Welcome to the sticks
Why not consider visiting northern Japan? Tohoku, northeast of the main island of Honshu, offers its own natural and cultural treasures. Amongst them is Aomori City, found on the northern tip of the island and the capital of the eponymous province. And good news - the Shinkansen connects it directly with Tokyo.
Nature, wide-open spaces and breathtaking landscapes: the vast northern region of Aomori is definitely worth seeing.
It can certainly be very cold here, with record snowfall in winter. But in summer it's much less hot and humid than most of the country, which definitely holds appeal for many. Aomori is mainly known for producing apples, and inevitably, the area offers all kinds of apple-based culinary delights: warm apple juice, apple mousse and apple pies to name just a few.
The best of Aomori
It must be said that Aomori is not, at first glance, one of the most beautiful cities in Japan. Hit hard during the Second World War, it was rebuilt in the interests of efficiency, too often neglecting aesthetics and harmony.
Nevertheless, the city is trying to make up for it by offering a rich gastronomy, its own particular regional culture, and numerous interesting cultural spots. Visit the Aomori Museum of Art, opened in 2006, the works and architecture are definitely worth a look. Near the museum is the Sannai Murayama, a major archaeological site where you can observe the remains of a village from the Jomon period (15,000 to 300 BC). Nearly 800 ancient homes are found on this site, and you can learn all about the hunter-gatherer ancestors of contemporary Japanese. It's a must for all history buffs.
In recent years the city has refurbished its port area, which now offers the opportunity for beautiful walks by the water. You'll feel dwarfed by Aomori Bay Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge overlooking the bay. Visit the Hakkoda Maru, a retired ferry that once traveled between Aomori and Hakodate from 1964 to 1988 and is now a permanently moored floating museum; and admire the unusual pyramid building that houses the Aomori Prefecture Tourist Center, ASPAM. Its platform on the twelfth floor offers a beautiful panoramic view.
But if we had to choose just one thing to see in this city, it would be the Nebuta Matsuri traditional festival. Held yearly on August 2 to 7, it attracts more than 3 million people each year with its parade of floats called nebuta. They represent well-known characters or historical scenes, but also flowers or animals. They are made of paper stretched over bamboo and wooden (or wire) frames. Bright and colorful, the floats can be up to 9 meters wide, 7 meters long and 5 meters high!
Visiting Aomori is also a good opportunity to discover the surrounding area.
South of the city is Mount Hakkoda, ideal for skiing, and infamous for being where 199 soldiers disappeared in 1902 during a storm. This event was immortalized in the 1977 film Mount Hakkoda, by Shiro Moritani.
Like mountains? Visit the Shimokita Peninsula northeast and dare to climb Mount Osore, thought among the Japanese to be the gateway to the underworld!
You're more into natural hot springs? Head to Asamushi Onsen, northwest of the city.
Finally, consider visiting Towada Lake, which straddles Aomori and Akita Prefectures. This huge crater lake is a true natural wonder.