Aomori Japan: Vibrant and Productive with Rich History and Strong Tradition
Nebuta Festival is a Unique and Lovely Experience in Aomori Japan
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The deep Blue-Green forest or “Ao-Mori” was clearly visible for ships as they sought harbor from the rough waters of the Tsugaru Strait. The port of Aomori was and is a haven at the Northernmost tip of Japan’s main island Honshu, across the Strait from the Southern coast of Hokkaido. The history of the area dates as far back as Jomon and we, who are lucky to live in Japan, can actually access tasty bits of Aomori in our local Supermarkets! Why? Because the fall season is when coveted Aomori apples appear across the country! With just one bite of a delicious Aomori apple, we can almost taste the big sky, fresh air and rich soil of this beloved Prefecture.
At the tip of Honshu, Aomori is the epitome of Japan’s Tohoku region. Known for hardworking, kind people, a rich history riddled in great successes and difficult setbacks; beautiful scenery and delicious local cuisine are just a few special threads making up Aomori’s intricate weave.
Nebuta And Beautiful Foliage in Aomori Japan
Once on a clear day, I flew from Tokyo to Hakodate in Hokkaido and was taken aback by the rugged terrain, deep green and jagged coastline of Aomori. This is home to a tough, rugged and resilient people, a place where you can witness the incredible Summer spectacle of the Nebuta Festival, taste delicious Fuji apples, drink in the clear and expansive Lake Towada (the largest crater lake in Honshu) or stand in awe of Osore-zan which literally translated, actually means is “Mount Fear” and is located in the remote Shimokita Pennisula and, according to popular mythology, marks the entrance to HELL! Scary! This mountain is also guarded by Jizo who protects children and the location was established as a place of reverence by Jikaikutaishi in 862 AD. Now that is what we call a “location of interest!”.
The renowned Nebuta Festival was born of the creativity and inspiring scenery in Aomori. It remains a mystery as to exactly how the festival originated and where the word Nebuta (or Neputa in other dialects) was coined. There is no question that Aomori’s Nebuta festival is the oldest of its kind and it seems to have arisen from the idea of stomping on dirt over burial grounds…hmmm…kind of horrific! The colored, Kabuki-inspired floats are actually fantastic lanterns made from wooden frames, covered in intricately outlined paper and then the outlines are filled in with vibrant color. The huge lanterns are then hoisted up to five meters above ground and revelers in traditional dress parade them through the streets to the heavy beat of Japanese Taiko drums, all to the delight of eager onlookers who join in changing “Rassera”.
Scenery and lovely fresh fruit in Aomori Prefecture, Japan
Nebuta lanterns have fans across the globe and these have appeared in parades in the US, Hong Kong, Shanghai and elsewhere over the years. Some of the Prefecture’s difficult history includes tragedy in a deep snow march that left 199 Imperial soldiers dead in 1904, a devastating fire that destroyed much of the area in 1910 and subsequent fire bombings by the United States in 1945 that annihilated some 80% of the city. Despite so many difficulties, Aomori has come through, survived and flourished. Visitors can feel the heart and soul of this amazing area in the rousing drums of Nebuta, in the rows of carefully planted apple trees dotting the land and in the warm smiles abounding.
If you are in Japan in summer, visit the Nebuta Matsuri. In spring, make sure to view the Cherry Blossom spectacle at Hirosaki Castle, in Fall the brightly colored mountainsides of Hakkoda will thrill and in Winter you can enjoy skiing and snow pretty much anywhere in the Prefecture. If you cant make it on your next visit to Japan, stop by your nearest supermarket for a wonderful, albeit indirect, taste of Aomori in the form of a juicy, fresh Aomori grown apple!
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Former Deep Japan Writer