10 October 2011

October Events

There are so many great things going on in and around Aomori, I thought I’d put together a list of them all. If there are any fun events or festivals that I’ve missed, please let me know at and I’ll try to add them to the schedule.

26th Garlic and Beef Festival

 

What: A festival to celebrate garlic in Japan’s top garlic producing town.  
Why: If you like barbequed beef and garlic or cooking up your own on a giant outdoor group grill, then this is the festival for you. Plus if you’re vegetarian, you may still want to check out the other exciting events.  There will be line dancing, an American beauty queen from Takko’s sister city in California, Japanese traditional dance, and lots of zany garlic games including garlic sumo, garlic spitting, and garlic putting.  
Where: Takko Machi at the 2-2-9 dome (map)
When: Oct 1st and 2nd 

Cost: Free Entry but you’ll have to pay if you want to sample some beef and garlic
Website(s):

Offical Flyer (Japanese): http://www.town.takko.aomori.jp/230902ke207300806101.jpg
Write up and schedule: http://www.hakkodapowder.com/article07.shtml


Aomori City Halloween Parade

 

What: There will be a performance stage, dancing, arts and crafts, and of course a parade full of cute kids dressed up in costumes, Halloween floats and bands.  
Why: If you miss Halloween or you just love people dressing up.  
Where: Aomori City along ASPAM road 
When: October 8th from 10:00am – 8:30pm (Parade from 4:00 – 6:30) There will also be a free sweets giveaway (trick-or-treat) the next day on October 9th I think.
Cost: Free
Website: http://www.aomorishi-halloween.jp/


Misawa Halloween Fiesta

 
What: Halloween Parade, costume contest, and vendors giving away free candy.
Why: Who doesn’t love to dress up and get free candy?  And if it’s like last year there may be a pumpkin carving contest.
When: October 16th
Where: Misawa Arcade Shopping Centre
Cost: Free
Website(s):
Official:  http://www.misawasi.com/modules/information/index.php?lid=121
Write-up
 from last year: http://traveling-tengco.blogspot.com/2010/10/halloween-in-misawa.html

Towada Koma Festival

 
What: A festival celebrating all things horse

Why: See some Yabusame (horseback archery), show jumping, kids riding horseback, or ride a horse or a cart drawn by a horse all on your own.
When: Oct 15th and 16th from 9:00am to 3:00pm
Where: Towada Chuo Koen (central park)
Cost: Free
Website: Blog Write-up


Oma Tuna Festival

 

What: Japan’s most expensive Tuna on display
Why: Oma tuna will be available to eat and the lighthouse will be open to the public.  I’ve heard that you can also book tickets on a boat to go out and watch the fishermen catch the tuna.
When: Oct 22nd and 23rd
Where: Oma Port
Cost: Free
Website(s): Official http://www.shimokita-kanko.com/?p=1010

Hirosaki Chrysanthemum and Fall Colors Festival

 

What: Life sized dresses made of flowers and other displays 
Why: An ancient castle surrounded by beautiful maple trees changing colors and flower dresses, need I say more?
When: October 21st – November 13th

Where: Hirosaki Castle Park
Cost: Free
Website(s):
Official (Japanese): http://www.hirosaki.co.jp/event/index.cgi
Write-up from last year: http://traveling-tengco.blogspot.com/2010/10/hirosaki-castle-chrysanthemum-festival.html

27th Rokkasho Salmon Festival

 

What: A festival to restock the rivers of Japan with salmon.
Why: Get the chance to catch a salmon by hand and then cook it up!  That’s right, there will be a giant pool of salmon and you can purchase a ticket to catch and keep one.  Also, the first 400 people in line will be given a free salmon. You can also watch horses compete in an iron-pulling contest or participate in a free milk drinking contest, squid pulling contest, and bingo.  And of course there will be traditional dancing and local food.
When: Oct 30th and 31st
Where: Rokkasho Port
Cost: Free Admission
Website(s):
Official (Japanese): http://www.rokkasho.jp/guide/index.html#TOP
Official (English): http://www.rokkasho.jp/english/festivals.html
Write up and Schedule: http://www.hakkodapowder.com/article06.shtml

30 August 2011

Inakadate Rice Art: Mum always said not to play with your food but..

