Jutting out of the northwestern most tip of Honshu is the
Tsugaru Peninsula. Known for its majestic, winding
roads and breathtaking sea views, the peninsula is a
delight for nature loving travelers! Toward the west, the
Tsugaru Peninsula overlooks the Sea of Japan. To the
east is Mutsu Bay, and across the straits to the north is
the large island of Hokkaido.
One of the “must-do” sites on the peninsula is Takayama Inari, which is affectionately referred to by locals as the “Thousand Torii Gates.” The shrine is dedicated to the Japanese deity, Inari. The park’s main attraction, though, is the path of torii gates that winds around the grounds. While there are actually only around two hundred gates, the path of red is quite impressive, and the view from the top of the hill is a sight to behold! While there, visitors can also spy hundreds of fox statues, messengers of Inari, spread across the landscape.
History buffs may enjoy Magua Beach and the Shariki Fishing Port, which are just a short drive north from Takayama Inari. While there are beautiful views of the Sea of Japan and a unique Sunset Dome to be found there, the charm of Magua Beach comes from its history. The beach is home to a memorial stone that was built in commemoration for American sailors who died in the 1800’s when their ship, the Cheseborough, was wrecked during a typhoon. The plaque tells of locals who tied ropes around themselves and ventured into the sea to carry survivors back to shore. Now, Shariki Village is the sister city of Bath, Maine, where the ship originated. The village hosts the annual Cheseborough Cup, a relay swimming and running competition with participants from Aomori Prefecture and Maine.
North of Magua Beach is Jusan-ko, which translates to “Lake Thirteen.” While the origins of the name are often debated, the beauty and serenity of this area are not! If you enjoy clam digging or bird watching, a quick stop at Jusan-ko might be for you! The brackish water of the lake provides the perfect nutrients for clams to grow in large quantities and sizes, and the clams from this lake are served in restaurants all over Aomori Prefecture. Birds of many species dwell near Jusan-ko, and there are often sightings of Siberian Swans resting at the lake during their long migrations.
Even if you decide not to stop and take in the calmness of the area, the bridge crossing Jusan-ko will provide lovely views of the lake as you drive north toward the cape. In fact, driving around the Tsugaru Peninsula will give you some of the most breathtaking views to be found in Japan! The Tatsudomari Line Road, the highway leading north to Tappizaki, boasts a long and winding road that hugs the cliffs and coastline.
Tappizaki, or Cape Tappi, is also known for its magnificent views. This tip of the Tsugaru Peninsula has been featured in poems, stories, and songs for hundreds of years, and it is easy to see why! On a clear day, visitors can see the island of Hokkaido, which lies on the north side of the strait. The cape is beautiful in its own right, though, and provides picturesque settings in all seasons. In the spring, the hills are painted pink in hydrangeas, while autumn brings bright, red apples.
Watching the ships navigate their way through the straits can be made even better by climbing the steps up the hill toward Tappizaki Lighthouse. The panoramic views from the top of the hill, in addition to the gale force winds throughout the cape, are simply breathtaking!
All in all, Tsugaru is an incomparable destination. For those who prefer “off-the-beaten-path” vacations, Aomori Prefecture and the Tsugaru Peninsula make for a unique cultural and nature-filled experience!