Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Kuroishi – Your Guide to Hirosaki’s Gorgeous Sister City

People with 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), which 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 the city owns. They even branded themselves as a lived-in museum. Instead of the ones which cram all showpieces into a small building, with various local shops specializing 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 (≧▽≦).

If Hirosaki is a city that preserves the footsteps of foreigners, then Kuoishi is a city for people to discover the Tsugaru region’s historical lifestyle.

Here is a list of attractions below that might be worthwhile to drop by when you visit Kuroishi (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Click HERE to skip to Kuroishi City’s access information.

Nakamachi Komise Street (中町こみせ通り)

Have you ever wondered what a traditional Japanese arcade looks like? When you visit Kuroishi city, come and explore Nakamachi Komise Street. It is the only arcade in Japan that has remained almost intact since the Edo period (1603 – 1868)!

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

The arcade that protects the people from the sun and snowstorms wasn’t the intention made by the government back then. The then shopping street used to be a busy part of the city. From the kindness of the shop owners, the arcade was built, hoping it would give customers a better shopping experience (*´ω`).

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In 2005, Nakamachi Komise Street was selected as Japan’s important traditional buildings preservation district. For more information, please refer to our article on Nakamachi Komise Street!

Kanehiranarien Garden (Sawanarien Garden) (金平成園(澤成園))

Kanehiranarien Garden, also called Sawanarien Garden, is a garden that represents the Ōishi Bugakuryū style (大石武学流) landscaping which was popular in Tsugaru.

The Ōishi Bugakuryū style differs from other landscaping styles in Japan in a few ways. When you stroll around the gardens that the Ōishi Bugakuryū style’s gardeners designed, you will find a lot of stones in the garden bed that are more than 2 meters wide.

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Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

You would think those stones must have been carried by cows or horses back then. Nope! Wealthier people back then were happy to pay people to carry those big stones from the mountains all the way back to their gardens just to create employment opportunities. So the bigger the stones, the better.

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

This is especially the case for Kanehiranarien Garden. Ubei Katō (加藤宇兵衛), a politician and businessman in the Tsugaru region, accepted a request to have this garden built in 1892 so that suffering farmers could still make some income.

The garden’s name clearly reflects why the garden was built. It took the “money (金)” and “peace (平)” from Ubei Katō’s wish: “may money be distributed to all and that we live in a peaceful world”.

The hole in the nightlights (野夜燈) in the Ōishi Bugakuryū style garden is also different from other styles. The style has the hole directly facing the moonlight, whereas other styles have the hole facing the side.

If you don’t get this part, that is okay. We don’t quite get what the difference is either (´▽`*). The nightlights look more or less the same to us during the daytime…

Up until 2019, when the garden was private property, the garden was opened to the public just only a couple of days a year. The owner later decided to gift the garden to Kuroishi city out of kindness allowing us to visit the garden throughout the year!

Kanehiranarien Garden’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Kanehiranarien Garden is open from 9:30 am to 4 pm daily except for Mondays from April to November
    • The last admission is at 3:30 pm
    • If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day
  • The admission fee is
    • 400 yen for adults
    • 200 yen for senior high school students
    • Free otherwise
  • The garden is just a 10-minute walk from Kuoishi Station.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kuroishi City.

Nakano Momijiyama (中野もみじ山)

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

Nakano Momijiyama, also known as Little Arashiyama or Ko-Arashiyama (小嵐山) in Tsugaru, was built in 1802 by the head of the Tsugaru clan. At the time when he brought back more than 100 kinds of maple seedlings from Kyoto. It has since become one of the most popular spots in Aomori Prefecture for locals and visitors to enjoy the autumn foliage.

In autumn, the entire mountain is dyed with burning autumn color, attracting thousands of tourists from around Japan and foreign visitors.

The guardians of the Nakano Shrine (中野神社) located on the island are birds. That is quite unusual as people often associate shrines being depicted as dogs, lions, or foxes being the protector (maybe it is because the shrine was built on the island in the middle, so the god of the shrine probably wants guardians with wings?).

In the shrine, you will also find an enormous cedar tree that is over 600 years!

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture
Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

From the red bridge in the first photo, you can see the Fudō Falls (不動の滝).

If you are keen to see the stunning view of Fudō Falls, come to Nakano Momijiyama between mid-October and early November (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Just like all other popular autumn foliage spots in Japan, Nakano Momijiyama is lit up at night to allow visitors to enjoy its beautiful scenery!

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture
Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

And there will always be food stalls available to fill up our empty stomachs (from mid-October to early November only)!

Lastly, HERE is the link to the map on the official website, so you will never get lost when strolling around Nakano Momijiyama (^_-)-☆.

How to Get to Nakano Momijiyama

To get to Nakano Momijiyama, there are a few buses with a travel time of around 30 minutes that you can take from Kuroishi Station (黒石駅).

