Archive for festival

Cherishing Cherry Blossoms at Night

Posted in Hirosaki-city with tags , , , , on May 6, 2010 by Yuko

In recent years, cherry blossoms in full bloom in Aomori haven’t met  the consecutive national holidays called “Golden Week”.  But this year they did and helped many visitors to enjoy viewing beautiful cherry blossoms in Hirosaki Park, and drew about 430,000 people in a day, on May 3.

Please enjoy the excuisite photos of Hirosaki cherry blossoms taken by Zack in the daytime which you can see in his previous post.  Cherry blossoms are always beautiful against a blue sky, but my all-time favorite cherry blossom viewing in Hirosaki is at night, with light-up.

I believe this captivating atmosphere is only in Hirosaki Park.   My pictures are never the best to tell its amazingness, but I wanted to share some pictures with you.

I always get totally intoxicated with the atmosphere, which is never the same without these cherry blossoms.  I don’t know why, but everytime I visit Hirosaki Park, I feel cherry blossoms in the area of Honmaru – Hirosaki Castle are particularly enchanting.











During this season both joy and sadness cross my mind – cherry blossoms are the messenger which tells us the end of  long and severe winter. They are vibrant but too ephemeral pleasure  like a short dream.  That’s why Hirosaki cherry blossoms are special and very precious to local people, and that’s why we want you to come and experience this ephemeral beauty at night by yourselves.   

Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival

Hirosaki Park – approx 25 minutes walk from JR Hirosaki Station (taxi, buses are also available)

April 23 – May5 

Light-up;  from sunset to 11:00pm (this year the light-up and the open-air stall inside the park are postponed until May 9)


Yakisoba Soup in Kuroishi

Posted in Kuroishi-city with tags , , , , , , on February 21, 2010 by Christy

Have you ever delighted in yakisoba?  Japanese and foreigners alike seem to be quite the fan. Yakisoba is simply a stir-fry noodle mixed with vegetables and meat and topped with a variety of delicious Japanese flavors including aonori (seaweed powder) and beni shoga (shredded pickled ginger). It seems to be quite a popular dish at festivals here in Japan and many foreigners claim to have devoured the dish many of times.

Today in my adventures around Kuroishi City I happened to stumble upon a new variation of the dish.  “Tsuyu Yakisoba” or Yakisoba soup!!  It is the same noodles and flavor, but in a soup! It kind of reminded me of ramen or hot soba.

Tsuyu Yakisoba apparently has quite a history in quaint Kuroishi as it has been around since the 1950s. Today I tried out the original yakisoba flavor but I the dish is known to come in several variations as “scallop tsuyu yakisoba” and “curry tsuyu yakisoba” also are popular.

Here is how it is made:

the standard yakisoba is put in a bowl... is topped with soup...

...ta daa!! Here you have tsuyu yakisoba

It was quite tasty! And I recommend it to any foreigners wanting to try another Japanese food!  If you are looking for a place to enjoy some Tsuyu Yakisoba, Kuroishi has a great area called Tsugaru Denshou Kougeikan. It is a collection of shops with traditional Tsugaru arts and crafts.  There is also a wonderful “ashi-yu” (foot bath), and a few options if you are interested in trying Kuroishi Yakisoba.

Tsugaru Denshou Kougeikan

Tsugaru Denshou Kougeikan

ashi-yu foot bath

The area also has a small winter festival going on daily 10 – 4 through February 28. There is traditional art performance, snowmobiling and good food. Get out, enjoy the winter, and warm up with some Yakisoba soup!

Tsugaru Denshou Kougeikan
Free Parking
Bus running a few times daily from Kuroishi Station


Information on the winter festival:

Upcoming Event: Koharu Doori Festival in Aomori

Posted in Aomori-city with tags , , on February 18, 2010 by Yuko

I am pretty sure almost no foreigners know about this small festival, because this has never been introduced in English and I’ve never seen foreigners coming to this festival before. 

So why don’t you come this year????

This annual festival was actually started 4 years ago, to celebrate the completion of sidewalk road heating system along the national road route 4 & 7 (around the area of government and other public offices).     It was to be the one-shot event, but since the committee including local companies, branches of Nationwide company, volunteer staff enjoyed working together to cheer up the residents in a torpid state, the committee decided to hold the festival every year in February. 

This year Koharu Doori Festival will be held from February 18  – 20.     In these 3 days, I recommend you to join the festival on the 20th, Saturday from 10:00am!   Why?  Because EVERYTHING is FREE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Picture from the last year - get on the snow plow!

You can test-ride the snow plows, enjoy Maccha green tea with Japanese sweets, Aomori specialty seafood (Nanako-hacchin) miso soup, bread making  like Christy did in Gappo park, Oshiruko(hot & sweet bean soup with rice cake), making cotton candy,  cake & tea heated with IH stove (sponsored by the electric  power company)….you don’t have to bring your purse to buy food in this festival.   You can get many giveaway by answering the questionnaire, by winning at rock-paper-scissors and so on.

Bread making- always fun.

The main place will be the parking lot of Aomori City Hall, so you can’t park there on Saturday.   If you are coming by car, probably need to park at the Yanagimachi Underground Parking.

This festivel is subtitled,”Enjoy by walking” because 12 places and buildings along the route 4 & 7 are the festival venue (you can find the map at the bottom of the flyer).

I will be at this festival all day, emceeing in the Aomori City Hall parking area.  If you need help in English, please come and feel free to talk to me.     Hope to see you there!   

