The city of Aomori is located at the top of Japan’s main island, Honshu, and is accessible by both rail and air. A Shinkansen ride from Sendai to Shin-Aomori Station takes less than two hours. From Shin-Aomori, Aomori’s city center is just a short local train ride away. As the capital of Honshu’s northernmost prefecture, Aomori has many treasures to discover. The city offers everything from a UNESCO-recognized prehistoric Jomon excavation site, a museum that explains the history and culture of the Nebuta Festival, fresh seafood bowls, and a huge souvenir store. Aomori Prefecture is also Japan’s top producer of apples, so if you love a good apple pie, you’re at the right place!
三内丸山遺跡｜Sannai Maruyama Archaeological Site
Sannai Maruyama Village is one of the largest and best-preserved ancient Jomon era (14.000-300 BCE) villages in Japan. Work on the site began in 1992, when the ruins of a large Jomon Period settlement were discovered. Excavation uncovered pit buildings, pillar-supported buildings, mounds, burial pits and jars, plentiful pieces of pottery, stone implements, wooden objects, and objects made from bone and antlers. Apart from the reconstructed settlement, there is also a museum that offers permanent and temporary exhibits. Before you diving into the exhibits, enrich your knowledge of the period by watching the introductory video at the Jomon Theater. The site also offers fun workshops—you can try making your own version of the famous historical clay figures. When you’re ready for a break, visit the café to try the Jomon parfait with a clay figure cookie. The parfait is layered with matcha pudding, whipped cream, cereal, and chestnut ice cream topped with the Jomon cookie.
Sannai Maruyama Archaeological Site: http://sannaimaruyama.pref.aomori.jp/
ねぶたの家 ワ・ラッセ｜Nebuta Museum WA RASSE
Aomori’s Nebuta Museum is one of the most unique places I have ever visited. In case you didn’t make it in time for the Nebuta Festival in August, the museum offers a chance not only to see the full-sized floats up close but also to learn about their history, how they are built, and about their creators as well. As you enter the museum, you will be welcomed by a Nebuta tunnel that introduces the history of the festival and shows how the style of the floats has evolved throughout the years. There are some parts of floats on display, such as hands, or heads, to provide context for the massive size of the floats. There are also displays that show a cross-section of float parts to provide insight about how they are made. There is also a short film of the summer parade played at multiple times throughout the day. Before you end your tour, Nebuta faces, created by currently active Nebuta artists, bid you farewell.
Nebuta Museum WA RASSE: https://www.nebuta.jp/warasse/foreign/english.html
青森魚菜センター｜Aomori Gyosai Center
Take a walk through Aomori’s arcades from the station and find yourself at Furukawa Fish Market. Aomori is famous for nokke-don, which literally means rice bowl with toppings. But these are no ordinary toppings; you can choose from the freshest local seafood offered by numerous vendors to make your own, personalized bowl of deliciousness. Stroll around the stalls to explore the selection and plan what to get. You have two options when it comes to buying tickets to exchange for seafood items, a set of five or ten. You might need to exchange more than one ticket for certain items. Try to go earlier for the freshest food and the best variety. My personal favorites were tuna, shirako, and salmon roe. Takeout is not available, but you can enjoy your meal at the tables that are set up within the market. Condiments like soy sauce, wasabi, and tea are also available.
Aomori Gyosai Center https://nokkedon.jp/
A-Factory is located right next to Aomori Station, so you can leave your souvenir shopping until the end of your trip. It is a modern duty-free market plaza—a shopping paradise. A wide selection of locally produced sweets featuring Aomori’s famous apples, as well as different varieties of apple juices and ciders, are available. The store also offers fresh Aomori apples and unique items such as candles and soaps. Temporary stalls feature wares from local producers. The facility has a cider factory inside, so you can get a look at the process through the glass windows. I bought apple cider, apple juice, and apple pies—I was not disappointed. The facility has restaurants on both floors and the second floor also has a tasting room.