Around 10km northwest of Hirosaki, the clever people of Inakadate have managed to create a concoction consisting of Japan's strongest attributes: rice growing, and painstaking perfection. With a population of around 8400, Inakadate, a seemingly little town like many others in Aomori (packed full of rice, apples and old people), has managed to stand out from the crowd with its incredible rice art, or tanbo art (田んぼアート).

2010 design
Started in 1993, to pull in visitors to its aging town, the villagers of Inakadate pioneered rice art, using varieties of grain to create images within the rice paddies. This year's image used seven different coloured varieties. These days a computer is used to map out the images, taking into account perspective from the 22 metre high viewing platform, and thousands of stakes used to plot them (over 8000 stakes were used for the 2010 田んぼ!). 
 
The 2003 portrait of Mona Lisa fell victim to the perspective issue, viewed from the castle-look-alike town hall, she let everyone know her good news.. looking somewhat pregnant. Check out the difference between the two perspectives from 2007`s art, from directly above and from the viewing platform.

This year's creation is of the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, takentorimongatari (竹取物語), one of Japan's oldest tales. Check out the story at its Wikipedia page here (especially if you enjoy a sci-fi tale or two). I haven't included a picture as not to spoil the surprise, but is worth the visit for the few minutes of awe you get shuffling orderly around the viewing platform. There are a few little food stalls in the town hall carpark and a friendly obachan who gave me ¥100 off my melon. There's even a little foot onsen, ashiyuu (足湯), adjacent to the paddy opposite the town hall to help soak in the ricey atmosphere.

The Skinny: Get your (visual) fill of rice without the calories.


Price: Free! (There is a donation box with a couple of smiley obachans at the entrance for those feeling generous)
Where: The paddies are right opposite the Inakadate Town Office, plenty of 田んぼアート signs once you get there. Click here for a link from Jusco in Tsugaru City!
Dates: This year's season runs from May 30th until October 1st
Times: Open from 9am to 5pm (last admissions at 4.30pm)

24 August 2011

Mt. Iwaki Day Trip

The natural beauty of Mt. Iwaki can be enjoyed in many ways – some more relaxing than others! One of these foolproof relaxing methods is a trip to one of the many onsen in the area.
Iwaki-sou onsen is a choice you can’t go wrong with. Situated in the picturesque hotel of the same name, the onsen boasts both outdoor and indoor baths. The outdoor baths are especially idyllic – there’s nothing quite like listening to leaves rustle and birds warble while you let the worries of daily life soak away.
If you can stave off the urge for a post-onsen nap, there is a beautiful Shinto shrine just down the road. While all of Mt. Iwaki is technically sacred ground, Iwaki-yama Shrine is the site of worship. Most of the main buildings date to about 1694. The shrine itself stretches back up the side of the mountain, deeper into the forest. It makes a great walk! And if you’re lucky, you will run into the friendly obaasan selling apple ice cream, yum!

The Skinny: A relaxing day trip - quiet soak in a refined onsen, followed by a stroll through the grounds of a tranquil shrine.
Price: Iwaki-sou onsen is 500¥, plus 100¥ for optional towel rental. Admission to Iwaki-yama Shrine is free.
Directions: Click here for a road map, starting from Jusco in Kashiwa!

23 August 2011

森の中の果樹園 (Mori no Naka no Kajuen)

One thing that the Tsugaru region is famous for is agriculture, and what better way to experience this than by going fruit picking?  At the inexpensive price of 1000 yen per person, you can pick as much fruit from the trees/vines as you can eat (no time limit)!  Also, you can pick fruit to take home at a price that is much better than what you find in supermarkets.  While it's hard to beat fruit straight off the vine, the beauty of the orchard makes the experience even better.  Different times of the year, different fruits, so check out the website!

