Melissa C. Koh

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Amazing Aomori

Japan

The Aomori Prefecture has four distinct and beautiful seasons, with each season boasting it’s own best. There was so much wonder, calm and serenity in Aomori during winter, and I cannot imagine how beautiful it would be during the other seasons. Located in the north of Japan, Aomori is not only known for producing the best apples in Japan but also it’s ever-changing beautiful landscapes throughout the year.

You can get to Aomori from Tokyo by the Tohoku Shinkansen (Hayabusa) which takes approximately 2 hours and 59 minutes.

Our first stop was to the Aomori Museum of History, about a 5 minute car ride from Aomori Station (or a 20 minute walk). The museum serves to introduce the history of Aomori and the culture of its people. The museum is known as Kit no Mahoroba in Japanese. The word mahoroba is an archaic term that means “a wonderful place” or “a comfortable place to live”, in reference to the city and its surrounding regions.

Located in an open area covered with a blanket of snow, we walked into an all-white interior aesthetic, with a clean and minimal design. Many people visit the museum for the huge outdoor exhibit “The Aomori Dog” by Nara Yoshimoto.

We then headed back to the train station area, where A-factory is. A-factory might have been my favourite shopping spot and biggest weakness— we found an abundance of Aomori’s local produce from apple ciders to glass bottled apple juices, to apple honey, apple jams, apple chips and basically, everything apple. I bagged home an apple salad dressing, some fresh apples, and a few bottles of juice for my family and friends.

We had lunch there and I ate one of the BEST SAVOURY CREPES ever. Trust me, it was so good that we came back the next day for a second round.

After lunch, we took a train ride from Shin-Aomori station to Hirosaki Station where we got picked up and chauffeured to the Ryokan. I love staying in traditional Ryokans because of how peaceful and quiet they are. We had the afternoon to take it slow, unwind, relax and bathe in the hot springs.

The next morning, we took a local bus to Hirosaki Castle. As this was also our last day in Aomori, we headed to Hirosaki Station first to leave our luggage’s in the coin-locker. The tourist information center provided James with slip-and-water-proof winter boots that he could change into.

Visiting Hirosaki Castle and walking through Hirosaki Park was a highlight of our trip. It was so stunning and absolutely magical with the light snow falling down from the sky. The Hirosaki Castle was built 400 years ago in the Edo Period with three turrets, five castle gates and triple moats. We had this view all to ourselves that morning as there were only a handful of visitors besides us.

Hirosaki is known to be the castle town of Cherry Blossoms and Apples, and I cannot imagine how beautiful it will be when all the sakuras have bloomed. I’ve made a mental note that I must visit Hirosaki again in Spring.

We ended our stint in Hirosaki with a pit stop at a quaint and beautiful cafe – Salon de cafe Ange, tucked in the corner about a stone throw’s from the castle. It is said that Aomori is famous for their amazing apples and this cafe surely proved it right. They served a myriad of apple desserts from apple tarts (the best I’ve had, ever!), apple cheesecake (this was superb too!), apple financier cake and more. It was accompanied with a warm cup of apple tea. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

We took a train ride back from Hirosaki Station to Shin-Aomori station where we had our final lunch at A-factory and we visited the Nebula Museum. The famous Aomori Nebuta Festival is from the 2nd – 7th of August and it dates back to the origins of a custom that was practiced to ward off the sleep demons. Every year, around 20 large-sized Nebula floats are made for this procession and the city bustles with crowds of over 2 million people. We managed to view some of the fully-sized Nebula that participated in the Aomori Nebuta Festival displayed in the Nebuta Hall.

Although a short 2 day getaway, our trip to Aomori was definitely enriching and so much fun!

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