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Enchanting Winter Dreamer
Seek out Tohoku’s most authentic experiences
and walk in the shoes of a local in Iwate and Aomori.

HOME > Tohoku Colors > Enchanting Winter Dreamer

About this Tohoku travel

Japan is undoubtedly a favourite destination for many travellers for its rich culture, delectable cuisine,

and its wealth of natural wonders, from its snow-capped mountains to its sand dunes.

Yet, with trips to popular destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Sapporo,

most have only sampled the tip of the iceberg when it comes to experiencing what the country has to offer.

 

If you’re yearning to break away from cookie-cutter travel itineraries and dive into yet another undiscovered gem of a city,

the region of Tohoku is a good place to start. From illuminated winter wonderlands to a rustic,

yet artistic farm experience; here are eight things to do in the prefectures of Aomori and Iwate

that’ll trump most mainstream trips to Japan.

 

Written by Jeremy Jee De Sheng and Kimberly Wong for The Smart Local


Savour unbeatably fresh seafood at The Hasshoku Center

 

True-blue foodies know that a trip to Japan won’t be complete without a pit stop at a local fish market. Up in Aomori, The Hasshoku Center is chock-full of fishmongers selling their catches of the day. The center houses around 60 stalls that sell everything under the sea from fresh sea urchins, scallops, and oysters, to meat, fruit, snacks, and liquor.

 

 

For that hands-on experience of cooking your own meal, keep your eyes peeled for a “grill zone” or “Shichirin-mura” where you’ll find traditional Japanese charcoal grills for rent so you can throw your seafood on the barbecue and savour it right there and then.

 

If you do not want to grill the seafood yourself, the center is also home to a suite of restaurants that will let you satiate any cravings you may have, from Tonkatsu breaded pork to Gyudon beef on rice.


Get cultured at Towada Art Center & fuel up on Aomori’s legendary Apple Curry

 

 

It might seem unconventional to set up an art exhibition in a new city, but the Towada Art Center is not one to be missed if you’re a fan of contemporary artists including the likes of Yayoi Kusama and Yoko Ono. The museum pays tribute to international and Japanese artists with 33 art pieces on display.

 

 

Each art piece is visually captivating and cleverly encourages spatial and sensory interactions, so there won’t be a dull moment at the museum. Highlights include Choi Jeong Hwa’s flower-embellished horse and Ron Mueck’s larger-than-life grandma statue, amongst others.

 

 

Every prefecture seems to have an ace up its sleeve, and Aomori’s trump card is none other than its apples. As the city that supplies more than half of the country’s apple produce, Aomori’s most famed apple is prominently used in its Onsen and cooking, too. After working up an appetite roaming around the museum, treat yourself to a taste of Aomori’s very own apple curry (¥1,110, ~S$13.35) at the Museum’s in-house Cube Café.


Lose yourself in the majesty of Lake Towada at FeStA LuCe

 

Lake Towada is one spot of unadulterated natural beauty that sits in between Aomori and Akita, famed for its crystal clear waters and picturesque views. Another attraction of interest in the vicinity is Towada Shrine, revered as one of the most sacred sites in Japan steeped in tradition and mythology.

 

 

And while the shrine on its own is enthralling, travellers making the journey down in the winter will be treated to a spectacular light extravaganza at FeStA LuCe 2021-2022 - a festival of illumination that tells the tale of the legends surrounding Lake Towada and ends with a firework display. Ready yourself to be transported into a magical realm and lose yourself in the legend of Ryujin, the Japanese Dragon God.


Work up a sweat at the Michinoku Coca Cola Skating Rink

 

Ice skating is something synonymous with winter - especially in a country like Japan. But if you’re yearning for an experience on ice that’s out of the ordinary, you can try your hand at Curling, a winter Olympic sport, at the Michinoku Coca Cola Skating Rink in Morioka city.

 

 

As one of the few skating rinks in Japan to offer curling facilities, Michinoku Coca Cola Skating Rink is where you’ll be able to sign up for a 90-minute crash course on all there is to know about the sport at the affordable price of ¥2,000 (~S$24.05). The rink also offers skate rental for a day’s entry for ¥900 (~S$10.59) for those who prefer to skate instead.


Try your hand at Koginzashi Embroidery at Hoshino Resort

 

 

Koginzashi is the delicate art of embroidery that has its origins in the prefecture of Aomori. While beautiful, this 300-year-old art form carries with it the weight of a difficult time in Japan’s past where class differences drove commoners to turn to cotton embroidery on their clothes to resist the blistering winters up north.

 

Hoshino Resort Kai Tsugaru is one such place that offers its guests the opportunity to try their hand at the art of making a koginzashi-embroidered bookmark for free. You’ll find traces of koginzashi scattered throughout the hotel on lamp shades, as wall decorations and even on their Shoji rice paper screen doors.