Refer to HERE for a summary of the timetable for the below bus routes.

  • Bus route no. 85 bound for Ōkawahara (大河原) will stop in front of Nakano Momijiyama. The stop you should be getting off is Nakano Jinja Mae (中野神社前). The current cost for a one-way journey is 700 yen.
    • HERE is the timetable that you can refer to. Please note that the timetable only listed major stops. That means you won’t be able to find Nakano Momijiyama stop.
  • Bus route no. 83 bound for Niji no Mizumi(虹の湖), bus route no. 84 bound for Nurugawa (ぬる川), and bus route no. 13 bound for Itadome (板留) will stop 5 minutes away from Nakano Momijiyama. The stop you should be getting off is Nakano Minami Guchi (中野南口).
    • HERE is the timetable that you can refer to. Please note that the timetable only listed major stops. That means you won’t be able to find Nakano Guchi stop.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kuroishi City.

Tsugaru Kokeshi Museum (津軽こけし館)

If you have been to Japan before or know a bit about the Japanese culture, you might have seen or heard of the Kokeshi dolls (こけし, 小芥子).

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

Kokeshi dolls are simple wooden female dolls with no arms or legs that were originally sold at onsen towns as souvenirs in the northeastern region of Japan in the late Edo period. The size of the dolls was small enough for little kids to hold onto with their hands.

The first floor of the museum can be accessed for free. There are souvenir shops, kokeshi dolls making demonstration corner, and an activity room for visitors to color their own kokeshi dolls.

The highlight of the first floor is probably the jumbo kokeshi doll with a height of 4.21 meters and a giant daruma doll weighing an excess of 755 kg. Don’t miss out on that unique photo opportunity to commemorate your trip!

The second floor requires an entry to see more than 4,000 kokeshi dolls gathered across the country. There is a cost involved, though.

  • Adults: 320 yen
  • High school students: 270 yen
  • Elementary and junior high school students 160 yen

Coloring Your Kokeshi Doll

  • If you would like to make your own kokeshi dolls, you can do so for 1,200 yen.
  • Reservation 2 days in advance is recommended through their web form HERE, and translate the webpage to English using Google Chrome’s translation function.
  • If you can speak Japanese, you can make a booking by calling +81-172-54-8181.
  • If you can’t read Japanese (the form is not in English), you can contact them by emailing [email protected] instead.

Tsugaru Kokeshi Museum’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Tsugaru Kokeshi Museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily except from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January
    • The last admission for the second floor and kokeshi-making experience is 4:30 pm
  • To get to the museum, please refer to the access information for Nakano Momijiyama. But please get off at Tsugaru Traditional Craft Centre (津軽伝承工芸館). The museum is just a 2-minute walk from the bus stop.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kuroishi City.

Tsugaru Traditional Craft Center (津軽伝承工芸館)

The Tsugaru Traditional Craft Center is located just adjacent to the Tsugaru Kokeshi Museum. Instead of a museum type of facility where you can only see the local craftworks, there are various cultural experiences that you can participate in when you visit the center.

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

The center also has a restaurant called Momiji, which opens from 11 am to 2:30 pm. You will also find quite a few local cuisines, another type of cultural experience you may enjoy! For those who want to bring back some souvenirs, the souvenir shop has around 1,600 items for you to choose from

And if you are tired from all that walking, from 11 am to 2:30 pm, there is a free foot spa to help you relax your sore feet and toes (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture
Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

Before you decide when to visit Kuroishi, check out the Center’s official website HERE to see when the live performance of Shamisen (Japanese lute) will take place!

On the same link, you will find information on the fun activities they offer visitors.

Tsugaru Traditional Craft Center’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Tsugaru Traditional Craft Center is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily except for Mondays from December to March and from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January
  • For information about how to get to Tsugaru Traditional Craft Center, please refer to Tsugaru Kokeshi Museum’s access information

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kuroishi City.

Kuroishi Tourist Apple Orchard (黒石観光りんご園)

For those who love to pick fruits and consume them right away, Kuroishi Tourist Apple Orchard will be the perfect place to go!

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

Strolling around the orchard filled with different types of apple trees with Mt. Iwaki afar will definitely be one of the most chilling and relaxing afternoons you will ever experience (^_-)-☆.

The orchard is open for apple picking from early September to mid-November from 9 am to 4 pm. In mid-May, even if there are no apples to pick from during that season, you can still visit the place to enjoy the white apple flowers blooming!

Pricing-wise, it is 440 yen for admission (330 yen for elementary school students), and you can eat the apples you have picked (but you can’t bring any home). For 1,100 yen, you will be given a picking basket that will fit around 4 apples (weighing around 1.5 kg). Having said that, you can still eat as many apples in the orchard as you want.

Important: Please follow the staff’s instructions when you are at the orchard.

