6 Things To Do in Aomori | Aomori Prefecture, Japan

6 Things To Do in Aomori | Aomori Prefecture, Japan

In Aomori you'll find some of the freshest sashimi you'll ever taste, the biggest morning market in Japan and a stunning coastal walk... to name a few. It's the ultimate place to visit for nature lovers and food lovers and is only a few hours away by Shinkansen from Tokyo.

Aomori is the northernmost prefecture on Japan's main Honshu island which sees relatively few tourists compared to the other significantly more popular cities in Japan, but most would be surprised by how much there actually is to see, do and eat! 

This is my guide on things to do, see and eat in Aomori prefecture — based on my own trip and experiences as a first-timer.

This guide spans across 3 cities (out of 10) in Aomori prefecture: Hachinohe, Aomori and Hirosaki. Kevin and I planned our stay during cherry blossom season (late April to early May in 2018) which also happened to be during Golden Week — so the trains were incredibly packed. If you plan on visiting during this time, be sure to factor in possible transportation delays and reserve your Shinkansen seats a few days ahead!

1. hirosaki park and hirosaki castle

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 Scallops, chicken skewers and yakisoba

Scallops, chicken skewers and yakisoba

I originally wanted to stay a few nights in Aomori city but because of our packed itinerary, I turned it into a daytrip instead (rather than miss out). 

The cherry blossoms bloomed a few days earlier this year because of warmer temperatures, so we were lucky to be able to catch them in full bloom during the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival! Sakura trees bloom later in the north, and varies year to year, so be sure to check the forecast so that you can time your visit accordingly! I used this website.

There were a few stalls selling food at the park while we there: delicious grilled scallops, yakisoba, chicken yakitori (skewers), banana sorbet and more. The stalls may only be temporary pop-ups during the festival but regardless of if you buy food or bring your own - bring a picnic blanket if you can! It's really beautiful sitting underneath the Sakura trees with petals falling down around you (and on your food). 

Hirosaki Park is not only beautiful for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) but it's also the home of Hirosaki Castle. Being short on time, we didn't want to pay the admission fee only to rush so we didn't enter the castle this time. 

 Crowded train to Hirosaki Station

Crowded train to Hirosaki Station

I would recommend spending at least 2 hours, especially if you want to see Hirosaki Castle, taking your sweet time exploring, eating and taking photos. But be warned that it can get very crowded so go early if you can.

 

 

Hours: 9am to 5pm (extended during cherry blossom festival)

Address: Japan, 〒036-8356 Aomori-ken, Hirosaki-shi, Shimoshiroganechō, 1−1

How to get there: 10 - 15 minute bus to Hirosaki Park (27 minute train from JR Shin-Aomori Station to JR Hirosaki Station)

  • There's an option to rent bicycles for the day for ¥500 (more info here)
  • If you want to do a daytrip from Hachinohe, it's only a 30 minute shinkansen from Hachinohe Station to Shin-Aomori Station (don't forget to reserve your seats)
  • Keep an eye out for any Joyful trains that might be running! We managed to replace our Shinkansen seats to Aomori Station with last-minute seats on a Joyful train at the JR office at Hirosaki Station. The Joyful trains are each a unique experience and most are covered by your JR pass.

Trip partially covered by JR Pass

Cost: ¥200 for the bus to and from Hirosaki Park. 

Resources:

 
 

Click Google icon to open in Google Maps

 

2. Aomori Furukawa market (Gyosai Center)

At Aomori Furukawa Fish Market (or Aomori Gyosai Center), you can build your own nokke-don (a rice bowl with toppings) with some of the freshest sashimi in Japan.

Purchase tickets in lots of 5 or 10 to exchange for sashimi (or other toppings like meat and side dishes) at different stalls. We greedily bought 30 vouchers to share which ended up being too much for us, so 10 per person should be plenty for most people. You can always buy more later, but you can't return them. Don't be us.

Technically, you'll have 9 vouchers to exchange for toppings as you'll need to exchange 1 ticket for a standard bowl of rice (or 2 tickets for a large). I love my rice but even the standard size was enough for me.

