Untamed forests, rugged coastline, and some of the richest culture in the country are what make the Japanese mainland’s northernmost prefecture well worth the trip.
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Perched upon the very northern tip of Honshu, Japan’s main island, you’ll find Aomori Prefecture: a rugged region of mountains, forests, and coastline and the historic gateway to wild Hokkaido in the north. The capital city of the same name — though small by Japanese standards, with only around 300,000 people — has thrived as a wealthy port town since the Edo era. Here you’ll find bustling markets, great museums, and one of the liveliest and most colorful festivals anywhere on earth: Nebuta Matsuri.

The prefecture also has plenty of gastronomic accolades to boast of; over half the apples in Japan are grown here. The locals are so crazy about their delicious fruit that there’s even an onsen in Hirosaki where you can bathe among them as if you’re playing an ultra luxurious game of bobbing for apples.

On top of that, the pure water of the mountain streams in Aomori make for excellent sake brewing, so you’ll find many of the most prestigious brands in the country operating out of here. Bordered on three sides by the ocean, it’s also a haven for seafood lovers. Given the relatively cold climate of these northern reaches, you’ll find the local catches incorporated into delicious, warming dishes like soups and stews.

Though this prefecture enjoys plenty of seaside, the expansive Aomori coastline isn’t always well-suited to sunbathers; the wild and wind-beaten seaside of Aomori has some spots reserved only for the adventurous, such as the sulphureous landscape of the Shimokita Peninsula, said to resemble Buddhist hell! Whether you’re seeking such Dante-esque adventure, or just a fix of vibrant historic culture, pristine forest treks, or just some good eating, Aomori has you covered.

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Frequently Asked Questions
What to eat in Aomori?
Bone-warming soup dishes such as "kenoshiru" (miso soup with diced root vegetables and wild plants) and “ichigoni” (a seafood stew commonly made with sea urchin and abalone) are local favorites. A tourist favorite is Furukawa Market in Aomori City, where you can buy a pack of tickets to build your own custom seafood donburi from the offerings at the dozens of stalls. Although, many Japanese people probably just associate the region with its outstanding sake.
What are the best things to do in Aomori?
Hirosaki Castle and the surrounding town are certainly worth a visit — once the seat of power in the region, it's now famous for the thousands of cherry blossom trees planted around the area. Another unmissable piece of history in Aomori is the Nebuta Matsuri Festival in Aomori City (August 2nd to 7th), during which giant painted lantern floats showing figures from mythology parade down the streets, flanked by drummers and dancers.
Where to Go Hiking in Aomori?
Just short of 70% of Aomori is covered by forest, making it a must-visit for nature lovers who want a genuine taste of the wild and untamed landscapes of Japan. For coastal scenery, check out the Michinoku Coastal Trail which runs from Aomori to Fukushima, or for some rougher terrain head to the Shirakami Mountains in the southwest.
What is Aomori famous for?
Natural beauty is Aomori’s proudest badge of honor, with a huge range of beautiful sites such as Lake Towada, the many waterfalls along Oirase Stream, and the mystical-feeling beech forest of Shirakami Sanchi. The snow sports lovers of Japan will also have heard of Mt. Hakkoda’s famous “snow monsters”: formations made when the cold, icy winds from Siberia coat the mountain’s trees in snow!
What to buy in Aomori?
The most famous Aomori local handicraft is “tsugaru nuri” — a painstakingly-created style of lacquerware coating once used for the scabbards of samurai, which is made from around 40 layers of paint, applied over two months. If you prefer your souvenirs more playful, Aomori is also famous for its tsugaru kites, painted with colorful historic scenes, and designed to make a pleasant noise whilst in the air.
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