How to Get to Kuroishi Tourist Apple Orchard

Kuroishi Tourist Apple Orchards is relatively remote, so no direct bus stops at the orchard. Options include driving, walking (which takes approximately one hour from Tsugaru Traditional Craft Center), or catching a taxi.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kuroishi City.

Nuruyu Onsen Town (温湯温泉郷)

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

If you are an onsen lover, then spending a night at Nuruyu Onsen Town after a whole day of sightseeing at Kuroishi would be perfect for you!

The onsen town has a history of more than 400 years. Its onsen is said to be beneficial for individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, locomotor disorders, nerve paralysis, fatigue recovery, neurological diseases, and stomach weakness.

Apart from being a popular onsen spot in Kuroishi, the Nuruyu Onsen Town is also the birthplace of Tsugaru’s kokeshi dolls (Nuruyu kokeshi dolls).

Also, if you happen to visit Kuroishi during mid-July, the Ushiyu Festival (丑湯祭り) usually takes place on the 3rd weekend of the month. Apart from various performances that you will be able to observe over the first two days, you can enjoy the onsen here at Nuruyu Onsen Town for free on the day of Ushiyu Festival (丑湯祭りの日) – which is usually on a Sunday!

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

How to Get to Nuruyu Onsen Town

To get to the Onsen Town, there are a few buses with a travel time of around 30 minutes that you can take from Kuroishi Station (黒石駅). For the below bus services, please get off at Shita Nuruyu (下温湯).

  • Bus route no. 13 bound for Itadome (板留). The current cost for a one-way journey is 650 yen.
  • Bus route no. 83 bound for Niji no Mizumi(虹の湖). The current cost for a one-way journey is 650 yen.
  • Bus route. 84 bound for Nurugawa (ぬる川). The current cost for a one-way journey is 650 yen.
    • HERE is the timetable that you can refer to for buses route no. 13, no. 83 and no. 84. Note the timetable only has major stops listed, so you won’t be able to find Shita Nuruyu stop.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kuroishi City.

Festivals At Kuroishi

Ganzo Kyū Sei Makko Shi (元祖旧正マッコ市)

Ganzo Kyū Sei Makko Shi is a festival held since the Edo period, opening from 5 am on the 1st of February. Makko means “bonus” or “new year’s present”. On this day, all shops will be offering big discounts and even freebies to their customers.

Most importantly, you should also take an interest in the Fukumaki “福まき” event, which takes place from 5 am and 10 am on the day at Yokomachi Kaguji Square. Hundreds of small bags containing candies, raffle tickets, and discount vouchers are usually thrown at the crowd, so be prepared to catch some!

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

Kuroishi Yosare (黒石よされ)

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture

If you like Japanese folk dance, Kuroishi Yosare is your event!

Held around the Obon Festival in mid-August, the seven-day event consists of a large number of young men and women dancing in a parade-like manner around the Nakamachi Komise Street area.

Kuroishi Neputa Festival (黒石ぬぷた祭り)

Similar to Hirosaki Neputa Festival, Kuroishi also has its own Neputa Festival held in summer.

Hirosaki’s neputa lanterns usually have a fan shape design, whereas, in Aomori City, most neputa lanterns are of a human shape design. In Kuroishi, amongst more than 50 neputa lanterns, you will see both types in one setting!

The festival is held from the end of July to the beginning of August each year.

Ⓒ Aomori Prefecture
Neputa Lantern (ねぷた灯篭)

From mid-July to late August, at Nakamachi Komise Street, the late evenings are brightened up by the neputa lanterns hanging at the arcade from 6 pm to midnight. If you can’t be here for the lively Kuroishi Neputa Festival, you are still able to get some vibe of it shortly before or after the festival!

How to Get to Kuroishi City

To get to Kuroishi by public transport, the easiest way is to get to Hirosaki first (please refer to our Hirosaki City article for Hirosaki city access information). From Hirosaki Station (弘前駅), it is a 30 minutes train ride to Kuroishi Station (黒石駅). You take the Kōnan Railway Company’s (弘南鉄道) train and get off at the last stop.

You can also choose to take a bus to get to Kuroishi. There is a bus service with a travel time of around 50 mins from Hirosaki Bus Terminal (弘前バスタミナール) or Hirosaki Station (弘前駅). Please get off at Kuroishi Station (黒石駅) for the below bus service.

  • Bus no. 11 bound for Kuroishi (黒石). The current cost for a one-way journey is 670 yen.
    • HERE is the timetable that you can refer to.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Kuroishi City.

Discover the Awesome Attractions in Hirosaki City Close by

Hirosaki-Castle-Aomori-Japan
Click the photo to find out about other awesome attractions in Hirosaki!

If you plan to visit Kuroishi City from Tokyo, you will probably pass through Hirosaki, one of the best cities in Aomori Prefecture!

Find out more of our other recommended spots around the park with our Hirosaki City article (≧▽≦).

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