Aomori Prefecture [青森県(あおもりけん)]

Aomori Prefecture[青森県(あおもりけん)] is one of 47 prefectures in Japan and is the northernmost prefecture of main island of Japan, Honshū[本州(ほんしゅう)]. It belongs to the Tōhoku[東北(とうほく)] Region and is adjacent to Akita and Iwate Prefectures and Hokkaidō across the Tsugaru Strait[津軽海峡(つがるかいきょう)]. Aomori is connected to Hokkaidō by a railway tunnel, Seikan Tunnel[青函(せいかん)トンネル] which measures 53.85km.

nihonchizuAomori.png


Its total area is 9,644.55㎢(the 8th largest prefecture) and its population is about 1280,000(in 2017). The prefectural capital is Aomori City.

Mount Iwaki and an apple orchard
Mount Iwaki and an apple orchard



Aomori Prefecture has two peninsulas, Tsugaru Peninsula[津軽半島(つがるはんとう)] in the west and Shimokita Peninsula[下北半島(しもきたはんとう)] in the east. It faces the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Japan to the west and Ōu Mountain Range[奥羽山脈(おううさんみゃく)] runs across the central part.

Because of Ōu Mountain Range, there is a climatic difference between the western region(Tsugaru Region[津軽地方]) and the eastern region(Nanbu Region[南部地方(なんぶちほう)]).

In winter, much snow falls and it is very cold in the Tsugaru Region. On the other hand, Nanbu Region is not so cold and there are many sunny days in winter and it is cool and humid in summer.



The two regions are also different in culture because Tsugaru Region was governed by Tsugaru clan and Nanbu Region, which also includes central and northern Iwate, was governed by Nanbu clan. Nanbu clan was based in Morioka[盛岡(もりおか)](Now, Iwate) and Its territory was from central Iwate to eastern Aomori. Therefore, the eastern Aomori has strong cultural ties with Iwate.

Dialects of Aomori are also different according to region and they have strong accents.

Tanesashi Coast
Tanesashi Coast[種差海岸(たねさしかいがん)] along the Pacific Ocean at Hachinohe[八戸(はちのへ)] City



In Aomori, agriculture and fishery are the main industries. Especially, it is the largest apple-producing area in Japan and speaking of Aomori, it reminds many Japanese of apple.

And Nagaimo[長芋(ながいも)](Chinese yam) and garlic are also widely cultivated. Forestry of Hiba[ヒバ], which is a variety of cypress, is also a major industry.

As for seafood, scallops are widely cultivated. And Ōma[大間(おおま)] Town, where is located in Shimokita Peninsula and the northernmost town of Honshū, is known for tuna fishing. Tunas of Ōma are traded at high price.

Tuna Monument at Cape Ōma
Tuna monument at Cape Ōma: This cape is the northernmost point of Honshū.



Aomori has rich nature and there are many natural spots. In Shirakami Mountains[白神山地(しらかみさんち)] which is located on the border with Akita, the large primeval beech forests are well reserved and Shirakami Mountains was registered as the first UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in Japan in 1993.

Beech forest on Shirakami Mountains
Beech forest on Shirakami Mountains by photolibrary


Shimokita Peninsula is the northernmost habitat of Nihon-zaru[ニホンザル](Japanese macaque) and it is also the northernmost habitat of wild monkeys in the world.

In the Cape Shiriya-zaki[尻屋崎(しりやざき)](Higashidōri[東通(ひがしどおり)] Village located in Shimokita Peninsula), horses called "Kandachime[寒立馬(かんだちめ)]" are pastured and they are popular among tourists. Kandachime is a hybrid horse between native and French horses and was originally a working horse.

Kandachime horses at Cape Shiriya-zaki
Kandachime horses at Cape Shiriya-zaki


Lake Towada[十和田湖(とわだこ)] is a double caldera(a caldera inside another caldera) lake and is located on the border of Akita. It has a quiet beauty. Oirase Stream[奥入瀬渓流(おいらせけいりゅう)] is a stream of Oirase River from Lake Towada and is very popular as a mystical scenic spot created by vivid green moss and delicate stream.

Lake Towada
Lake Towada

Oirase Stream
Oirase Stream


Mount Iwaki[岩木山(いわきさん)](1,625m) is the highest mountain in Aomori. It is a beautiful isolated mountain and is also called "Tsugaru-Fuji[津軽富士(つがるふじ)]" because of its shape like Mount Fuji.

Mount Hakkōda[八甲田山(はっこうださん)](1,584m) is known for heavy snowfall in winter and Jyuhyō[樹氷(じゅひょう)](ice monster) are seen.

