After you spend a day or two exploring Hirosaki, you might feel like you haven’t experienced enough of the Tsugaru region’s hospitality. You decide to hop on a train and you are on your way to the sister-like city, Kuroishi. During the 50-minute train ride, you might look out of the window and think, “I wonder whether there’s anything interesting to see along this train line…”.
Hirakawa (平川市) is a city that is located in between Hirosaki and Kuroishi. In the city, there are quite a few interesting places, like rice paddy art that will make you want to hop off the train and explore! If you are a Ghibli Studio fan, the model of the house and garden in the movie – The Secret World of Arrietty is in Hirakawa city (*’▽’).
People who hold a bit of knowledge of Aomori prefecture will most likely have heard about the famous Hirosaki City. What they might not know or hear of is its sister-like city – Kuroishi (黒石市) that prospered with Hirosaki city as Hirosaki Castle’s castle town.
The residents of Kuroishi city are proud of the number of historical and cultural assets that the city owns. They even branded themselves as a lived-in museum. Instead of ones which cram all showpieces into a small building, with various local shops specialising in different traditional folk arts and historical architecture here and there, the city itself is a museum! They even have a smaller version of Kyoto’s Arashiyama, called Ko-Arashiyama (≧▽≦).
We have all seen them – the fantastic views photographed from mountaintops. Surely they must have been edited? Well, now you can find out in the laziest way possible with an easy mountain peak climb!
Mt. Iwaki (岩木山), the highest mountain in Aomori Prefecture is a great mountain to cross off your bucket list! With an altitude of 1,625 meters, this mountain (also known as Tsugaru’s Mt. Fuji) is popular with both trekkers and hikers. If you love climbing, then 5 mountain trails will lead you to the top in 4 – 5 hours. But, if you want to take an easier route, then a bus trip from JR Hirosaki Station and a 10 minute gondola ride will bring you close to the summit (^_-)-☆.
Have you ever wondered what a traditional Japanese arcade looks like? When you visit Kuroishi city, come and explore Nakamachi Komise Street (中町こみせ通り). It is the only arcade in Japan that has remained almost intact since the Edo period (1603 – 1868)!
When the Japanese think about Aomori, apple is probably one of the first things that will pop up in their mind. Hirosaki, home to most apple productions in the country, naturally has several orchards which are great for sightseeing purposes.
The Hirosaki Apple Park (弘前市りんご公園), which is around 40 minutes by bus from JR Hirosaki Station (弘前駅), however, offers more than what normal orchards open to its visitors for. The Park is a fantastic place to learn how apple farmers grow their apples! Throughout the year, there is a range of activities such as artificial pollination and getting rid of unwanted flowers and fruit that the Park’s visitors can participate in (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ. Having said that, you can still stroll around the huge park freely!
Mt. Shirakami, or Shirakami Sanchi (白神山地) is a vast mountain area of 130 hectares that spans from the north of Akita Prefecture to the south of Aomori Prefecture. Mt Shirakami has been listed as a world heritage site as of 1993. It is also a Pilgrimage site for Studio Ghibli fans as the forest in the movie “Princess Mononoke”, is inspired by Mt. Shirakami!
This 8,000 years old mountain area is the home of the world’s largest virgin beech forest. Because this area is almost untouched by human activities, you will find a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna here (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
There are plenty of “joyful trains” in Japan but have you ever boarded one that features live performance? Resort Shirakami (リゾート白神) is the only joyful train in Japan with live performances that includes shamisen (Japanese guitar), puppet play and Japanese folk tales told in Tsugaru dialect (津軽弁)!
The beautifully designed joyful train will bring you from the vast Tsugaru Plain (津軽平野) to Mt. Shirakami – the home to the world’s greatest beech virgin forest. Before reaching the shore of the Sea of Japan, you will be able to find one of the world’s most fascinating sunsets (*’▽’).
The famous Oirase Gorge and Lake Towada are probably the mainstream destinations of Aomori Prefecture. But if you just take the JR bus from JR Aomori Station straight to Yakeyama (the entrance of Oirase Gorge), you are missing quite a few scenic ponds!
In between the Sukayu Onsen (famous for its mixed-gender onsen) and Tsuta Onsen (which has an onsen pool directly built above the source of the onsen), you will find 9 unique ponds (or swamps if you like) that definitely worth a visit (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ. Among the nine, six of them are even linked by a promenade!
Have you ever wondered what the world would look like after you die? Well, we have. According to Japanese folk tales, those who died will pass a bridge to cross the Sanzunokawa river. It has been said that the river divides our world from another world.
As we all need to cross that river one day, why not start preparing ourselves in the meantime by visiting Mt. Osore (恐山) to get an idea of what heaven and hell might look like (albeit the real ones will be millions of times better or worse depends on where you ended up going). It might even inspire you to do more good deeds！
Those who know of Hirosaki Castle (弘前城) or Hirosaki Park (弘前公園) probably know them because of their reputation for stunning cherry blossoms. More than two hundred thousand people visit Hirosaki for its Cherry Blossom Festival (弘前さくらまつり) each year! No wonder why it was chosen as one of the top three cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan as well as one of the three most popular illuminated (at night) cherry blossom viewing spots in the country.
If you are a fan of the anime “Demon Slayer”, you may also want to see the tree that might have inspired Nezuko’s (Tanjiro’s sister) namesake.