Spring comes to Yunoshima
Lately the snow has melted, and the weather in Aomori has been warming up. It’s hard to keep from wanting to rush outdoors and soak up the sun. Looking for something to do outdoors that would give me a taste of the spring, I heard of an event going on a small uninhabited island called Yunoshima, located in Asamushi, a neighbor in Aomori City famous for its hot springs. From now until April 25, you can take a small boat over to the island and go hiking to see the spring wildflowers that grow there, in particular, a favorite called the katakuri, or the Dogtooth Violet as it is known in English.
Having not eaten a really substantial breakfast, I went to “Pizza House Sharumu”, a well known establishment just a minute walk from the Asamushi Onsen train station, approximately 20 minutes and 4 stations away from Aomori Station. Anyway, it was my first time to eat here, so I had to try their pizza- I decided to go with the scallop pizza, since it was my first time to see scallop pizza, but they had a lot of different varieties of pizza on the menu. I also tried their famous “omuraisu” (a Japanese dish consisting of tomato sauce flavored rice covered in a nice hot gooey omelette. I know it sounds a little unbelievable, but “omuraisu” is one of those Japanese dishes you just have to try to appreciate.
After this delicious lunch, it was time to head to the docks to catch a boat ride to Yunoshima, the small mountain island just about 800 meters from the shore.
After a short 5 minute boat ride we were there on the island. From a distance it looked gray and bare, so I had my doubts about being able to see any signs of spring. However, it wasn’t long before I stumbled upon fresh life poking its head out of the fallen dead leaves.
It was very impressing to see the variety and beauty of all these early blooming spring wildflowers as I made my way up the steep sloping trail up to the 132 meter summit of the island. With of course, plenty of breaks to smell and take some pretty good shots of the flowers.
The day I visited Yunoshima was at the very beginning of the festival so there were few Dogtooth Violets in bloom on that particular day, but a great deal of buds were just a few days shy of blossoming. One of the volunteer guides on the island told me that it takes approximately 7-8 years for the Dogtooth Violet to grow before it blooms. The Dogtooth Violet is also a treasured plant in Japan since ancient times, gathered for its starch for use in cooking, similar to cornstarch. Today it is one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, and is also the most famous of the “spring ephemerals”, flowers which flower the earliest in spring and wither before summer. Satisfied on finally find a blooming Dogtooth Violet, I started my descent down the trail after taking in the scenery from the summit of the mountainous island.
By the time I had reached the shore and finished taking all my photos it was time to catch the boat back across to Asamushi. I was still pretty full from lunch but there’s always room for ice cream…
So I decided to treat myself to the “cassis” (black currant) ice cream at Yu-Sa, the Michi-no-eki (Road Station) at Asamushi. Aomori is the top producer of not only apples, but also black currants! You can find plenty of black currant jelly and even black currant wine in Aomori City, but I’m a fan of the ice cream.
Anyway, the “festival” at Yunoshima is just starting and will continue for two more weeks so if you have a chance, please check it out!
Yunoshima Dogtooth Violet Festival (Yunoshima Katakuri Matsuri)
April 3-25, 2010
Cost: 1000 Yen for a roundtrip boat ride (Board at the Asamushi Docks)