with stunning gardens. Later, enjoy even more sakura treat as we take a drive on the "World's Longest Cherry-lined Road" with more than 6,500 cherry trees stretching for over 20km long set against the backdrop of Mount Iwaki. 

The second half of the day sees us arriving into the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Shirakami Sanchi (late May to late October) , a natural area blessed with astonishing nature and the largest expanse of beech forests in Asia. On a guided walking tour, enjoy hiking on the idyllic trails leading to some wondrous spectacles of waterfalls such as the Anmon Falls, reflective lakes with almost unnaturally blue waters and stunning canyons. Depending on your fitness and interests as well as the season, a suitable hike will be planned accordingly. 

Apple Harvest Season (July to November)

An opportunity to visit an apple farm will give completion to your experience in Aomori Prefecture where the apples are revered to a status similar to the Yubari melons in Hokkaido. You have the chance to understand the cultivation of Aomori's amazing apples, participate in harvesting and tasting of apple-related food products. 

Overnight: Kai Tsugaru, Owani

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 3: OWANI / INAKADATE / SHIMOKITA PENINSULA

We leave the Kai Tsugaru today for a short drive to the village of Inakadate, renowned for its high quality rice and other agricultural crops. Every year from early July to early Oct (before harvest), the spectacles of the Inakadate rice paddy Tanbo Art wows visitors with some of the most incredible paddy art designs. Spanning entire fields, the rice paddy art takes more than a thousand people from the local community to create highly textured and laborious creation of pictures depicting legends and traditions of Japanese culture. 

From here, we journey on a pleasant drive into the Tsugaru Peninsula to arrive at the small seaside town of Kanita where we hop onboard a scenic ferry ride over the Tairadate Straits where we will land into the Shimokita Peninsula - the northernmost frontier of mainland Honshu with spectacular coastal seascapes that are reminiscent of the rugged west coasts of Ireland. For the next 2 nights, enjoy a homestay experience in a seaside village where you will experience warm homely hospitality while feasting to the bounties of the sea. 

Overnight: Minshuku Homestay, Shimokita Peninsula

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4: SHIMOKITA PENINSULA

Begin the day with a visit to the Hotokegaura cliffs stretching for more than 2km along the west coast of the Shimokita Peninsula. The name Hotokegaura (Buddha beach) originates from how the rock formations look like Buddha statues. Enjoy a boat excursion taking in the full spectacle of the cliffs and an opportunity to land, admiring the surreal rock formations (subject to good tidal conditions). Thereafter, enjoy an sea urchin peeling and tasting experience of Shimokita uni where we learn about the harvesting conditions and the difference and taste texture of one of the most revered sea urchins in Japan. 

We then continue to the port town of Oma - home to some of the most sought after seafood delicacies in Japan including the highly-prized Oma tuna and Kazama cape angler fish, squid, scallops and crabs as well as sea urchins. Dependant on the season (best recomended May to early October), you will witness differentiated seafood experiences such as the peeling of sea urchins (May to late July), Oma tuna auction and butchering demonstration (end October). Renowned for its delicious texture and perfect amount of fat, these tuna are shipped to Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market to be purchased by the top restaurants in the world. Thereafter, make a visit to Cape Oma to mark your arrival at the northernmost tip of mainland Honshu, enjoying views of Cape Oma Lighthouse on the island of Benteto and a chance to sample fresh seafood from the quaint seafood shops. 

Overnight: Minshuku Homestay, Shimokita Peninsula

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 5: SHIMOKITA PENINSULA / YOKOHAMA / MISAWA

Say farewell to your homestay host as we continue our journey of Aomori Prefecture. En route, we make a stop in the Yagen Valley, nestled on the banks of the Ohata River and a place rich with autumnal forests, beautiful waterfalls and home to therapeutic hot springs. Dependent on season, enjoy some time to soak in the natural beauty and in the autumn season (early - late October), witness glorious explosion of colors of fall foliage. Not far away, we visit Osorezan, ranked together with Koyasan and Hieizan as one of Japan's three most sacred places. Translated to "Fear Mountain" and coupled with its volcanic sulfuric landscape, it is believed to be the "Gates of Hell" where the deceased gather. Yet the dramatic backdrop offers striking contrast to Osorezan making this an incredible destination to visit as much as it is for its legends and folklore. 

From here, we pass the tiny city of Mutsu where we leave the Shimokita Peninsula completely continuing our drive along the coast of Mutsu Bay, renowned for its farming of some of the best scallops in all of Japan. Arriving into the village of Yokohama, renowned for its incredible fields of canola flowers in Spring (early to mid May). Finally, we will arrive into the air base city of Misawa where we retreat to the idyllic environments of Aomoriya

NOTES:

The Yokohama Rapeseed Festival is held in May annually paying homage to the largest planted area of rapeseed blossoms in Japan. 

Overnight: Aomoriya, Misawa

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 6: MISAWA (EXCURSION TO OIRASE & TOWADA)

We enjoy the morning in the stunning nature of the Oirase, blessed with some of the most stunning gorges, waterfalls and surreal trails that mesmerizes the senses. Amazingly stunning whether in spring, summer, autumn or winter, this is a photographer's paradise. Dependent on your interests, we take on a suitable trail to witness all the wallpaper scenes come alive in reality. Not far away, we make a visit to Lake Towada, the largest caldera lake in mainland Honshu, with serene scenes in spring and summer and dazzling kaleidoscope of colors in autumn. 

 

In the afternoon, a short drive takes us to Towada City where we have time for lunch and thereafter, visit the impressive Towada Art Center which exhibits contemporary art installations including work by Ron Mueck, Jeong Hwa Choi and Yoko Ono. During the cherry blossom season, this is also one of the most photogenic places to appreciate including the Kanchogai-dori street lined with over 200 cherry trees extending for over 1.1km. 

Overnight: Aomoriya, Misawa

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 7: MISAWA / HACHINOHE / DEPARTURE 

No journey to Aomori Prefecture is complete without a dedicated visit to the Tatehana Wharf Morning Market in the city of Hachinohe. Held every Sunday, the atmospheric port market is lined with more than 400 stalls parading various varieties of seafood and local produce where you can sample fresh bounties from the sea. Thereafter, we make a visit to the Hachinohe Shuzo sake brewery, established since 1775 where we enjoy an interactive tour of its facilities and in season (Nov - Mar), a chance to witness the fermentation process. Our journey of Aomori Prefecture thereafter comes to an end as we transfer to Hachinohe Station embarking on the Shinkansen bullet train journey bound for Tokyo or consider extending your journey to other parts of Tohoku. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

Kai Tsugaru is located in the Owani Onsen district near the castle town of Hirosaki combining traditional Japanese elements with modernist features and design. Each evening, live Tsugaru shamisen performance is staged while kaiseki-styled dinner extensively uses seasonal seafood and ingredients from Aomori Prefecture. 

Kai Tsugaru, Owani

Enjoy an experiential stay with wonderful homestay hosts offering a home-away-from-home experience and the perfect location to visiting the wonders of the Shimokita Peninsula. Simple accommodations with private rooms offers comfort without fancy. Showers and toilets are communal like it is in a normal house. 

Minshuku Homestay, Shimokita Peninsula

Aomoriya is a hot spring hotel in Misawa offering a perfect blend of traditional Japanese elements and contemporary atmosphere. Accommodations are well-appointed and decorated with traditional Aomori art crafts. 

Aomoriya, Misawa

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