The Skinny: Great Orchard
Time: 9:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. from the end of April to the end of October
Price: 1000 yen per person (all you can eat)
Location: click here for a map to Mori no Naka No Kajuen (From Jusco in Kashiwa)

11 August 2011

Hotel Apple Land Onsen

When in Aomori, one thing you must do during your time here is bathe in a hot spring filled with the prefecture's most famous produce: apples. One of the many onsens that provide such baths is Minamida Onsen, situated in the Disneyland-esque Hotel Apple Land near Hirosaki. The onsen is split into two, with separate entrances for both. This is fine for hotel guests, but for day visitors it's a little inconvenient.
The indoor bath has an extremely strong smell upon entering, but is well designed with various waterfalls and cosy pools arranged beneath a high ceiling with skylights. However the main attraction is, of course, the apple-filled rotenburo. Although a little on the small side, the fragrant apples and the bamboo shelter make for a relaxing dip in a very Aomori onsen.


The Skinny: one of many must-see apple-filled onsens in Aomori!
Price: 350 yen

23 June 2011

Tip Top Tappi

Tappi is the northernmost point in western Aomori so the drive there is a bit far from the Tsugaru side, but well worth it. Travel the winding roads and you'll pass the sea, go through the mountains and if you're lucky, you'll spot some of the notoriously mischievous Japanese snow monkeys. There are a few viewing platforms to stop at along the way, and once you reach Tappi, walk up the look-out path to catch the best view. On a clear day you can see Hokkaido. And if you have time to spare, check out the nearby Seikan Tunnel Museum, which explains the making of the underwater railway tunnel that connects Honshu to Hokkaido and is the longest operational underground tunnel! Click here to learn more.

The Skinny: A weekend joyride
Price: A tank of gas

Takayama Inari Shrine


Nestled deep in Shariki Town is the impressive Takayama Inari Shrine. Although it's quite large, it's often sparse with visitors (rumor has it many Japanese people find the place haunted). Once you drive through the giant torii gate, you will see the visitor center in front, stairs leading to the shrine on your left, and a somewhat hidden path to Shariki beach on your right. The path to the beach will take you behind the visitor center and through some dense vegetation, but don't worry, it's safe and permitted. The beach is a bit laden with garbage, but it's still an interesting place to visit (local rumor has it that people have gone missing off this coast at the hands of North Koreans). Lastly, if you visit in summer, look out for all the frogs - they're everywhere!

The Skinny: A beautiful shrine with over 100 small torii gates and a walk to the beach
Price: Free
Website: Click Here

Clam A-Pickin'!

Take a scenic drive up the 339 and you'll eventually find yourself at Lake Jusanko. Park at the shops, walk across the bridge, and pay a mere 300 yen to start your clam hunt. This fee provides a bag for your finds and some colanders to aid your search. The lake is only knee deep (although is appears deeper!), so be sure to wear some half pants. You can keep all the clams you find, so have at it. FYI: the park is open late but the lake for clam pickin' closes around 3:15PM.

The skinny: A fun way to spend a sunny day
Price: 300 yen
Website: Click Here (see the 5th picture down)

15 June 2011

Aomori Rock Festival '11 ~夏の魔物~ (Summer Villain)

Is your summer not as fun as you wanted it to be?  Spice it up by rockin' out to some Japanese rock music at the Aomori Rock Festival '11 "Summer Villain!"  The festival promises to be a huge all-day event, taking place outdoors at Tsugaru's very own Chikyuu Mura.  If you're into live music, and especially rock, this is the event for you.  For a list of the performers click here.

