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


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