Snow wall walk on Mount Hakkōda
Snow wall walk on Mount Hakkōda



Main tourist attractions are as follows;
  • Sannai-Maruyama Site[三内丸山遺跡(さんないまるやまいせき)](Aomori City): It is a ruins of large-scale settlement in the mid Jyōmon Period(approximately from 5,500 to 4,000 years ago).
    Sannai-Maruyama Site
    Sannai-Maruyama Site

  • Hirosaki Castle[弘前城(ひろさきじょう)](Hirosaki City): It was the castle of Tsugaru clan. The Tenshu[天守(てんしゅ)](main keep tower) of the castle is one of 12 Tenshus which built in the ancient times. Hirosaki Castle is also famous for a Sakura blossoms spot.

    Hirosaki Castle
    Tenshu of Hirosaki Castle

  • Osore-zan[恐山(おそれざん)](Mutsu City): Osore-zan is one of the three greatest Buddhist sanctuaries with Mount Kōya[高野山(こうやさん)](Wakayama Pref.) and Mount Hiei[比叡山(ひえいざん)](Kyoto and Shiga Pref.). It is the most popular spot in Shimokita Peninsula.

    Osore-zan was founded by a Tendai Sect Buddhist, Ennin[円仁(えんにん)] in 864. It is located on a volcano and the coast of a caldera lake, Lake Usoriyama[宇曽利山湖(うそりやまこ)]. Volcanic gas spouts from the ground of white sand and rock. This is a calm and fantastic place and it is like the world after death.

    Osore-zanOsore-zan
    Osore-zan

  • Jyūni-ko[十二湖(じゅうにこ)](Fukaura Town): It literally means "12 lakes" but actually consists of 33 ponds. Especially, Ao-ike[青池(あおいけ)] is cobalt blue and picturesque.

    Ao-ike
    Ao-ike

  • Koganesaki Furōfushi Hot Spring[黄金崎不老ふ死温泉(こがねさきふろうふふしおんせん)](Fukaura Town): It is a brown-colored hot spring. It is known for the open-air bath on the coast of the Sea of Japan.

    Open-air bath of Koganesaki Furōfushi Hot Spring
    Open-air bath of Koganesaki Furōfushi Hot Spring

  • Sukayu Hot Spring[酸ヶ湯温泉(すかゆおんせん)](Aomori City): Sukayu is a hot spring in Mount Hakkōda. This hot spring is white and strongly acid and it is effective for various symptoms. Sukayu is known for the large mixed-gender bath for 1,000 persons made of Hiba(Hiba-sennin-buro[ヒバ千人風呂(せんにんぶろ)]).

    Hiba-sennin-buro of Sukayu Hot Spring
    Hiba-sennin-buro of Sukayu Hot Spring



In summer, lantern doll festivals called "Nebuta[ねぶた]" are held throughout Aomori. Especially, Nebuta of Aomori City is one of the most famous summer festivals in Japan.

Aomori Nebuta
Aomori Nebuta


Tsugaru-jyamisen[津軽三味線(つがるじゃみせん)] is a kind of Shamisen[三味線(しゃみせん)](Japanese traditional string instrument) and is mainly played in Tsugaru Region. Its playing style is harder than that of common Shamisen. You can listen the music in events and tourist facilities.

Tsugaru-jyamisen
Tsugaru-jyamisen



Aomori's local foods and traditional craft are as follows;

  • Jyappa-jiru[じゃっぱ汁]: Jyappa means "remains of a fish after cleaning" in Tsugaru dialect. Jyappa-jiru is a soup dish using soup stock made from Jyappa of cod.

    Jyappa-jiru
    Jyappa-jiru

  • Nanbu-senbei[南部煎餅(なんぶせんべい)]: Nanbu-senbei is a Senbei[煎餅(せんべい)](cracker made from cereal, mainly rice) of Nanbu Region made from wheat flour. It has simple taste. And it is used as an ingredient of Senbei-jiru[せんべい汁] which is a soup dish.

    Nanbu-senbei
    Nanbu-senbei

    Senbei-jiru
    Senbei-jiru

  • Kuroishi Tsuyu-yakisoba[黒石つゆ焼きそば(くろいしつゆやきそば)](Kuroishi City): This is an unique Yaki-soba[焼きそば](fried noodle seasoned with Worcester sauce) and unlike common Yaki-soba, soup is poured over it.

  • Towada Bara-yaki[十和田バラ焼](Towada City): sauteed rib meat and onion seasoned with sweet and salty sauce.

    Towada Bara-yaki
    Towada-Bara-yaki

  • Tsugaru-nuri[津軽塗(つがるぬり)]: It is a lacquer craft made around Hirosaki City. This has about 300-year history.
    Tsugaru-nuri
    Tsugaru-nuri





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