Price: 
1 Ticket
¥6,800
2 Tickets
¥13,000
4 Tickets
¥24,000
Middle/High Schooler
(1 Ticket)
¥3,000
(Available only the day of the event)
*Elementary students and below are free.
*Tickets can be bought at the door, however may sell out, so buy quickly!
*Japanese speakers can reserve tickets by going to the event's website
Date: July 17th (Doors open at 8:00 a.m. and the show starts at 8:30 a.m.)
Website: Click Here (Japanese)
Tsugaru Chikyuu Mura:〒038-2817 Aomori-ken, Tsugaru-shi, Morita-Machi, Tokomai Fujiyama 244
つがる地球村 :〒038-2817青森県つがる市 森田町 床舞藤山244

14 June 2011

Bense Marsh (ベンセ湿原)

Spring in Japan is famous for cherry blossoms, but spring in Tsugaru is famous for Bense Marsh's orange and yellow day lilies.  According to local news, the flowers will be at full bloom on the 15th and 16th of June and can be enjoyed through this Monday (June 20). The marsh is undoubtedly a great place to take a stroll, enjoying Tsugaru's beautiful nature.  And the day lilies are a must for anyone into photography.  The lilies (called nikkoukisuge in Japanese) are the official flowers of Tsugaru City.  Come enjoy the Tsugaru spring by visiting the Bense Marsh!

When? Now through June 20th
Where? Tsugaru City Map to the marsh
How much? FREE!

31 May 2011

Tsugaru-ben Taikai 2011 第15回津軽弁大会

Taikai Poster, click to enlarge and print out!
わんつかもつけにががってみるが!

On 18th June 2011, Tsuruta Town Office will host the 15th annual Tsugaru Dialect Competition, better known as the Tsugaru-ben Taikai. Five groups will perform in a fierce competition for the title of best Tsugaru-ben speaker(s) of the year. The taikai is always hosted by a local celebrity, and this year is no different, with Aomori Television's Yuriko Kudou MCing the event. Foreigners from all over Aomori have been known to perform enka, rakugo and plays, which always have the audience in stitches. It's free to come and watch, so why not stop by and see if you can understand the dialect that leaves even native Japanese speakers baffled!

When? 3-5pm, Saturday 18th June 2011
Where? Tsuruta Town Office (鶴田町役場)
              click here for a map 
How much? FREE!

Tsuta Onsen (蔦温泉)

Tsuta Onsen is located deep in the mountains near Lake Towada, and was ranked best in the prefecture in terms of atmosphere and water quality. The ryokan also serves delicious traditional meals for those staying the night, as well as providing some of the tastiest wakimizu  (water straight from the rocks) in Aomori; so good that you might want to consider taking a bottle or two with you for the road! 
Despite the absence of an outdoor bath, Tsuta Onsen has a great atmosphere with luxurious interiors, and comes highly recommended.

Submitted to us by Jon, thank you!

The Skinny: a luxurious onsen attached to a ryokan of equally high quality
Price: ¥500 for entry to the onsen, a night at the ryokan starts at ¥8,550~
Opening Hours: for those not staying at the ryokan, the onsen is open from 9am to 4pm  

27 May 2011

Dazai Osamu, Tsugaru Jamisen & Horsemeat, Oh My!

Well, it's been a little while since Let's Go Tsugaru's last post, but what better way to update than with some info on an Aomori speciality, baniku (horse meat)! First off, Kanagi's pride and joy, the Shayoukan (斜陽館, a memorial museum for the famous author Osamu Dazai) has started providing tours in English, led by the lovely Yukie Yamagata. Many of Osamu Dazai's works have been translated from their original Japanese, and it's interesting to see the house where he spent his younger years. You can also try your hand at Tsugaru Jamisen at the nearby Tsugaru Jamisen Hall (津軽三味線会館), whilst learning about the instrument's history.

Only a short drive down the road is the highly recommended Ekisha (駅舎) coffee house, which serves baniku curry and donburis (baniku on top of rice). I must admit I was a little hesitant at first, but after tasting both dishes I can highly recommend that you give them a try! Kanagi is less than an hour away from Tsugaru, so it's definitely worth the trip to check out all three of these local attractions.

The Skinny: A great cultural day out in Kanagi Town, Goshogawara
Price: ¥500 for entry to the Shayoukan, ¥900 for entry to both the Shayoukan and Tsugaru Jamisen Museum. A curry set meal at Ekisha will only set you back about ¥680!

