Japan’s northern Aomori prefecture is most famous for its Hakkoda mountains and apple plantations, but also offers hidden gems that are only accessible by car or bike if you have a high cycling stamina. These were our five favourite places we visited as part of a half-day trip in Aomori while driving around the prefecture and staying in five different areas (Aomori City, Ajigasawa, Goshogawara, Hirosaki and Lake Towada).
1. Tatsudomari Line Road
Following the Route 339 northbound towards Cape Tappi, the Tatsudomari Line Road offers spectacular 360 degree views while driving with two main observation points along the way. The route starts off along the coast and then winds up through the mountains – a truly breathtaking drive on well-built roads where you’ll be rewarded with mountain and sea views not just over Aomori, but also all the way over to Hokkaido!
2. Takayama Inari Jinja Shrine
After checking out of our onsen hotel in Ajigasawa, we drove to this quaint shrine by the sea. The drive led us through small towns on country roads and we almost hit a giant Japanese elk that suddenly appeared out of nowhere on the street! A memorable experience…
The shrine was peaceful and quiet with not many other tourists there. It seemed like a perfect little getaway after having been to the super crowded and touristy Hakkoda mountains a few days prior. If you’re searching for a relaxing atmosphere in nature, then this is your place to go! It’s also a great starting point for driving up the Tatsudomari Line Road.
3. Tsuru no Maihashi Bridge
Somehow we managed to arrive at this beautiful wooden bridge just at the right time during golden hour, when the sun had started to set. If we’d arrive a few hours earlier, we could have easily spent half a day walking around the lake, visiting the nearby crane park and just taking lots of photos of the bridge, lake reflections and Mount Iwaki. It was a popular photo spot at sunset time, but again not crowded and everyone was very considerate. I also read in an Aomori cycling guide that this is a great place to cycle to from Goshogawara.
4. Nakano Momiji Mountain
This little gem, famous four its autumn foliage, is tucked away between Hirosaki and the Hakkoda mountains. We visited slightly too early to see all the varieties of maple leaves in their bright red autumn colours, but enjoyed it nonetheless. The parking opposite Momijiyama (which literally translates to autumn leaf mountain) is amazing as there are two different apple vendors there with one of them selling a great variety of apples, apple themed products and other fruit; and the other one sells delicious apples for a low price in bulk. The entrance is by Nakano Shrine and immediately you will see a waterfall and can follow along a forest path with viewpoints, benches to relax and truly enjoy being in nature.
5. Tachineputa Museum
Aomori’s annual Tachineputa Summer Festival featuring enormous lanterns is famous across Japan, so it comes to no surprise that each city in the region has its own museum featuring its local colourful floats. As we’ve missed the one in Aomori City, we decided to pay the Tachineputa Museum in Goshogawara a visit. When I looked up the museum on Google Maps and saw that it got 4.4 star reviews, I was curious to find out what made it so special. And we were not disappointed! As you enter the tall building’s museum on the ground floor, you can take the glass lift up to the top floor and watch a short film about the festival from the balcony. Afterwards, the staff light up the huge floats and you can walk around them in a spiral starting from the top floor. In this way you can see them from different angles and see in how much detail the pictures and stories are drawn onto the lanterns. We also learned that all the floats burned down in a fire in the 60s and the local people spared no efforts to restore them with the help of memories and original records that they rediscovered in 1993. In this way, they were able to take the floats out on the streets again and the Tachineputa Festival regained in popularity. よかった!
Have you travelled to Aomori? Which are your favourite places?