This past year, a group of friends and I took a one day trip to Aomori.
Yes, day trip. That’s from Sapporo to Aomori City and it only took a day.
Though we were all excited to go to Aomori, the main point was experiencing the bullet train. Last year, we finally got connected to the main island of Honshu via the Shinkansen. Before that, travel was mainly through plane, ferry and overnight train. I wish I had experienced that overnight train from Sapporo to Tokyo, but I never did. That particular line, The Cassiopeia, got discontinued because of the Shinkansen.
The toughest part of the journey is the ride from Sapporo to Hakodate on a regular express train, The Hokuto. Going with a group of friends is not so bad, as you can chat, drink, eat snacks, and watch the view. It made for a fun trip despite having to get up early. We had to catch the second earliest train from Sapporo Station. The train ride is about four hours long. It’s tough when you’re not driving because you can’t stop the car to stretch your legs. The good thing is, you can always get up and move around in the cabin.
Once we got to Hakodate, we changed to the Shinkansen, which only took about an hour to get to Honshu, at Aomori City. The ride is smooth and fast, but once you enter the tunnel, there’s really not much to see outside. It’s just dark. But we got there quickly. The highlight was the Ekiben:
We got a good deal on the ride as the JR Hokkaido was offering a slight discount on the regular prices. We saved about 2000 yen because we just happened to go on the one day that they had the promo. You could go any time, but we lucked out on our timing. You do have to make the reservations beforehand, though, for that deal.
Once we got to Aomori, we had about five hours to look around. Since we had lunch in the Shinkansen, we were able to walk around and go to the places we wanted to see. Aomoroi is not a big city, and aside from Nebuta and Neputa, there really isn’t much to see. Luckily, there was a cheap hop on, hop off bus system you could ride all day for one price. It took you to all the major tourist spots, which is not much 🙂
In the five hours we spent there, we went to Warasse, which is a museum dedicated to Nebuta. Inside there are a lot of previous floats. These floats weighed at least 2 tons, and it is carried on the backs of men as they parade it down the street. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that fact.
At the museum, if you want, you can experience drumming and also dancing. They teach you the basic rhythm and the basic dance step. So even if you don’t get to see the real thing, at least you know what it’s about.
In that area, everything was within walking distance so we also went to the port and the shopping area there, A-Factory.
Since Aomori is known for apples, there are many types of apple products for sale. It was a great place to get your souvenirs. On the second floor, there is type of bar where you can spend about ¥1000 yen where you can sample different types of cider and wine made from apples. It was a good system and a nice to place to relax and have a drink.
Next to A-Factory is the very photogenic Aomori Bay Bridge. It was a nice area to take a walk. Since we went in the spring, some of the trees still had cherry blossoms and it was quite lovely to see.
We then head out to the Sannai Maruyama Ruins, which is an outdoor space dedicated to the archaeological and historical site of some remains from the Jomon period. You get to see the still standing structures and an excellent museum with great displays.
If you’re interested in art, there is an art musuem that is very close to this historical site. None of my friends wanted to go see it, so it didn’t make the list and we skipped it.
For some reason, the journey back to Sapporo from Hakodate was the toughest. We were all worn out from walking around, but it was difficult to get some rest in the train. My butt hurt so much just sitting on the train.
Still, though, it was a busy and productive day trip 🙂