Yasuragi Onsen (やすらぎ温泉)

It's no question that the view of Mount Iwaki from any angle is stunning enough, but why not enjoy it whilst relaxing in a rotenburo (露天風呂, outdoor bath)? Yasuragi Onsen is located a short drive off the 7 on the way into Hirosaki from Tsugaru, and although a little dated, its outdoor bath provides amazing views as you relax to the sound of softly playing enka. There is also a small garden area with seating for the summer months when you need to hop out of the hot water.
The indoor baths are also decent, with a sauna and water bath included in the meagre price of 350 yen. You'll need to bring your own onsen kit though, as shampoo and soap are not provided.

The Skinny: A small onsen on the outskirts of Hirosaki with great views of Iwaki-san
Price: ¥350 for adults
Hours: 5am to 10pm

04 April 2011

Towada Horseback Riding

As part of our new series, 'Hop in Your Car and Drive,' comes our second installment: Towada Horseback Riding. Located about two and a half hours from the Tsugaru area, Western Hat Japan provides a great weekend retreat to the scenic Towada countryside. Your hour-long tour (60 and 90 minutes sessions are both available) will be guided by two Japanese instructors who, despite limited English ability, possess just enough to make you feel comfortable. After an introductory riding lesson in the stable, you'll be led along a path that winds through the farm and forest and past a training site for yabusame (traditional Japanese mounted archery). Be sure to wear clothing that allows for maximum mobility and proper attire to keep you warm. It gets chilly in the countryside! Finally, be aware that unlike tours in the US, Japanese instructors believe in a "headfirst" approach to learning, i.e. they will introduce you once to trotting and cantering in the stable and will then ask you to do the same while out on the trail. If you feel uncomfortable with this pace, just let your guide know beforehand. Tsugaru-chan enjoyed her visit very much and highly recommends it, but will stick to eating horses in the future (a Tsugaru-area delicacy) instead of riding them.

The Skinny: Horseback Riding in Towada
Price: 3500 yen for one hour
Hours: Coming soon...
Location: Towada

01 April 2011

Osorezan: the Gateway to Hell


With the spring weather finally here, Tsugaru-chan wanted to share some great places to explore. Get excited to hop in your car and drive! First on our list is Osorezan. Considered one of the three holiest sites of Japan, this Buddhist area was founded in the ninth century by the Great Buddhist Master En'nin. When Tsugaru-chan visited Osorezan last fall, the first thing she noticed was the unusual atmosphere. With only the sound of the crow's caw, a strong sulphur smell, and the numerous warnings for mumashi pit vipers, Tsugaru-chan felt like she really was at the entrance to Hell, a title bestowed upon Mount Osore (literally "Mount Fear").

Perhaps one of the most striking features of Osorezan is the landscape. Tsugaru-chan's local tour guide explained that no vegetation grows on the rock-laden grounds (representative of hell), yet just a few meters up the mountain a verdant forest flourishes (representative of heaven). Scenery aside, one of the most moving aspects of Osorezan is its function as a gravesite of sorts, predominantly for children. Visitors often build cairns, man-made piles of rocks in a conical shape, topped with colorful pinwheels, packs of crayons, chocolates and other wordly goods as a means of mourning.
Small Jizo statues are also another way to grieve. Popular throughout Japan, they are typically dressed with a reb bib and cap and serve to protect the souls of deceased children.

Lastly, a few times a year Osorezan hosts a number of blind mediums, or itako, to allow communication with the dead. The lines are often long and are only offered in Japanese, so if you would like a chance to speak with a departed one, please bring along a translator. This sacred Buddhist site, renowned for its mystical powers, is definitely worth the drive. Japanese people will also be impressed you braved one of the most frightening spots in Japan (don't be surprised if you're asked if you saw a ghost!). So ganbatte, and enjoy the Shimokita peninsula of Aomori.

