Archive for aomori

Shinkansen Test Run to Brand New Shin-Aomori Station

Posted in 1, Aomori-city with tags , , , , on April 16, 2010 by Yuko
Since the Shinkansen – bullet train is coming to Aomori City in December, the new station is in the course of construction.  First 200 public applicants, press people and people in Tourism were invited to the one-day tour on the day of  first test run.    

New Shinkansen Shin-Aomori Station under Construction

 Aomori is a peaceful country, and you do not really find modern buildings.  One of my colleagues who went this place with me said “Wow, this is like the building in Tokyo”.  I thought that was cute.      

Hallway

Shining Walls and Escalators Under Inspection

   

Waiting Room

Ticketing and Travel Service Center

 It was fun to see the train station while not completely equipped…..                                                                                                                     

The Wall without Ticket Machines

We could find some materials produced in Aomori in the building.  Can you tell from the following pictures?      

Q1 What are these red bars made of ?

Red Bar Close Up(sorry- I couldn't take the pic beautifully)

A1 is Tsugaru Lacquerware.  This is called Nanako, one of  four types of lacquer patterning in Tsugaru Lacquerware.  People who found the Nanako on the pillars were saying “Oh…luxury pillars”.      

Q2 Can you guess what kind of wood was used to make the bench chairs?

 A2 is Aomori Hiba Cypress, which is aromatic, durable and has beautiful grains. It is popular to make furniture, bath tubs and wood crafts.

Q3 Who influences Aomori people on printmaking?

      

Close-up of the Work

     

 

   

A3 is Munakata Shiko – a famous printmaker who was born in Aomori-City.  Please enjoy Christy’s previous entry on A Glimse into Aomori’s artsy side-Munakata Shiko for more information about him.     The original of this huge work was made by 242 groups of Aomori citizens in 2003 to celebrate Munakata’s 100th anniversary.       

Platform Sign

The platform is on the 2nd floor. This station will be the terminal of Tohoku Shinkansen in Honshu Island.  Then it is to be connected with Hokkaido Shinkansen rail line in about 5 years.      

People Flocking in the Platform

 I heard about 600 people got together to welcome the first train coming to this station. Suddenly the Nebuta festival live music started, which was a signal of the train arrival, and all people got ready to  take pictures and filming the train.      

The inspection train appeared!

Inspection Train "East i"

 The inspection train “East i” which is equipped with all the measuring device and inspection apparatus left Hachinohe Station at 2:00am, kept running 30km/h and arrived at this station at 9:49am.  Gradually test speed will get faster and final test run will be 260km/h as the maximum speed in the end of June. Amazing!        

    

     

Welcome ceremony was held.   

   

By Shinkansen it will take only 3 hours and 10 minutes from Tokyo to  Aomori-city from December 2010.  Those who will hold Japan Rail Pass while staying in Japan, please do not fail to visit Aomori!!!   

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Aomori Winter Festival

Posted in 1, Aomori-city with tags , , , , on February 6, 2010 by Christy

This weekend, Gappo Park in Aomori City is hosting its annual winter festival! The park is only about 20 minutes from Aomori Station and there are a lot of great activities to check out!

Gappo Park entrance

locals gathering around for the winter fun

The first thing that caught my eye was the bread making area! Check this out!

bread making area

For 200 yen you receive a bamboo stick that the little ladies wrap dough around.  It looks like this!

the yummy bread starts here

wrapping the dough

After the dough is prepared, you cook your bread over a coal fire. It takes a while, but it was really yummy!

warming the bread

dekiagari! the final product!

As you can see in this photo, there a lot of other activities that are going on such as a BINGO game! You can win everything from Onsen tickets to food!

If you make it early enough in the morning there is also mochi tsuki (rice pounding)! Mochi-tsuki is a traditional Japanese activity that usually occurs around the New Year. Basically it involves a large wooden hammer that pounds cooked rice into soft rice cakes. You can also enjoy watching Japanese dance, eating, horse riding, or a HUGE snow slide. Look at this!

snow slide

If you are interested, the festival is going on through tomorrow, so get on your winter suit and join the fun!

