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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan. Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan.
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare. An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare.
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife. Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife.
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan. Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan.
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara. The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara.
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower. Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower.
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving. Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving.
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky. The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky.
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

Wild forests, waterfalls and a traditional castle town are a hiker's paradise

Escape to the beauty of the north in these areas of Aomori Prefecture, where natural beauty and ancient tradition thrive.

Don't Miss

  • Hirosaki Castle and its expansive grounds
  • The varied colors of the Twelve Lakes
  • Three waterfalls that rush into one at Anmon Falls
  • Bathing in the soft light of oil lamps at Aoni Onsen

How to Get There

The Hirosaki and Shirakami areas are in the southwestern part of Aomori Prefecture, and accessible by car, train, bus and air.

By train, Hirosaki is most easily accessed from Tokyo via Aomori, the last station on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, and the connection point to the Hokkaido Shinkansen. From there, the local train to Hirosaki takes 30-40 minutes. All trains are covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

Flights from Tokyo to Aomori take about one hour and 20 minutes. From the airport, a bus to Hirosaki takes about one hour.

There are a variety of highway buses from Tokyo that travel during the day or overnight. These take around 10 hours.

A grand castle

Hirosaki is the area's main city and transport hub. It is also a well-preserved castle town, with Hirosaki Castle at the center. Built by the Tsugaru clan, it is especially well-known today for its spectacular cherry blossoms in spring, its botanical garden, and the stately Gokoku Shrine. There is also a small lake where you can rent rowboats.

Seasonal festivals

Whether you visit for winter's Snow Lantern Festival, the Cherry Blossom Festival in spring, summer's Neputa Festival or to enjoy the autumn foliage, Hirosaki Castle and its grounds are beautiful. Due to be finished around 2025, renovations to the stone foundation offer insights into how Japanese castles were built.

Hiking in Shirakami Sanchi

With so fascinating places close by, Hirosaki makes for a natural hub for exploring further. The Shirakami Sanchi UNESCO World Heritage Site is the biggest draw, especially for hikers. There are 12 official hiking trails in Shirakami Sanchi, ranging from easy to hard-core mountain trekking, all offering spectacular vistas.

A string of stunning lakes

Like a necklace of precious gems, there are 33 jewel-colored ponds and lakes scattered throughout the Shirakami Sanchi area. They are thought to have formed when a large earthquake caused a landslide and are known as Juniko, or Twelve Lakes, because only 12 were visible from the collapsed mountain when they first formed. The most famous is a small pond called Aoike, which is a brilliant cobalt blue.

Three waterfalls in one

Also located in the Shirakami Sanchi, Anmon Falls are three waterfalls that appear as one, connected vertically. A hike takes you along the river to the source of the water. Follow the trail up the cliff to see the base of each rushing fall. Throughout the area, the thick virgin beech forest embraces you with greenery.

Onsen bathing by oil lamp

Aoni Onsen is a traditional Japanese hot spring and, as usual, you bathe naked. The indoor baths are gender segregated, but be aware that the outdoor bath is mixed. There are two one-hour time slots when women can bathe outdoors privately.

Aoni Onsen is so remote that there is no cellphone reception, and the baths are lit only by oil lamps. Relax and unwind in this magical place where time stands still.

Hirosaki's eye-catching Neputa Festival

The Hirosaki Neputa Festival, held annually in the first week of August, shouldn't be missed. The main event is a parade made up of giant illuminated floats, painted with brilliant depictions of warriors, samurai and glamorous women. It celebrates the past returns of victorious warriors. As night falls, the majestic floats glow in the dark.

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