Trendy tourist spot ''Aomori''! If you are going there from Tokyo, make sure you have a good value pass with you!
''JR EAST PASS'' offers unlimited travel within a designated time period. You will have unlimited access to ride the JR East trains, including Shinkansens and limited express trains within the designated zone. Using a ''JR EAST PASS'', enables you to pick an area, either ''Nagano and Niigata area'' or ''Tohoku area''. This time I chose the ''Tohoku area pass'' to travel to Aomori prefecture. Here are some handy travel tips.
Using the ''JR EAST PASS(Tohoku area) ''
''The JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) '' is so awesome for travellers heading towards the Tohoku area passing through Sendai, Aomori from Tokyo. Within the designated zone, you have unlimited access not only to local trains, but also the Shinkansens! The Flexible Five-day Pass can be used on any five days within a 14-day period, starting with the date of purchase or the period can begin after your arrival in Japan, upon turning your order into an actual pass. The international price for this pass is Adults (12 years and older) ¥19,000 and Children(6-11years) ¥9,500. The domestic price is Adults ¥20,000, children¥10,000. A good tip is to purchase your pass before you leave for Japan. How much can you actually save? Purchasing the Shinkansen return tickets from Tokyo to Shinaomori and back, would normally cost ¥34,700 (Adult price). So one trip to Aomori from Tokyo can save you ¥15,000. (adult reserved seat in the ordinary car aboard the Hayabusa)
Introduction to ''Aomori ''
Aomori prefecture is abundant in natural settings, such as the designated world heritage site of the Shirakami Mountains or the mysterious Towada Lake. Throughout all seasons, you can enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings. You can enjoy both good food from the mountainous area and the ocean. It's famous for apples, tuna and scallops. They also have popular hot springs and hidden hot spring gems. In the summer you can enjoy the unique ''Nebuta /Neputa festival''. In winter, it's an outdoor sport's paradise.
Off to Aomori from Tokyo!
After enjoying some trendy shopping, go to Tokyo station or Ueno station. If you head to Aomori directly, it takes only about 3 hours to get to Shinaomori station. Make sure you don’t forget to purchase the ''JR EAST PASS Tohoku area'' before you leave!
(There is a small video clip on how to buy the pass attached in the end of this article)
On the way stop by at ''Hasshoku centre'' in Hachinohe
What’s fascinating about the ''JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area)'' is that you can hop off and on freely within the designated zone. Though Sendai station (Miyagi prefecture) or Morioka (Iwate prefecture) is attractive, I strongly recommend stopping by at ''Hachinohe station'' in Aomori prefecture. The reason? Because you can feast on a vast variety of reasonably priced “good eats” there.
Even I was surprised at some of the unusual foods sold there. As the photos below show, you can buy fresh ingredients and grill them right there! Needless to say, they were best with beer!
Address:Kansai-22-2 Kawaragi, Hachinohe-shi, Aomori
Business Hours:Market building 9:00-18:00
Access:10 minutes from Hachinohe station by bus.
Go to ''Nebuta Museum WA RASSE'' from Aomori station
After indulging in many tasty treats, I was so satisfied, I hopped on the Shinkansen again from Hachinohe station. In 30 minutes I arrived at ''Shinaomori station''. Then I used the local train to go to ''Aomori station''. It was about a 6 minute ride. Near this station there is a museum, the ''Nebuta WA RASSE''. It is an interesting museum dedicated to the history and traditions of the famous Nebuta festival. Though the Nebuta festival is held annually in early August, here you can see unique and awe inspiring Nebuta (floats) all the time. You will be amazed to see the exhibition of actual Nebuta used in past festivals.
【Nebuta Museum WA RASSE】
Address:1 Chome-1-1 Yasukata, Aomori-shi, Aomori
Business Hours:May-August 9:00-19:00／September-April 9:00-18:00
Admission:Adult¥600, Student(high school)¥450,Student(Elementary/junior high/Middle school)¥250
Why don’t you try this ''Nokke-don''
After your visit to the ''Nebuta Museum WA RASSE'', or perhaps you stayed overnight in Aomori, visit the Aomori Gyosai Centre(fish market).
