Snow Wonderland, AOMORI
Enjoy the Local Culture in the Winter Season
Aomori prefecture sits at the northern tip of Japan’s main island. It faces Hokkaido over the Tsugaru Strait. Surrounded by the ocean in three directions, Aomori is blessed with an abundance of delicious seafood such as tuna. When you travel inland, you’ll see and understand why this area is called Aomori, which means Blue Forest. With spectacular valleys and vast forests, Aomori is filled with natural beauty.
Aomori has been known for one of the most famous and popular festivals in Japan, the Nebuta Festival in summer. However, winter reveals Aomori’s real strength and power of attraction. Winters in Aomori are cold. Snow starts falling in November or December, and by February, Aomori will be covered in deep snow. Dressed in white, the natural landscape transforms into breathtaking winter wonderland. Aomori is a great place to visit and experience the traditional ways of Japan, living joyfully in harmony with nature. Shall we take a look around Aomori?
The Hirosaki Snow Lantern Festival
Hirosaki Castle is a castle with some 400 years of history. It has been known for a long time as a great spot to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the spring. Every February, the park in front of the castle is transformed into a fantastic world with special decorations, over 200 lanterns, and snow statues in various shapes and sizes. In the evenings, the whole area becomes a special exhibition space for viewing giant representations of Aomori’s traditional artwork illuminated under the night sky.
Lake Towada Winter Story
Lake Towada is renowned for its scenic beauty in northern Japan. It’s a crater lake formed by volcanic activity that started some 200,000 years ago. The amazing thing is the mirror effect of Lake Towada. You can see the view of the sky, mountains and surrounding nature magically reflected on the surface of the lake. However, during winter, this view changes as the forests and mountains around the lake become covered with snow. For three weeks in February, visitors are invited to be part of the “Lake Towada Winter Story.” There are fireworks, snow slides, stage performances and other installations to entertain the visitors.
- Shinto Prayer’s Dance -
Emburi is the name of a special Shinto prayer dance for a bountiful harvest. The dances are held in early spring in various communities around Hachinohe City in Aomori. Its history traces back about 800 years, and the festival has been designated as one of Japan’s Important Ethnic Cultural Assets. The street dance is performed by 20 to 30 dancers in various costumes who symbolically cultivate the soil and plant the rice using a variety of stylized movements, dynamically shaking their heads and pounding the ground with sticks. You can see how people respect nature and how their lives are rooted in the land of Aomori where farming has always been important.
Tara Jappa Jiru
- Cod Head, Bone and Guts Soup -
Tara Jappa Jiru is a traditional Aomori style of fish soup. Tara means cod. Jappa means the parts of fish other than the flesh, such as the head, bones and guts. Jiru means soup. Cod Jappa Soup is Aomori’s famous soup made with the Jappa from cod and a variety of vegetables. Cod is a winter fish and its Jappa is filled with umami, or rich, savory flavor which makes it great for making soup stock. Cod Jappa Soup has been known for its rich flavor and taste with subtle natural sweetness.
If you ask Japanese people what they associate with Aomori, most people will answer, “Apples!” Indeed, Aomori is Japan’s top producer of apples, and apples are their proud specialty. Japanese people love Aomori apples as they are sweet and crisp. The fame of Aomori apples extends far beyond Japan. They are popular overseas in places like Taiwan. You can buy wonderful fresh apples in the local markets. You should give them try!
– Snow Carrots -
Fukaura Yuki-Ninjin are special carrots grown in the Town of Fukaura in Aomori Prefecture. They are “snow carrots” that get harvested, actually pulled out from under the snow. These have become immensely popular and have taken on a special status as a “brand” carrot, because they have the sweetness of a fruit that comes from this unique growing and harvesting method. The sweet carrots show the amazing adaptability of these root vegetables. The carrots growing under the snow produce more sugar content to protect themselves from freezing and thus become fruity sweet. Fukaura Yuki-Ninjin symbolizes the spirit of resilience, adaptability and the sweet nature of the people in Aomori.
In February, winter attractions in Aomori reach their peak. Enjoy the eye candy of fantastic snowy landscape. Participate in the fun of the winter festivals. Immerse yourself in the unique and delicious food culture of Aomori. You can experience the best of traditional Japanese winter life in Aomori. You will find so many things that you would never see in the big cities. Come to Aomori and enjoy the wonders of nature and the authentic traditional ways of Japan.