May 30, 2015


(Updated in May 2018)

Aomori(青森)is the northern most prefecture in Honshu(本州)and the Tohoku(東北)region, just below Hokkaido(北海道). It is famous for apples, Hirosaki Castle and Osorezan. Out of the numerous cherry blossom viewing spots I have visited in Japan, Hirosaki Castle(弘前城)win the others hands down. Osorezan(恐山 / Fear Mountain)is 1 of the 3 most sacred spots in Japan, and its vibe and landscape is really exceptional (I have not come across another place like this in Japan). Thanks to these 2 incomparable attractions, Aomori has become one of my favorite prefectures in Japan that I'd highly recommend.

Went to Aomori twice, the first time during my Golden Week Tohoku trip in 2013. Osorezan is in Shimokita Hantou(下北半島), and is a train + bus ride away from Aomori station. Spent a day covering this attraction.

Osorezan is closed in winter months. When I went on 1st May, it was the 1st day opening to public for the year. It was drizzling, cold and greyish, adding to the vibe of this place.

Osorezan was discovered more than a thousand years ago by a Buddhist priest looking for a sacred mountain that resembles the world of Buddha. The area is rich in volcanic activity, with smoke emitted from the grounds, and there are many Jizo statues with piles of pebbles and stones. Pebbles and windmills are offerings to Jizo(地蔵)by parents of dead children, in the hope that Jizo will use them to help their children gain access to paradise.

I also caught a glimpse of Itako, blind women that are said to have gone through spiritual training to communicate with the dead. Lake Usori next to the temple in the premise-- Bodaiji(菩提寺), has rich sulphur content and is said to be poisonous.

There is also Sanzu no Kawa(三途の川)with a red bridge some distance away that is said to be the crossing to afterlife. And drinking water from a spring on the way up the mountain is supposed to make one stay youthful. (The bus actually stops here to let passengers alight to drink the water before continuing the journey up.)

Hirosaki Castle and Park is regarded as one of the top 3 cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan for both day and night time(桜の三大名所、三大夜桜). Could already understand why when I visited during Golden Week in 2013 (even though it only reached 50% bloom), even more so when I managed to catch it in full bloom in 2018. A classic Japanese castle with red bridge and snow-capped mountains in the backdrop, how better to complement the beauty of Sakura? Even after the bloom has come to an end, the moat filled with pink flower petals is also a sight to behold.

The place is huge, so it did not feel crowded at all even though there were many people. In fact I got lost a few times despite having a map with me. One full day is needed to finish covering the park, the botanical garden (within the park, has beautiful late-blooming weeping cherry trees) and Fujita Memorial Garden (opposite the park).

I also visited Ashinokoen Park(芦野公園), one of the top 100 cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan, and the "world's longest row of cherry trees"(世界一桜並木). Unfortunately, both were not as impressive as I had thought.

For food, Aomori specialties include Oma Maguro 大間マグロ (high-grade tuna) and other seafood. There is an underground market near Aomori station.

Not to forget apples and apple juice. Had the nicest apple pie I have ever eaten at a stall in Aomori station.

Also had really good sardine broth ramen (Nagao Chuka Soba 長尾中華そば) near Aomori station~

Other than sakura blooming season, another good time to visit the prefecture would be summer, when there is Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori City, together with Kanto Matsuri in Akita and Tanabata Matsuri in Sendai.


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