 

Another highlight while staying at Hoshino Resort Kai Tsugaru is the food. Don’t miss out on the prefecture’s winter delicacy, Oma tuna, prepared in different ways and even served up in a “Negima” hot pot alongside local ingredients in the hotel’s Kaiseki multi-course dinner.


Frolic in a wintery wonderland
at Miyazawa Kenji Fairy Tale Village

 

 

Also situated in the heart of Koiwai Farm is Miyazawa Kenji Fairy Tale Village, a museum that’s the physical manifestation of famous local children’s book author Miyazawa Kenji. This museum showcases a mixture of indoor and outdoor exhibits that will take you on an otherworldly journey through a series of fantasy worlds inspired by the stories written by Kenji.

 


Marvel at the galaxy at Koiwai Farm

 

 

A trip to Iwate calls for a visit to Koiwai Farm, Japan’s largest private farm that sits at the foot of Mount Iwate. This conserved 3,000-hectare plot of land is home to over 60,000 chickens, cattle, sheep, and horses and is open to the public for a small entrance fee of ¥800 ($9.42).

 

 

Hop aboard a horse-and-tractor-drawn tram ride around the grounds, sample some freshly churned butter and soft serve ice cream, or sign yourself up for a session of snowshoeing in the winter through a lush forest trail. You’d not want to pass up a trek to the famous 100-year-old solitary cherry tree that stand further north of the farm grounds.

 

At night, the grounds come alive with thousands of twinkling fairy lights in an expansive display that draws inspiration from Miyazawa Kenji’’s classic tale - Night on the Galactic Railroad.

 

Aside from restaurants and a museum, you’ll also find the Makiba Astronomical Observatory, a planetarium that offers you a mesmerising view of the galaxy and its planets through the lens of a rare air telescope.


Put your appetite to the test
in an all-you-can-eat challenge at Azumaya Soba

 

 

Soba lovers will relish a trip to Azumaya Soba, a restaurant that serves up Morioka’s prominent Wanko-Soba Noodles in a thrilling all-you-can-eat challenge that will see you polishing off tens, and possibly hundreds, of mini bowls of soba in a single sitting. Sounds incredulous? Definitely, but don’t fret. Around 15 mini bowls of soba actually make up a normal portion of soba that you’d usually expect in a restaurant.

 

 

For a small registration fee of ¥3,240 (~S$31.80), you can partake in the challenge which begins with the serving of nine side dishes and a dedicated waitress constantly refilling your bowl with minute portions of soba until you tap out in defeat. Here’s a little motivation to aim for a minimum of a hundred bowls: for your valiant efforts, you’ll walk away with a certificate of your soba-eating chops!


If you’re a bonafide lover of Japan yearning to explore more of what the country has to offer, Aomori and Iwate will fill your cup with its natural beauty, hearty dose of culture and host of new experiences.


Spot Details

  • Hasshoku Center (Fish Market)(MAP①)  

    22-2 Aza-Kansai, Kawaragi, Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture

    For more information
    None
  • Towada Art Center(MAP②)  

    10-9 Nishi-Nibancho, Towada City, Aomori Prefecture

    For more information
    None
  • Cube Café & Shop(MAP③)  

    10-9 Nishi-Nibancho, Towada City, Aomori Prefecture

    For more information
    None
  • Lake Towada Winter Stories of LIGHT by FeStA LuCe 2021-2022(MAP④)  

    Towada Shrine, 486 Yasumiya, Lake Towada, Okuse, Towada City, Aomori Prefecture

    For more information
    None
  • Morioka Ice Rink (Michinoku Coca-Cola Bottling Rink)(MAP⑤)  

    5-3-3 Motomiya, Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture

    For more information
    None
  • Hoshino Resorts KAI Tsugaru(MAP⑥)  

    36-1 Aza-Kamibotanmori, Owani, Owani-machi, Minamitsugaru-gun, Aomori Prefecture

    For more information
    None
  • Koiwai Farm (MAP⑦)  

    36-1 Maruyachi, Shizukuishi-cho, Iwate-gun, Iwate Prefecture

    For more information
    None
  • Miyazawa Kenji Dowa Mura (MAP⑧)  

    26-19 Takamatsu, Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture

    For more information
    None
  • Azumaya SOBA SHOP ekimae (MAP⑨)  

    8-11 Morioka-Ekimae-dori, Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture

    For more information
    None
  • Daidoen Morioka Main Store (Shop) (MAP⑩)  

    2-6-19 Saien, Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture

    For more information
    None
  • Hotel Shi-on (MAP⑪)  

    74-2 Yunoyakata, Tsunagi, Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture

    For more information
    None


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