What to Expect
Aomori is the northernmost prefecture on the main island of Japan and is blessed with both diverse culture and magnificent nature, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakami Sanchi, the Jomon Period archeological site Sannai Maruyama, the famous cherry blossom viewing spot Hirosaki Park, and other beautiful natural areas such as Lake Towada, the Hakkoda Mountains, and Hotokegaura.
Among these areas, I've picked out seven sightseeing spots that are quite popular among foreign tourists. You can choose three or four spots from them. It takes about 7 or 8 hours by van to visit the spots and come back to Aomori City. You can make your tour shorter in time for your cruise ship. If you would like to visit other places, I can make plans for you upon request.
A. Great Statue of Buddha in Seiryuji Temple
There is the Great Statue of Buddha, the tallest seated bronze statue of Buddha in Japan in Seiryuji Temple in the suburbs of Aomori City. Its characteristic is that the Buddha wears a crown on his head and makes a Zen meditation hand gesture. There are also a five-storied pagoda and a dry landscape garden on the premises.
B. Nebuta Museum Warasse
Here you can see big 'Nebuta' lantern floats made of paper and wire with lots of light bulbs inside. The pictures often depict the heroes of old Japanese and Chinese historical events. The Nebuta Festival is held from August 2 to 7 and attracts more than 3 million visitors from home and abroad.
C. Hakkoda Ropeway
Mt. Hakkoda is located on the outskirts of Aomori City. The mountaintop station is 1,324 meters or about 4,300 feet above sea level. It takes about 10 minutes to the top. This cable car can carry 100 passengers and the distance between the two stations is 2,459 meters or about 8,000 feet. The difference of elevation is 650 meters or about 2,000 feet. You can see not just the mountains around but the panoramic view of the city from the mountaintop.
D. Oirase Mountain Stream and Lake Towada
You will be able to enjoy watching the stream from various angles along the road leading to Lake Towada. Several falls flowing into the stream make the scenery more attractive. Lake Towada is a dual crater lake that was formed by the caving in of a volcano mouth formed by an eruption. The lake reflects the four seasons in its clear blue water accentuated by the fresh green of spring, autumn leaves, and the snow in winter, giving it a mysterious beauty.
E. Hirosaki Castle in Hirosaki Park
Hirosaki Castle was the residence of the Lord who governed Hirosaki and its vicinity for about 260 years. This castle was built in 1810 and it is one of the 12 castles in Japan that remain intact without being reconstructed. The castle is in Hirosaki Park. This park is famous for its cherry blossoms. There are about 2,600 cherry trees in the park. More than 2 million tourists from home and abroad come to see the cherry blossoms in spring.
F. Rice Paddy Art
The rice paddy art started about 20 years ago, when Inakadate Village had an event in which local people and tourists had experience in planting rice seedlings. Now they use various kinds of seedlings in different colors. Year by year its artistic value has been increasing. Last year the emperor and the empress came here all the way from Tokyo to watch the work of 'Gone with the Wind'. The history of rice-planting in this vilage is very long and rice-planting started about 2,000 years ago.
G. Goshogawara Tachi Neputa
Tachi Neputa is big lantern floats that march in procession through the main street downtown during the summer festival. Its characteristic is the height of the floats. The entire height is 23 meters (75 feet) tall, which is equivalent to a seven story building. You can see these gigantic floats throughout the year at the Tachi Neputa Museum. The museum exhibits three floats that marched the street last year and you can see them from different angles on the spiral staircase.
H. Takayama Inari Shrine
The huge torii or gate welcomes you when you get to this shrine. You usually see this gate in front of the shrine as it is a shrine's symbol. The gate works as a border between the sacred place and our world and keeps evil things from coming in. The distinctive characteristic of this Takayama Inari Shrine is that the shrine has 202 small torii or gates that stand close to each other winding like a dragon toward the top of the hill. They look magnificent and you can go through under the gates to the top. There is also a rock garden that matches the gates.