 Koharu Doori Festival

Date: February 20 (Sat) 10:00am – 3:00pm

Place: Aomori City Hall parking area and other 11 buildings







Hirosaki Snow Lantern Festival

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , on February 12, 2010 by Zack

The Hirosaki Snow Lantern Festival is held every year in February. This is my third winter in Aomori, but the first time I’ve had a chance to visit Hirosaki for this festival which is going on this year from February 11th to February 14th-Valentine’s Day. And it’s very fitting because this festival is certainly romantic.

Approximately 150 Japanese garden style lanterns made out of snow are constructed throughout Hirosaki Park and the grounds of Hirosaki Castle in the center of the park. Each lantern is illuminated by candles with Neputa festival styled paintings, a symbol of the Tsugaru area.

Majestic Mt. Iwaki overlooking Hirosaki is called the Mt. Fuji of Tsugaru

I recommend arriving at Hirosaki Park a little bit before sundown, so you can have a chance to see all the grounds and take pictures before it gets dark. But don’t worry, everything lights up at night so you won’t miss anything if you arrive later.

A swan poses on the frozen moat of Hirosaki Castle

This is the keep, the center of Hirosaki Castle, and is beautiful all year round, the spring cherry blossoms, the summer greenery, the fall foliage, and finally the winter white. Winter might very well be my favorite for the contrast of the red bridge and monochromatic winter landscape.

Volunteers preparing lights in some of the 300 miniature igloos on display

Can't wait to see what this looks like when it gets dark out!

Besides the 150 snow lanterns, countless numbers of snow sculptures and holes in the snow hold decorations, all made carefully by the entire city of Hirosaki. Each school has its own snow sculptures and lanterns, as well as various community groups and businesses that all come together to create this splendid event. I ran into a whole line of hand designed lanterns made by the students of an elementary school I’ve taught at, as well as run into some friends I hadn’t see in months. It’s nice to know that a festival like this brings people and the community together.

Twilight gradually fades into night, bringing the lanterns to life.

In one part of the park by a shrine there is a wide open space filled with vendors of hot foods and Japanese confections. Every year this area is home to the stage area with live performances of various sorts, including the local musical tradition of Tsugaru Jamisen (or Shamisen). A three-stringed instrument similar to a banjo famous from the area. You can also find several impressively built sledding slopes for kids, and tall snow sculptures all made by various groups in Hirosaki. They also have a great building sculpture each year of a landmark building in Hirosaki. This year it was the old Aomori Bank, towering at 9 meters high!

Shimajiro, a famous tiger and toddler favorite

Another beautiful snow lantern

A wall of snow lanterns illuminate your way in the dark

The 300 miniature igloo lanterns were absolutely breathtaking

And of course… what festival wouldn’t be complete with souvenirs? There were many different vendors selling the great delicacies of Aomori, including my favorite, Kenoshiru. Unfortunately though the hearty and warm Kenoshiru was so popular that it sold out by 4pm so I didn’t get to have any. I guess you need to get there extra early! Anyway, they also had apple art! These apples are mostly given as a gift since they are so precious to eat. Various designs, including Chinese characters for words like “dream”, “congratulations”, “hope”, “thank you”, and pictures of lucky cats and even Valentine’s designs. A decal is applied to the apple preventing it from turning red in the late summer sun to create these wonderful works of art. But they can be a pit pricey, some of these sell for just under 2000 yen, about $20 US per apple! Quite the gift!

Like I said, it was my first time to see the Hirosaki Snow Lantern Festival, and I had such a good time I wish I had made the trip earlier. I highly recommend coming here with that someone special, and warming up your heart with the soft snow light during this, one of the coldest months in Aomori.

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

Entrancing Emburi

Posted in 1 with tags , , on January 28, 2010 by Zack
The long winter nights are slowly and gradually growing shorter. Spring is still far away but approaching in Aomori. February is just a few days away, and although it is the coldest month in terms of temperature, things start to heat up a little bit in Aomori, with many winter events and festivals being held all over the prefecture. One such event is Emburi, a festival like tradition of Hachinohe City and the surrounding area. It’s hard to describe Emburi, but if I had to choose a word, I would probably call it entrancing. Rather than talk about it though, I think it would be better if you watched it instead!
How about it? Entrancing? Emburi is said to have originated from a type of Dengaku, a type of rural agricultural ceremony including music and dance. Performances of this art form are held for 4 days from February 17th to February 20th every year in Hachinohe City. Men adorn tall hats reminiscent of horses, an important animal to the agriculture, lifestyle, and culture of the area, the Nambu Region.
Emburi Horse Hats

Details of horses and agriculture practices can still be seen on Emburi hats.

Emburi was designated as an important intangible cultural property by the Japanese national government in 1979, but its history goes back much further, approximately 800 years. The name Emburi is mostly a dialectal variant name for a small rake like agricultural tool called “eburi” in Japanese which is used to pound the ground stirring the spirits of the spring and ensure a bountiful harvest in the fall of the coming year.
Other dances and performances also make up the entire tradition of Emburi. Young children also participate by dressing up and dancing in cute and comical performances. The boy below is dressed up as the god Ebisu, the god of fisherman and good luck in a dance where he reels in a large auspicious red snapper.

A little boy plays the role of the lucky god Ebisu.


Two girls dance as the god of wealth, Daikoku.

It is really amazing that the people of Hachinohe have kept this wonderful tradition alive for so long. They definitely have something to be proud about!