The train ride here from Kanazawa was about 1100 km and it seemed we spent the majority of them in tunnels. This prevented us from seeing much of the mountainous region. The second high-speed train we took to arrive flew along at about 200 mph.
Aomori is a much less developed city seeming more tired. It is right on the bay between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. It provided a break from temples, shrines, kimonos, and cherry blossoms with its own developing tourism. The A building is a thirteen story triangle with an observation floor spanning 360 degrees. A multitude of shops on the first floor along with a musical performance on a historical instrument similar to a guitar provided refuge from the wind. A combination ticket included the observation floor and panoramic movie of Aomori culture and traditions. Oddly, the seating was stationary yet the screens surround the floor. We ended up standing to enjoy the complete show. We were given audio phones to hear the explanation in English with the Japanese version was blaring away as well. Nearby is the A Factory, an expensive place to buy specialty foods, enjoy apple cider as apples is the region’s cash crop, and feast on expensive burgers, including aged beef ones for almost thirty dollars, and pastries. The first day we snacked on decadent rich apple pastries and the second day lunched on burgers and fries. For free we walked out on the long pier to the short conical lighthouse though the wind about blew me away.
The second day we toured the local fish market, Furukawa, whose highlight, if you eat raw fish, is to buy tickets and trade them for a bowl of rice and whatever bits of fish you choose from any vendor. It seemed intriguing but we left it for those who enjoy such delicacies. The Nebuta Warasse Museum houses huge brightly lit colorful floats from past festivals. The displays change every year. Included are a few incomplete pieces so viewers can see the construction, which we saw happening in another building the day before, and some we could touch. To make the interaction even more inclusive three women gave an explanation of the festival and invited guests to learn a dance while a flute and enormous drums were played. Then there was an opportunity to beat they drums in unison and play some cymbal type things. Bill and I joined in on the drums which involved holding the sticks in such a way that most of them hit the hide on the drum heads which are parallel to our heads. Fun!
For me the highlight of the small city was dinner the first night. We found a small restaurant that served only tempura and just a few minutes walk from the hotel. Luckily we knew the location from the map on Trip Advisor as when we arrived we could easily have missed this small venue. The owner/chef was seated at the counter, the only place to sit, waiting for customers. The menu was only in Japanese but he did speak a few words of English. First this serious looking man wanted to make sure we knew he only served tempura and then we asked for vegetables and seafood. I noticed he had the selections behind a small glass case right at the counter so I pointed to items I couldn’t identify. He was able to tell me in English what they were so we added chicken to the list. He deftly prepared a plate with his offerings and let us see it before cooking. A thick scallop, two long shrimp, a bit of some kind of fish, chicken, asparagus, perhaps spring onion, and eggplant were put before us for approval. Looked good! He then proceeded to dip the first taste treat in the batter and place it in the oil. Meanwhile he also served us green tea and Bill opted for miso soup. A bowl of rice was delivered along with sake for Bill. A dipping sauce was provided with a small dish of minced radish which he had to try to explain to me to add to the sauce. He didn’t have the words to do so, so a bit of sign language helped out. The meats were prepared individually and served as they were ready. In the middle of them he cooked the vegetables so we started and ended with shrimp. As they became ready he placed them on a plate with paper set on a slightly higher counter. We only had chopsticks and Bill asked for permission to drink his soup directly from the bowl. This experience seemed so authentic and as though we had our own personal chef as there were no other customers. He worked alone and did so efficiently. The cost of this adventure was about forty dollars for the two of us. It was totally worth it! After we paid he bowed to each of us and finally smiled, seeming pleased we were so thrilled with his talent, and guidance Allowing us to take photos just added to it all.