If you can’t make it for the winter festivities the park offers seasonal fun year-round from cherry blossom viewing in the spring to a marathon event in the summer. Put Gappo Park on your next list of places to go in Aomori City!

Event Details

Date:February 6 -7
Time: 9:00 – 16:00
Parking available for 500 yen
3 minute walk from Gappo Koen Mae bus stop

A Cozy Shop and Cafe in Namioka

Posted in 1, Aomori-city with tags , , , on January 23, 2010 by Yuko

Namioka area is known with producing tasty apples, and this peaceful apple farm town didn’t have any particular shops or restaurants which attract younger generation…..until this cafe opened.

 

 

This shop & cafe is located along the  national road, Route 7 and I enjoy lunch here on the way going to Hirosaki-city from Aomori-city.

 

In the picture above, can you see something small and yellow on the right?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found a poisonous mushroom in the snow.    Cute.

                                                   

 

The signboard design company runs this cafe, and occasionally rearrange the art display according to the season.

  

 

 

 

 

 The tables are made like the  jewelry showcase, and small cute items are displayed with seasonal theme in each table. 

 

 

 

My favorite lunch set – Spaghetti Genovese, Salad and Vegetable Broth

 

I believe food is like a mirror of the cook.  When cooks are in the bad mood, or hate their job, you can feel it.   Pictures can also tell you when the served foods are lifeless, they don’t look tasty.

I think these pictures reflect the cook’s feeling that she wants us to enjoy lunch and staying here.   I can’t believe this lunch set is only 600yen…  

One more increadible generous part in this cafe is, all drinks become 150yen for visitors ordering lunch set.

So I had “Maccha Iced Latte”, one of the most expensive drinks in the menu (haha), which was using real maccha and milk foam.   !Que Fantastica!

FYI this cafe serves “Illy” espresso.  You can buy Illy coffee powder at the imported food stores in Aomori, but there are not many cafes serving “buonissimo” espresso around Aomori city.

 

 

Before or after enjoying food and drinks, you can look around the shop area which has many products including original acrylic products.

My personal favorite is Sushi clock in the middle of the picture below.

Spending long winter in Aomori-city is never easy. Heavy snow, grey sky and icy roads like a skating rink always get me down.   This cafe, having happy and peaceful atmosphere helps me to escape from reality for a while.

I’ve never been to this cafe by train, but the map shows it is only 5 min walk from JR Namioka Sta.  The menu is written in Japanese and also in Enligsh with many pics.  So I think foreign visitors don’t have to hesitate visiting here at all.

I heard waffles and Hamburg with various sauce choice including Miso sauce are delicious too.  Please visit there and let me know if you liked them.

Shop & Cafe   Ai+Plus

82-1 Nishihanaoka Megasawa Namioka, Aomori-city

By Car:  Approx. 2km from Apple Hill(rest area)  From Apple Hill, go straight toward Hirosaki-city, and you’ll find the white building with  a burgandy signboard on the left side.

On Foot:  See the website map

Open Hours: 10:30am~6:00pm

Closed: Sunday

Website: http://www.ai-sign.com/aiplus@/aiplustop.html

Nebuta no sato – A village or two

Posted in 1, Aomori-city with tags , , , on January 17, 2010 by Christy

As I am sure many of you have heard, Aomori is famous for its Nebuta Festival.  However, since it only lasts for one short week in August, it may be hard to catch. For those of you that miss it, there is a great attraction called “Nebuta no sato” (The village of Nebuta), located near Moya Hills in Aomori City.

Is open year-round and offers a great chance to experience Nebuta.

entrance to Nebuta no sato

There are several Nebuta floats on display.

Nebuta floats
another Nebuta float

However, the line up of Nebuta floats just begins the fun as there is also a live performance! The live Nebuta music on a snowy day really made me wish it was August…

live performers

You can also experience dressing up  in a Nebuta costume, dancing, or even pulling a float. It’s the true package!

Now, if you are lucky enough to be visiting in January or Feburary – there is still one more treasure to be revealed.

A village of igloos!

entrance to the igloo area

Yes, that’s right folks, in the winter months Nebuta no sato sets up an area with igloos for visitors to enjoy.

Each igloo is based around a certain kind of apple.