Here you can order '' Nokke-don '' from 7:00 - 16:00. Have you ever heard of '' Nokke-don ''? Even some Japanese wouldn’t know what it is, as this word is from the local Aomori dialect. Nokke-don is pretty much an add anything (especially fresh seafood) topping of your choice on a rice bowl dish.
At the information kiosk I bought a ''meal coupon''. You can buy either a ¥1,080 set booklet (10 tickets) or a ¥540 set booklet (5 tickets)
Inside the Aomori Gyosai centre, There are so many vendors selling bowls of rice, selling Sashimi (fresh seafood), also there are famous scallop speciality vendors and so on. You can exchange the coupon(s) for the toppings.
First I exchanged 1 ticket to get the bowl of rice.
Let’s put the toppings you like on the bowl! Depending on what sort you choose, they could range in price from 1-3 coupons.
I can’t believe how good the rice bowl was. The photo above is Nokke-don. I made it with a ¥1,080 meal coupon booklet, if I ate this at a high end restaurant back in Tokyo I would have to pay over ¥3,000. It was so good that I had to have some more, so I got a ¥540 meal coupon booklet this time, then made my second Nokke-don. (photo below)
【Aomori Gyosai centre】
Address:1 Chome-11-16 Furukawa, Aomori
Nokke-don Available hours:7:00-16:00
Closed:Tuesdays *there can be an extra holidays
''A-FACTORY'' is a great place for Souvenir shopping
Before I left Aomori I wanted to buy some local souvenirs. A-FACTORY was perfect as they feature wide variety from all over Aomori. From the front exit of Aomori station it was only a 1 minute walk.
On the 1st floor of ''A-FACTORY'' there is a Food Marche, showcasing Aomori local gourmet ingredients, local fruits and processed food. There is a variety of juices and sweets made from famous Aomori apples.
At the dining area you can enjoy Gelato made from local Aomori produce. The local hamburgers, and potato snacks are delicious too.
One of the popular products is cider, which is a sparkling liquor made from fermented apple juice. They make cider right there at the factory. It was fun to watch the production of this local drink, through the big glass.
Address:1 Chome-4-2 Yanakawa, Aomori-shi, Aomori
Business Hours:souvenir shop(local specialities) 9:00-20:00 / 1st Floor restaurant(food court) 11:00-20:00 / 2nd Floor restaurant(Galetteria Da Sasino) 11:00-21:00
You can use ''Resort Shirakami'' trains if you want to go further and visit ''Furoufushi Onsen'' (closest station:JR Gono Line Wespa tsubakiyama station) or ''Aoike'' One popular tourist attraction is the 12 lakes ''Jyuniko''. They are nearby the world heritage Shirakami Mountains. I will write about that article on another occasion!
At last but not least, I will give you some details on ''JR EAST PASS Tohoku area''. Again if you are going to visit Aomori from Tokyo, this is the best value you can get, don’t miss out on this deal.
【Details of JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area) 】
Period of use:Can be used throughout the year, beginning on April 1, 2016
Validity period:Any 5 days out of the 14-day period from the date of issue (Flexible 5-day use)* The date of issue refers to the date of pick-up for passes purchased overseas and the date of purchase for passes purchased in Japan.
Prices:Purchased abroad: Adults ¥17,000, children ¥8,500 / Purchased in Japan: Adults ¥18,000, children ¥9,000
Area of Validity:Unlimited use of ordinary car reserved seating on limited express trains (Shinkansen included), express trains, and local trains on JR EAST lines within the applicable area.
Purchase and usage conditions:Customers are foreign nationals and holders of non-Japanese passports who have entered Japan with a "Temporary Visitor" visa to stay in Japan for no longer than 90 days.* Passports will be checked at the time of purchase.
Where to purchase:
1) Purchase in Japan: On sale at domestic sales locations
2) Purchase overseas: Purchase an e-ticket at an overseas tour company, travel agent or on the JR EAST website HP, and exchange for a ticket at an exchange location in Japan
Use the following JR-EAST Train Reservation site to conveniently make reservations for reserved seating on JR EAST Shinkansen and major limited express trains.
If you are interested in good value JR passes, but don’t know how to use them or how to purchase them yet, you will find this short clip below very useful.