A world away from the busy streets and heaving crowds of other Japanese cities, Aomori is blessed by a comparative remoteness, a sleepy, serene ambience and cooler climes. Lively in August, thanks to the Nebuta Festival, a celebration of local culture that features vibrant parade floats, Aomori is otherwise a surprisingly untouched area.
To help you get to know this part of the globe, we’ve put together a handy city guide touching on Aomori’s best attractions, the finest food it has to offer and how to navigate your way around its streets.
How to get around Aomori
Getting around Aomori is relatively easy, especially in the downtown Shinmachi area, which is filled with all manner of street art, antique shops and excellent sushi restaurants, and is well worth wandering around if you have the time.
Otherwise, its shuttle buses circle the city, stopping at its major bus stations and a lot of its sights and attractions. A day pass will set you back about ¥500 and is easily the most economical way to get around the city. Taxis are also available from the train station.
What to see and do in Aomori
Despite having a more relaxed atmosphere than the likes of Tokyo and Kyoto, there’s still much to do in this city.
Nebuta Warasse Museum
Dedicated to the festival we mentioned above, the Nebuta Warasse Museum is the heart and soul of Aomori, and a great way of experiencing the festival if you can’t attend it during your visit. Featuring floats that were used in the previous year’s parade, attendees can learn all about the festival’s history as well as how the amazing floats are created in a vivid, colourful environment.
Ride the Hakkoda Ropeway
A year-round service, the Hakkoda Ropeway delivers stunning panoramic views whether spring’s in full bloom or the snow has fallen on its hilly surroundings. A superb way to experience the serenity of this calming city, there’s plenty to take in on the 10-minute round trip whatever the season.
Immerse yourself in Aomori’s aquatic side at this excellent aquarium. With 500 species and over 10,000 sea-dwelling animals inside, including rare examples native to Aomori, there’s plenty to see inside. From mesmerising dolphin shows to penguins, sea lions and otters, perhaps its centrepiece is the huge saltwater tank with a 15-metre long glass tunnel, a construction that makes you feel like you’re walking 50,000 leagues under the sea.
Despite only being founded in 1982, this relaxed temple is rich in culture, beloved by locals and tourists alike. Soak up the spirituality with a visit, where you can view the Showa Daibutsu, the largest seated and bronze Buddha statue in the country. With tranquil paths, ponds and plenty of inspiring views surrounding the contemplative atmosphere of the temple itself, this is a welcoming place for people from all walks of life.
Soak in a traditional Onsen
Fancy delving a little deeper into Aomori’s culture and ambience? Head to the Sukayo Hot Springs & Onsen (public baths) here and relax in these much-feted waters. Believed to heal illnesses and injuries, these particular onsen have been around for over three centuries, flanked by the incredible natural scenery of Hakkoda Mountains.
They’re also home to the sennin-buro, aka the 1,000-person bath, one of the last remaining outdoor hot spring baths that still exist in Japan. It’s well worth taking a dip in, the warm water is relaxing and soothing, while the wooden shack surroundings give a glimpse into a traditional Aomori, one that’s worlds away from the modernity of the rest of the city.
Where to eat in Aomori
If you’re amongst the visitors to Japan, keen to sample the nation’s unique cuisine – there’s much to sample Aomori.
If you like your food served with a side of festivity, then Ringobako is the place for you. While they eat, guests are entertained by musicians playing shamisen, a three-stringed instrument similar to a banjo.
The seafood here is excellent, featuring all manner of sashimi and scallops, something of a local favourite in Aomori, but don’t discount the apple-based desserts here either. Aomori produces the most apples in Japan, with their own distinctive flavour and texture, so there’s no better way to experience the humble fruit with something to treat your sweet tooth.
A local institution for over 30 years, Aki is an absolute meat feast for carnivorous types. An excellent place for steaks too, they’re grilled to perfection here, but its signature dish katsu teishoku (crumbed chicken with a delicious curry sauce) is well worth trying too!
For the freshest scallops in Aomori, check out Hotate Goya, a restaurant where you can actually catch what you eat. You get three minutes to catch as many scallops from the two tanks, when the time is up, guests can grill them or have them prepared as sashimi or sushi. If your fishing skills aren’t up to snuff, don’t fret, there are plenty of other dishes to sate your appetite with, including sashimi donburi, a dish of sliced salmon and rice that’s a staple of many Japanese dinner tables.
Aji No Sapporo Onishi
This downtown restaurant features some of the best soul food in the city. Chief among them is the miso curry milk ramen, a unique dish that dates back to the 70s, where the story goes that local students challenged the owner to combine three dishes on the menu together. A delicious dish that melds salty, creamy and spiciness effortlessly, it’s topped with a small block of butter that slowly melts in, adding an extra touch of richness to things. A must-try while you’re here, its warming flavours are heightened in the winter, where locals and visitors alike huddle over bowls of this legendary soup.
We hope Aomori’s sights and atmosphere have inspired you to expand those travel horizons! If a cruise to Japan sounds like the perfect getaway, head over to our dedicated Japanese cruise page here, or give our friendly customer care team a call on 0808 2746 777.