An igloo featuring the "Mutsu" apple

Mutsu apples on display inside

Ourin Apple Igloo

Ourin apples on display inside

It’s fun going around to all of the igloos and checking out the different kinds of apples. However, beware – you might be roped into helping dig some of the unfinished igloos!  The snow was almost like ice, we didn’t get very far. This little old man told me it would take about 2 hours to carve out the entrance.

here I am...shoveling some snow

we didn't make it very far

Before you head home though, don’t forget to try out some old traditional winter wear. Nebuta no sato lets visitors borrow tranditional Japanese clothing. It’s quite fun!

Here is the first item. In Japanese its called a “chanchanko” also know as a “hancha” in Tsugaru dialect. It’s basically a nice warm vest.

nice warm vest

Over the “chanchanko” goes a shall, known as a “kakumaki”. You can wear it on your shoulders or over your head if  it’s snowing.

warm shalls in every color

And last but not least, straw boots. They are known as “warakutsu” in Japanese. I was actually surprised, they were quite comfortable for walking!

straw boots

After getting dressed Japanese style, back out to the igloos!

the ensemble

What do you think?

If you get a chance I highly recommed visiting Nebuta no sato at this time of year. It’s great winter fun!

Nebuta no sato
Business Hours: 9:00 – 17:30 (last entry at 17:00)
Entrance Fee: 420 yen for adults, 150 – 310 yen for children
URL: http://www.nebutanosato.co.jp
Live Nebuta performances at 11:00, 13:00, and 15:00

Sanuki Udon Chain in Aomori

Posted in 1, Aomori-city with tags , on December 30, 2009 by Yuko

Udon, thick white noodles made from wheat are very popular food Japanese people enjoy eating all seasons but especially in winter.  Aomori doesn’t really have authentic Udon culture, but Kagawa (in Shikoku Island) people are so very picky and serious about Udon.   I used to work with a boss who was from Kagawa-ken(prefecture).   He always wanted to eat Udon, and my co-worker introduced some restaurants in Aomori-City.  After my boss went to 5 or 6 Udon restaurants, he said “I don’t think I’ve ever had any noodles I call Udon in Aomori” with heavy irony.

Until recently, people in Aomori were not aware of the difference between Udon we usually buy from supermarkets and Sanuki(old name of Kagawa) Udon which people in Kagawa eat.   I actually had Sanuki Udon about 5 years ago when I traveled around west area of Japan.  It was SO DELICIOUS with firm but chewy texture…totally different from what I thought was Udon in my life.  Since then I’ve been a big fan of Sanuki Udon.

BTW this blog aims to introduce something charming and typical about Aomori, and I know introducing Sanuki Udon “chain” restaurant is not really cool. But I wanted to give the future foreign visitors to Aomori or Japan the idea of going to the reasonable Udon restaurants which should be better than going to the world’s largest hamburger chain to save the food expenses….

This is a new restaurant opened 2 months ago.  I checked the website and there were 321 chains of this Udon restaurant all over Japan.

Udon restaurant

This place is run on the cafeteria principle.

Udon Counter

First you order Udon, (choosing helping size, hot/cold, with broth or not etc..) then you can pick some options of various veggies or seafood tempra, rice balls and Inari(Sushi rice wrapped in fried tofu ).  The lowest Udon price is 280yen, and most optional food are 100 yen/pcs.

Toppings, Seasoning and Chinese Spoons "Help Yourself"

Here is my Udon Dinner – 480yen!

Torotama Udon(Udon topped with half boiled egg and grated chinese yam) and Squid Tempura

I wanted to take other food pictures for foreign readers who might be scared of chinese yam or squid, but a staff told me not to take too many pictures. I didn’t quite understand why, but had to keep it on the down low anyway.

It was tasty. Personally I felt the noodles were boiled too long.  It might have a slight change by who would be boiling the noodles, so I think I have to go there again for the second try.

If you want to learn how to order in this kind of self service Sanuki Udon places in Japanese, you could look up the Kagawa-ken pages of “Japan” guide book published by Lonely Planet.   It has the great explanations and instructions about Sanuki Udon.

