Aomori, Japan Feb. 21 Tues 7:23AM
Aomori: Apples and Artifacts
Aomori, located at the northern tip of Japan’s largest island Honshu, is a prefecture with many faces: mellow, dignified, funky, fierce.
The first two things most Japanese people recall when thinking of Aomori Prefecture displays this variety: one being the fierce, yet magnificent and fun Nebuta floats that are paraded throughout Aomori’s prefectural capital, the other being apples, which are probably the most famous local product, and can be enjoyed in a variety of cute, creative, and stylish ways throughout the prefecture.
Another main attraction is the Hakkoda Mountain Range, where adventurous travelers can enjoy onsen, gorgeous landscapes (especially the sea of red golden leaves in autumn) and more.
Another site in Aomori that cannot be overlooked is Mount Osore (Osorezan in Japanese), considered to be one of the three most sacred Buddhist sites in Japan (along with Mount Koya and Mount Hiei). The name means “Mt. Fear” in Japanese and is nicknamed as “The Gateway to Hell,”, coming from the sulphurous smells that rise up from the region. While not as terrifying a place as its name might suggest, it does possess an otherworldly atmosphere, dotted with small “jizo” Buddhist statues and celebrating a festival that features mediums celebrating with the dead.
While the origins of the aforementioned Nebuta are unclear, some tie them to an ancient people who once inhabited the Tohoku region, which brings one to another of Aomori’s attractions- archeological sites of a civilization known as the “Jomon,” who are most famous for the pottery they left behind, and, like the Ainu in Hokkaido, are a reminder that in fact Japan is a land with a long and diverse history and ethnic heritage.
A peaceful top off to a trip to Aomori would be a visit to the huge statue known as the Showa Daibutsu, or the Buddha of the Showa age (the era of Japanese history occupying most of the twentieth century, until 1989.) Perhaps reflecting its more modern origins, the Buddha here is said to have a gentle, healing expression.
And of course, this doesn’t even mention Aomori’s smaller pleasures such as it’s peaceful harbors and stylish shops to sample the famous local produce. But if you ever find yourself in Honshu’s most northern regions, you can rest assured that some fascinating cultural experiences are within easy grasp.