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 Giant scallops

Giant scallops

The experience of exchanging vouchers and choosing toppings is a lot of fun, and you end up with a perfectly tailored nokke-don. There are plenty of seating areas around the market with soy sauce, wasabi and free water. Also the labels are all in Japanese so it would help if you can tell your fish apart...

 

 

Hours: 7am - 4pm (closed on Tuesdays). See website below for further details.

Address: Aomori Gyosai Center, 1-11-16, Furukawa, Aomori-shi, Aomori 030-0862

How to get there: 5 minute walk from JR Aomori Station (6 minute train from JR Shin-Aomori Station)

Trip covered by JR Pass

Cost: ¥540 (5 vouchers) or ¥1,080 (10 vouchers)

Resources:

 

Click Google icon to open in Google Maps

 

3. Tatehana Wharf Morning Market

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At Tatehana Wharf in Hachinohe, the largest morning market in Japan is held every Sunday from dawn until 9am. This was easily one of the highlights from my entire Japan trip.

Even if you're not a morning person, it's easy to forget how early it is when you're walking among thousands of people. We arrived just before 6am surprised to find the market already bustling. I had planned to document the morning but I was too excited to eat to focus on anything else! Thankfully, Kevin captured a few so most of the images below are his. He is clearly much better at composing himself around food (the same thing happened at Furukawa Fish Market).

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 Yakisoba

Yakisoba

 Everything fried

Everything fried

 Baos and dumplings

Baos and dumplings

 Just a dog, casually sitting on a stool

Just a dog, casually sitting on a stool

We gobbled down freshly cooked yakisoba, dumplings, fried chicken and baos - temporarily ignoring the unspoken don't-walk-and-eat rule out of hunger and excitement (we did try to be discreet though). The next time we visit, I think we'll probably spend the whole morning there! Need to make room for ramen, sashimi... and maybe some more dumplings. 

How long you spend here is up to your stomach, but one could easily spend 1-2 hours wandering and eating their way through this market. You'll spend a few minutes lining up for food too depending on how busy the stall is (wait time for the infamous fried chicken was around 10 minutes, but between you and me, I'd still put all my money on 7 Eleven fried chicken). 

This morning market is such a great experience and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who has the chance to visit — it's the perfect way to experience the local culture and eat delicious food.

 

 

Hours: Every Sunday from break of dawn to 9am. Closed from January to mid March. The market may also be closed on specific dates - see websites below for further details.

Address: Japan, 〒031-0811 Aomori Prefecture, Hachinohe, Shinminato, 3 Chome

There's a good chance you can follow other people heading there too... just remember how to find your way back!

How to get there: 10 minute walk from JR Mitsu-Minato Station (6 minute train from JR Hon-Hachinohe Station, or 15 minutes from JR Hachinohe Station)

Trip covered by JR Pass

Cost: Free entrance. Don't forget to bring enough cash for food!

Resources: 

 
 

Click Google icon to open in Google Maps

 

4. Tanesashi coast — Michinoku Shiokaze trail

The Michinoku Shiokaze Trail is 700km long all the way from Hachinohe City to Soma City. 

We walked most of the Hachinohe section of the trail, starting from Tanesashikaigan Station and finishing at Same Station. It took us 3 hours (with an ice-cream stop!) even though the website describes it as a light stroll. We were relying on the trains, which only operate every 2 hours, so it was either wait at Shirahama Beach for 2 hours or keep walking towards Same Station.

It wasn't until afterwards that I found out about the sightseeing bus... I would recommend getting the bus between Shirahama Beach and Nakasuka and then from Ashigezaki Observatory to Same Station. This should save you over 2 hours of walking, if I recall correctly, and you won't be missing too much. Google Maps says it'll take less than 2 hours from Tanesashikaigan Station to Same Station but it'll definitely take you closer to 3 (see websites below for further details).

If you're not up for a long walk, you could opt for a lovely, slow picnic instead at Tanesashi Natural Lawn!