Marugame Seimen

2-3-25 Daini-Tonyacho Aomori-shi

11:00a.m.-9:30p.m. (last orders)

No English Menu

It’s snowing!

Posted in Aomori-city with tags , , , on December 23, 2009 by Christy

Winter has come around again…and it’s time to discuss a popular word in Aomori: snow.
Yup, that’s right, I’m sure as you have heard, Aomori City gets a lot of snow. And when we say a lot, we mean a lot!
With nearly 20 feet of snow annually, most mornings are spent shoveling snow just to get out of your house to the road.

While Aomori City sees quite a bit of snow over the winter months, other areas around the  prefecture including Hachinohe and Misawa see a much colder winter with significantly less precipitation.

I was driving past Sannai-maruyama (a Jomon ruins site) last weekend and noticed a friendly sign of winter.

This HUGE snowman!

Big Yukidaruma in front of the Sannai Maruyama Site in Aomori City

Although Sannai-maruyama may not be the best place to visit this time of year, if you are visiting the nearby Aomori Prefectural Art Museum, I would recommending taking a short walk over to check out this big guy ;)

Sushi Course in Ippachi Sushi

Posted in 1, Aomori-city with tags , on December 20, 2009 by Yuko

I went to the popular Sushi place, Ippachi Sushi for “Uchiage”.  Uchiage is “Wrap-up party” or “Job-well-done party” in Japanese.    I think it is one of the characteristic customs in Japanese business.  When you are involved in some kind of big projects or events and after everythings was done, you will definitely be invited to Uchiage party –  and here is the characteristic part – you are tacitly NOT EXPECTED to be absent from the party.  So Uchiage party is still a part of your business, and is held at an average cost of 5,000 yen.  No matter you drink alcohol or not, you pay the same price.   So if you do not drink alcohol, you have to enjoy EATing to get your money’s worth!      

Here are the Sushi Course of 3,500 yen( food only) I had.      

Soy sauce plate and chopsticks - I like the Ippachi Sushi Logo with smiling face on top of tuna roll.

Starter - Veggies with miso,tofu,sesame paste topped with salmon roe

Assorted Sashimi for 4 people (Oh So Delicious!)

Pickled Daikon Radish "Gakkura-zuke"

You can find pickled daikon radish almost anywhere in Japan. But only northern part (Aomori, Akita, Iwate) call it “Gakkura-zuke”, and  has this shape. 

Daikon is roughly chopped so that  flavors quickly permeate the vegetables.  This is a traditional, local specialty  food in winter and many people love this mild sweet pickle. After I ate 1 big piece, I wanted to have another one but all 5 or 6 plates were already empty in 5 minutes….sad :(     Anyways, pickled daikon radish is good to refresh your palate. 

Bamboo-shaped Sake Pot and Cup

Deep-fried minced crab and vegetables, topped with green onion, grated carrot and daikon

Grilled Black Cod

BTW one of the attendances was “numero uno” influential person in this area, and I knew his monthly salary was 5 times as  mine.  He and I were paying equally for this party.  I could not agree about what price was fair. But none of us dares to say the complaint openly, because we are modest “Japanese”.

The Numero Uno left earlier to attend another party, so I allowed myself to  eat his Sushi too…(haha)    I was a sober state and others were getting tipsy and were enjoying conversation. No one was paying attention to Sushi—so wasting!  

Sushi for 2 or 3 people -Yummy!

 I could learn a new thing that night.  “Go to Sushi Bar with guys who drink a lot and not eat much” —  I was stuffed with Sushi, and it was almost like “all you can eat”,  a moment of great happiness for Uchiage.  

Well Ippachi Sushi is definitely not expensive for Sushi, and for its freshness and comfortable services.    It is close to the Aomori JR station….oh as one more information, I started to teach English business conversation to the information staff in Aspam(triangular building in Aomori City), and currently I am teaching them how to show the way to Ippachi Sushi in English. So please ask them if you want to go, and they should show you the way perfectly :)

Ippachi Sushi

1-10-1 Shinmachi, Aomori-shi

Mon-Sat:  11:30 am-9:45pm

Sun: 11:30am-8:45pm

Closed: 2nd & 4th Sundays every month