Aomori Population: 1,282,136
Surface area: 9.645,56 Km2
The prefecture of Aomori in the most northerly in Japan. Its name, which means “green forest, “comes from the woods nearby the actual city of Aomori which was the headquarters of the Hirosaki clan who governed the region and was where they had built a port.
Aomori was developed in parallel with the colonisation of Hokkaido because it is the most northerly city of Honshu and its ferries crossed over to the city of Hakodate
Aomori became a prefecture in 1871 and the city itself was founded in 1889.
The Aomori prefecture is bordered to the north by the strait of Hokkaido, to the east by the Pacific, to the west by the Sea of Japan and to the south, by the prefectures of Iwate and of Akita.
The tip of the Shimokita peninsula, which is in the shape of an axe, is the highest point on Honshu. The Tsugaru peninsula, which faces it and the smaller peninsula of Natsudomari are the two symbolic images that represent the prefecture on a map.
12% of the prefecture is a National Park.
The climate differs between the two areas into which Aomori is divided by the Ou mountain range with the Tsugaru area bordered by the Sea of Japan on one side and by the Kennan region which is on the Pacific side.
In the area that borders the Sea of Japan, the climate is similar to Iwate with snowy winters and hot summers. However, on the Pacific side, the summers are somewhat fresher and the winters tend to be quite dry with little snow.
The city of Aomori, the capital of the prefecture, is the embarkation point for the ferries destined for Hakodate and was, until the construction of the under-water Seikan tunnel, a compulsory stopping point for those travelling to Hokkaido over land.
There is not much of great importance to see in Aomori but, from the 2nd to the 6th of August, there is the Nebuta matsuri (a Japanese Summer Festival).
The Nebuta matsuri is a festival of stars known as “Tanabata”, a celebration of the legendary meeting and love between two stars, Vega and Altair, and the festival is manifested in different formats across Japan.
The Aomori version is really spectacular with giant lanterns in the form of wagons which represent courageous warriors battling against demons and the spectators accompany the wagons, dancing to the sound of flutes and the rhythms of large Japanese drums which are known as “taiko”
Also of interest in Aomori are the fish market and the museum of contemporary art.
In the city of Hirosaki, the main centre of the prefecture of Aomori prior to the foundation of the city of the same name, there is an interesting castle. Partially rebuilt in 1810, it is one of the few castles in Japan that has not been reconstructed in recent history.
In the area surrounding the castle, 2500 cherry trees have been planted which makes Hirosaki one of the most beautiful places in Japan in which to enjoy hanami, (having a picnic under the cherry trees, toasting your companions whilst admiring the beauty of the blossoms).
Another important place in the Japanese psyche and part of the history and tradition of the nation is Mount Osore, (meaning the fearsome mountain). In conjunction with Mount Hiei and Mount Koya, Mount Osore is one of the most sacred mountains in Japan and is easily identifiable because of its volcanic landscape that conjures up images of the afterlife, notably as the mind’s eye could imagine this as the entry way to Hell.
At the Bodaiji temple, there is a very special festival held every year from the 22nd to the 24th July which is a tradition that goes back to olden times.
People from all over Japan come to make contact with their deceased relatives via the blind spiritual mediums known as the itako who are believed to have acquired this ability through many years of training in the practice of purification which has been carried out since childhood under the guidance of a senior medium.