Notable spots (see websites below for all key points):

  • Tanesashi Natural Lawn
  • Yodo-no-Matsubara (Pine Grove)
  • Shirahama Beach
  • Nakasuka (Floral Beach)
  • Ashigezaki Observatory
 Tanesashi Natural Lawn

Tanesashi Natural Lawn

Yodo-no-Matsubara (Pine Grove)

For the particular trail we walked, you can start from either Same or Tanesashikaigan station. It doesn't matter too much either way but if you start at Tanesashikaigan Station you can reward yourself with ice-cream at Ashigezaki Observatory ;)

 

 

How to get there: 5 minute walk from JR Tanesashikaigan Station (24 minute train from JR Hon-Hachinohe Station, or 40 minute train from JR Hachinohe Station) 

Trip partially covered by JR Pass

Cost: ¥100 for the sightseeing bus

Resources:

 
 

Click Google icon to open in Google Maps

 

5. Miroku yokocho

Miroku Yokocho is a food stall village in the city centre of Hachinohe.

Since the Tohoku region doesn't quite have the same numbers of tourists compared to other regions, English is limited here. While Japanese fluency is not essential to travel here, learning even just the most basic Japanese words and phrases will not only help so much, it's also polite and respectful to locals.

With that said, my Japanese is very, very basic. All of the food stalls, save one, had menus entirely in Japanese and mostly without pictures. The idea of ordering and communicating with poor, limited Japanese was daunting so we chose to eat at a food stall serving ramen, right at the entrance, with the only English menu. The ramen was reasonably priced around ¥700 but unfortunately it was quite average and the owner wasn't too friendly. But even if you don't eat at one of the food stalls, the lively atmosphere at night makes it worth a visit anyway if you're in the area!

Hopefully the next we return, we'll know enough Japanese to order and eat at a tiny 10-seater stall... *gulp*. If you're an extrovert, you'll do fine here.

 

 

Hours: 4pm - 4am

Address: Japan, 〒031-0033 Aomori Prefecture, Hachinohe, 六日町Muikamachi

How to get there: 10 minutes walk from JR Hon-Hachinohe Station (8 minute train from JR Hachinohe Station)

Cost: Free entrance

Trip covered by JR Pass

Resources:

 
 

Click Google icon to open in Google Maps

 

6. Hasshoku center

Described as a "theme park for Hachinohe foods" on its own website, Hasshoku Center is one of the largest indoor markets in Japan. Not only can you buy sake and sweets but you can even buy fish and meat to grill right away at Shichirin-mura. There are even two different restaurant areas: Aji Yokocho and Kuriya Stadium.

Unfortunately, every time we made plans to visit Hasshoku Center we were too tired from all our sightseeing that morning that we didn't end up going at all! But that won't stop me from recommending it to you anyway because I would have visited if I could have. See websites below for pictures and further details!

 

 

Hours: Market building 9am - 6pm, Aji Yokocho 9am - 6:30pm, Kuriya Stadium 9am - 9pm (closed on Wednesdays). Hours and days differ on select days so see official website below for further details.

Address: 22-2 Aza-Kansai, Kawaragi, Hachinohe City

How to get there: 10 minute bus from JR Hachinohe Station

 Trip not covered by JR Pass

Cost: ¥200 for the bus to and from Hasshoku Center. Take note that the last bus back to Hachinohe Station leaves at 5:35pm. 

Click here to download the map and bus timetable (PDF) which is in Japanese, but I've noted in English the stops for Hachinohe Station and Hasshoku Center!

Resources:

 
 

Click Google icon to open in Google Maps

 

here are even more places!

How long should you stay in Aomori?

We were in Hachinohe for only 3 full days and managed to squeeze in 5 out of the 6 places mentioned in this post. If you want to explore the other cities or add anything else to your itinerary, you'll probably need a few more days. Transportation between places will take up most of your time so plan well and decide on the best place to base yourself (we stayed near JR Hon-Hachinohe station as it fit in nicely with our plans).

Also - visit this website for some great suggested itineraries!

 

photographer + lifestyle blogger

i love adventures of all sizes, capturing little moments, daily coffees and kind, wholesome human beings