The Skinny: A great day trip to one of the holiest sites in Japan
Price: 500 Yen for adults (older than 15), 400 Yen for adults belonging to a group of more than 30 members, 200 yen for children (below 15)
Annual Schedule: Open from 5/1 to 10/31. Main festival of Bodhisattva Jizo 7/20-7/24. Autumn festival is three successive days in early October, the second Monday of October (Sports Day) and the Saturday and Sunday immediately before it
Daily Schedule: Open from 6:00AM-4:00PM (changed during the festivals). Religious services are 6:30AM, 11:00AM, 2:00PM.
Location: Mutsu City, Aomori, Japan  

For more information, give this article a read.

30 March 2011

Inagaki Onsen (稲垣温泉)

Inagaki Onsen, despite being on the smaller side, definitely has its charm. As part of a hotel resort it's a bit hidden, but the receptionist will be sure to guide you. At the affordable rate of 400 yen, this onsen is a great place to relax on a cold night. The water is a bit salty though, so be sure to keep your mouth closed while bathing.

In addition to the bathing area and hot water pool, there is a sauna and a small cold water bath. The best part about this onsen, however, is definitely the rotenburo. Not all rotenburos are created equally, and this one has a great, traditional Japanese environment: hanging lanterns, a rock waterfall, and beautiful, surrounding greenery. FYI: This area is sex-separated and well covered, so rest assured, no one will be peeking.

The Skinny: Somewhat small, but compensated by a great rotenburo
Price: 400 yen
Hours: 10:00 - 19:00 (except Mon and Thurs, 13:00 - 19:00)

Cranes for a fellow American

The Great Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake and tsunami, as well as the nuclear situation at Fukushima Daiichi, has left many Japanese and expatriates in a precarious position. Thousands of Japanese have died and more are still missing, and last week the first American victim was reported. Her name was Taylor Anderson, a JET from Richmond, Virginia who lived in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture. After helping to evacuate her elementary school students, she was unable to escape the tsunami in time.

To show solidarity amongst the JET/American/expatriate community and as a display of support for her family, a Facebook event has been created in her memory. Please search "Cranes for Taylor, Cranes for JETs" and post a picture of your own origami crane. Cranes are considered a symbol for long life, good luck, and peace. Although Taylor's life was tragically cut short, hopefully these cranes can bring some peace to her family and maybe some good luck to all those still missing. Please feel free to invite others who would like to participate in this event.

14 March 2011

Tōhoku Earthquake

Let's Go Tsugaru would like to extend our sympathies to everyone in the prefectures affected by the earthquake and tsunami, including those in the Nambu area of Aomori prefecture. We've listed links to some useful information below; please stay safe and well prepared during this time.

Earthquake Emergency Procedures Booklet (click to download .pdf file)
Japanese Red Cross "Safe and Well" Site

Google Japan Earthquake Person Finder 
Information Regarding the Fukushima Power Plants

Blood Donation
If you would like to give blood, the Blood Donation Centre in Hirosaki is open from 10-12.30 & 2-5.30. The address is: 036-8004 Aomori Prefecture, Hirosaki City, Ekimae 8-1, Omachi Town Biru 2nd Floor (青森県弘前市大字駅前8-1 大町タウンビル 2F)
Click here for a map.
Please be aware that some people may be turned away; British Nationals in particular may be unable to give blood due to concerns regarding BSE.
Thanks go to Hal Edmonson for this information. 

Donating Relief Items
For those of you wanting to donate food and clothing to disaster victims in Sendai, a delivery to Minami Sanriku Town is being organised by a group from Aomori. You can drop off items you wish to donate at the following locations over the next three days:

Aomori City
The OGA School (in front of ASPAM)
Yasukata 1-10-7
(dropoffs from 9am-6pm)

Hirosaki City
Kyle and Tori's place, near Hirosaki Station
(for details please comment and we will pass on your information) 

11 March 2011

Furōfushi Onsen (不老不死温泉)

Living in the west of Aomori Prefecture, Furōfushi Onsen in Fukaura should definitely be one of your top spots to visit. Although an indoor bath and jacuzzi are available, the main attraction is without a doubt its routenburo, outdoor bath, which is perfectly placed on the shores of the Sea of Japan. Bathers can enjoy soaking in iron-rich spring water that is said to have healing properties (furōfushi translates to longevity and perpetual youth). The less inhibited among you might enjoy the konyoku, mixed bath side, though the milk tea-coloured water does well to maintain your dignity.* The routenburo is technically only open to day visitors until 4pm, but once you've entered the bathing area we recommend staying until sunset, especially on wintry days when nightfall comes early. Nothing epitomises the Tohoku experience more than looking out onto the ocean as the sky turns red whilst keeping warm in a cosy bath. 

