Adventure

Aomori Is The Secret Japanese Prefecture You’ve Been Dreaming Of

Absolutely breathtaking.

Located only a four-hour bullet train ride north of Tokyo, Aomori Prefecture is one of Japan’s best-kept secrets for a very good reason. Aomori is the kind of place where metre-high snow blankets a Japan of ages past where you can sip locally made apple cider underneath a forest of cherry blossom trees.

And it all often goes undiscovered by many visitors to Japan, meaning it’s about as authentic as you’re going to get. Piqued your interest? All you have to do is scroll down to find the five reasons Aomori is Japan’s most underrated prefecture.

#1 Party At The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

Aomori Prefecture

Image: midorisyu / Flickr

When it comes to Japan’s iconic summer festivals, you can’t do much better than the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri. Held every year from August 2-7, thousands of visitors flock to Aomori City to witness the nightly parade of over two dozen illuminated floats, accompanied by traditional dancers and taiko drums.

Aomori Prefecture

Image: midorisyu / Flickr

The floats, which can reach up to five-metres tall and depict everything from mythical figures from Japanese culture to characters from the latest popular TV drama, are made from washi paper stretched over a wire frame and take an entire year to complete. On festival nights the floats are hand wheeled through the streets of downtown Aomori, their procession followed by a symphony of flute and hand cymbal players. Need we go on, friends? Didn’t think so.

#2 Visit Hirosaki Castle During Cherry Blossom Season

Aomori Prefecture

Image: yisris / Flickr

Looking like it walked straight out of your favourite Studio Ghibli film, Hirosaki Castle is one of those places you have to see to believe. Nestled in the middle of Hirosaki Park – a location voted by the locals as one of the best spots to view cherry blossoms in the whole of Japan – the castle was built in the 17th Century and features a three-storey castle tower and fortified moat. The park itself is home to over 2500 cherry blossom trees which frame Hirosaki Castle in a sea of pale pink flowers once spring rolls around. Inside tip: rent a boat and paddle your way up the petal-filled moat to get a unique view of the castle. Don’t worry, you can thank us later.

#3 See Inakadate’s Insta-Famous Rice Paddy Field Art

Aomori Prefecture

Image: Kyotogram / Facebook

You know those epic rice paddy field art photos you saw floating around Facebook once upon a time? Well, turns out you can actually see those artistic masterpieces in real life and they just so happen to be located in Inakadate Village in Aomori Prefecture.

The brain child of some seriously talented minds, the rice paddy field art is created by using various coloured rice plants in lieu of paint to turn everyday rice paddy fields into one stunning canvas. Since it became Internet-famous, over 100,000 visitors have made it their mission to see the art for themselves – including the Emperor and Empress of Japan.

Heck, if it’s good enough for the Emperor, it’s good enough for us. Just remember to plan your trip as getting to Inakadate can be a little bit tricky. For a comprehensive guide, make sure you click here.

#4 Soak In On Onsen in The Middle Of A National Park

If you’ve heard anything about Japan, you probably know that soaking your worries away in an onsen (Japanese word for hot spring) is something of a national pastime. Now, imagine participating in that blissful experience in the middle of a national park as a gushing waterfall flows past your tub. Friends, we’d like to introduce you to the Oirase Keiryu Hotel, where you can do exactly that.

Located in the Towada-Hachimantai National Park, the hotel is designed as an extension of nature and features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a lush green forest, rooms that ooze traditional Japanese aesthetic and a natural outdoor onsen that draws water deep from within Mount Hakkodasan. Is Japan even real life right now?

#5 Discover Japan’s Pre-Historic Origins at Sannai Maruyama Archaeological Site

When you think of destinations steeped in history, Japan probably isn’t the first country that springs to mind. Well, that is until you make a stop at the Sannai Maruyama Archaeological Site, located in – you guessed it – Aomori Prefecture. The site is the location of the largest and best-preserved village of the ancient Jomon Period, which stretched all the way from 13000 BC to 300 BC (!).

Nowadays, the site is an archaeological marvel and boasts reconstructions of ancient pit dwellings, a guard tower and long houses, which you can totally wander in and out of.  Inside tip: don’t forget to make your way over to the Jomon Jiyukan after you’ve had your fill to view the objects excavated from the area and try on replica Jomon period clothing. Just think of the ’gram pic, guys.

(Lead image: Hirosaki Tourism and Convention Bureau / Facebook)