Like many Japanese prefectures, the capital city of
Aomori Prefecture shares its name. Aomori-shi, also
known as Aomori City, is located near the center of the
prefecture and faces Aomori Bay to the north. The city
holds several records, including having the largest
population in the prefecture, hosting one of the most
popular festivals in the country, containing the tallest
seated bronze Buddha statue in Japan, and being the
metropolitan region with the most annual snowfall in the
world! While Aomori is a snow lover’s dream, there are
sites and events to warm the hearts of any traveler.
There are some who consider Aomori as simply the
gateway between Japan’s main island of Honshu and
the northern island of Hokkaido, but the city itself has
much more to offer. From fascinating culture, delicious
food, entertainment, to awe-inspiring outdoor activities,
Aomori has something for everyone.
The name “Aomori” derives from the green wooded area known as aoi-mori, which surrounds the port and was used as a landmark by the ships coming in. As a port town, Aomori became an essential part to the ferry service started by the Hokkaido Colonization Office. After the opening of the Tohoku Main Line in 1891 and the Ou Main Line in 1894, the Seikan Ferry began its operations from Aomori to Hakodate in 1908. The Seikan Ferry operated until 1988 when the undersea rail tunnel was completed. In its 80 years of service, it had transferred over 160 million passengers to and from Hokkaido. The Hakkodamaru was one of the ferries used back in the day and is now a permanent museum in Aomori Port. Although there are still car ferries being used to connect Aomori to Hakodate today, most passengers go by rail via the Seikan Tunnel.
Travelers who are interested in history and culture may want to visit the Showa Daibutsu (Giant Buddha) and the five-story pagoda at Seiryu-ji, an important Buddhist Temple constructed with lumber from Aomori’s forests. For those who want an indoor cultural experience, Aomori boasts multiple art museums, as well as museums that feature the history, festivals, and geography of the region. Fans of unique architecture will be drawn to the Aomori Museum of Art or the Aomori Prefecture Tourist Center (also referred to as the ASPAM building). Both buildings are unique in structure, while housing rotating exhibits inside. Lovers of cultural artistry may prefer to visit the Nebuta Warasse, just a few blocks from the waterfront ASPAM area. Here, visitors can learn about Aomori’s famous Nebuta Festival in a vibrant and immersive experience that includes seeing the gargantuan floats up close, learning how the floats are designed and created, and even taking part in festival style song and dance!
For those in search of entertainment, Aomori is always happy to provide! There are festivals in and around the city throughout the year, but Nebuta Matsuri in August is its most iconic and popular. Full of color and light, Aomori’s Nebuta Festival is a feast for all the senses. Visitors will see the parade of enormous paper floats, most of which are molded to represent warriors of the past. These floats can be seen at the Nebuta Warasse Museum when the festival is not being held. During the festival, there is music and dancing in which locals and tourists alike dress the part and chant along with the beating drums. Japanese festival food is at its best during Nebuta, and visitors may try a variety of local cuisine for the equivalent of just a few dollars.
If it’s food your heart desires, Aomori won’t let you down! While you can find the typical Japanese staples anywhere in the city, Aomori is celebrated for its apples, sake, and fresh fish. The Furukawa Fish Market is a seafood lover’s dream, where diners may create their own bowls of fresh delicacies caught that very day. Those who enjoy craft beverages will enjoy making a stop at A-Factory, a cider house that produces its beverages using Aomori’s famous apples. Visitors are able to view the cider-making process, participate in cider-tastings, and enjoy the restaurants and bakeries that feature locally sourced cuisine.
Whether you’re in the city to stay for a while or just stopping along the way, you’ll be glad you visited Aomori-shi!
Tohoku | Aomori | Aomori
Aomori Museum of Art
The Aomori Museum of Art is located next to the Sannai Maruyama Jomon Archaeological Sites and features work by Yoshitomo Nara, Shiko Munakata and Marc Chagall.
Tohoku | Aomori | Aomori
Nebuta matsuri is a large papier mache lantern float parade in Aomori and is one of the three largest festivals in the Tohoku region.