* Women are allowed to enter the men's side on the left if they so wish, but the right side is for women bathers only, sorry fellas!

The Skinny: An incredible onsen with beautiful scenery, an Aomori must-see
Price: A very affordable ¥600, with an optional extra ¥200 to rent a yukata (for the chilly walk down to the routenburo in winter)
Opening Hours: Routenburo from 8am to 4pm, other baths from 8am to 9pm
Location: click here

10 March 2011

Goshogawara Japanese Class!

Living in rural Japan, learning even a little bit of Japanese can go a long way in terms of enjoying your time to the fullest.  A great way to do this is the Goshogawara Central Community Center Japanese class, which will start on April 11th 2011.

Last year, I participated in the fall class, both improving my Japanese and making new friends!  Best of all, the class can accommodate any level of Japanese learner, from those who know no Japanese to those who are advanced.  Basically, you pair up with a friendly instructor or two, who helps you with your Japanese study each week.  Bringing your own materials, you go at your pace.  I highly recommend it to anyone in the area.

The Skinny:  Great way to make friends and learn Japanese
Time:          4/11, 4/18, 4/25, 5/9, 5/16, 5/23, 5/30, 6/6, 6/13, 6/20, 6/27, 7/4
                 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Prices:        Free!                         
Address:      Goshogawara Chuuou Kouminkan (五所川原市中央公民館)
                   〒037-0016 青森県五所川原市字一ツ谷504番地1
                   037-0016  Aomori-ken, Goshogawara-shi, Jiichitsutani 504 Banchi 1
Map with Directions from Jusco/Aeon Mall: click here

08 March 2011

Dadan (RESTAURANT REVIEW)

After recommendations from locals to visit this restaurant, a few friends and I headed to Dadan to eat and drink whilst listening to a traditional shamisen performance. There are usually two perfomances per night at 7pm and 9pm, but unfortunately due to a player's absence on the evening of our visit, the latter was cancelled. 
The interior of the restaurant is rustic and homely, with floor seating arranged around a small wooden stage and bar seating readily available. We ordered kimchi nabe, a Korean soup served in a large pot full of vegetables and seafood, perfect to share after coming in from the cold. Although not entirely authentic, it was undeniably delicious. Our second dish was the traditional Tsugaru speciality Kaiyaki Miso - seafood in an egg sauce with spring onions - and was much more in keeping with the feel of the restaurant and by far the highlight of the meal; highly recommended.
Dadan is a great local izakaya serving great local food, with the added bonus of authentic traditional Japanese music.
Definitely warrants another visit.


The Skinny: A traditional restaurant with a modern spin that serves great local food
Opening Hours: 11:00 - 14.00, 17.30 - 22.00
Shamisen Performance Times: 19:00 & 21:00
Website: http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~dadan/ (Japanese)

01 March 2011

Sannai Maruyama Site (山内丸山遺跡)

Link to Picture 1
The Sannai Maruyama site radically changed the perception of the Jomon culture, which flourished in Japan from 12,000 to 2,300 years ago.  Before the site's discovery, people thought the Jomon people were simplistic hunters and gathers; however, the 1992 discovery of the ruins proved that the Jomon people were much more complex, with the ruins of tall buildings, tools, and roads being unearthed.  And the best part is:  the site is right here in Aomori, and even more, it's FREE!

Link to Picture 2
 Last Sunday, I took a trip to the site, which was beautiful covered in ice and snow.  However, as most of the site is in fact outside (although there is an inside museum), I would recommend waiting until it gets a little warmer before going.  Besides the inside museum, the site consists of ample fields with reconstructions of Jomon structures.  You can even go inside them!  Also, the site is a short walk to the Aomori Art Museum, so you can do both in a day if you're interested.  I did!

For more information on what the ruins meant to Japanese history, check out the following article:  Japan Times Article about the ruins

For more information, including instructions on how to get to the site and when it is open, check out the website: Official English website

21 February 2011

Naqua Shirakami Ski Resort

For those of you who want to make the most of the snow by skiing or snowboarding this winter, we recommend Naqua Shirakami Ski Resort in Ajigasawa. With 14 courses to follow served by a gondola and four chairlifts, it is definitely worth a visit. The neighbouring hotel also houses a luxurious onsen with both indoor and outdoor baths, the latter of which allows bathers to look out onto the snowy mountain scenery, if you want relax after conquering the slopes. 
 
There's no need to worry about gear either; you can rent everything (including clothing) from the foot of the chairlift furthest from the hotel. Although the courses are not entirely suited for beginners, ski schools accommodating all ages are available throughout the week and during the weekend (English instructors available on request). For people who prefer to hit the slopes after work, three "nighter" courses are open until 9pm and accessible by the furthermost chairlift station. 
With brilliant views at the top and tasty ramen at the bottom  of the mountain (with a Mos Burger on hand for fans of western food), make the most of the rest of the winter and give Naqua Shirakami Ski Resort a visit!

The Skinny: For those of us on the Tsugaru side, it's the most convenient ski resort and definitely one of the best places to enjoy the winter season
Location: click here for directions from Jusco
Price: Adult 1-day Lift Pass for ¥4,000 (¥8,000 including equipment & clothing rental fee)

18 February 2011

Lion (RESTAURANT REVIEW)

Looking for dinner and an onsen experience?  Or maybe just dinner?  Lion (Mori no Resutoran Raian/森のレストラン・ライアン) is just the place for you!

I had heard about this restaurant as being good from quite a few Japanese acquaintances, and last night decided to finally try it out.  The restaurant itself is cool on the inside, with wood-paneling on the walls and a hearth in the center of the dining space, which gives the restaurant a winter lodge sort of feel.  The food itself is a good mix of Japanese and Western food, with everything from pasta and hambaagu (a bun-less hamburger usually covered in sauce, also the picture to the right) to different Japanese sets that are updated frequently to include seasonal produce.  I planned on getting the seasonal set (the taste of Tsugaru), but ended up switching to hanbaagu, which was under 1000 yen.  It was delicious!

As the restaurant is part of Chikyuumura (World`s Village・地球村), there is an onsen and camping grounds around the place.  While I did not check out the onsen, it was packed, so it must be a good one.

The Skinny:  Good food with a fun winter-lodge-like atmosphere
Name: Mori no Resutoran Raian (森のレストラン・ライアン)
Hours of Operation: 10:00~21:00
Prices: 800~4000 yen                                 
Phone Number: 0173-26-3007
Address:    青森県つがる市森田町床舞藤山244
                 Aomori-ken, Tsugaru-shi, Morita-machi, Tokomai Fujiyama, 244
Map with Directions from Jusco/Aeon Mall: <click here>

14 February 2011

Oban Ramen Shop (Restaurant Review)

To continue with the theme of ramen shop reviews, today I had the chance to go to another!  I was told that this was one of go-to shops in Tsugaru.  I thought it had good soy sauce (shouyu) ramen.  Ask for the shouyu ramen (soy sauce ramen) or the tamago ramen (egg ramen).


The Skinny:  Hole-in-the-wall, good ramen
Name: Oban (大番)
Hours of Operation: 11:00~
English menu: No 
Prices: 600~900 yen                                                                  
Phone Number: 0173-42-2345
Address:    青森県 つがる市木造若竹6-1
                 Aomori-ken, Tsugaru-shi, Mokuzou Jaku Take 6-1
Map with Directions from Jusco/Aeon Mall:<click here>