Road Trip on Aoimori Railway (Part 2)
We resume our two-day trip on the Aoimori Railway Line in Aomori Prefecture this week. At the end of the first day, we spend the night at Hoshino Resort Aomoriya, which features items and activities related to Aomori’s culture and festivals.
We resume our two-day trip on the Aoimori Railway Line in Aomori Prefecture this week. At the end of the first day, we spend the night at Hoshino Resort Aomoriya, which features items and activities related to Aomori’s culture and festivals. For example, at the restaurant where dinner is served, guests can enjoy a live performance called Michinoku Matsuriya. It showcases events of Aomori such as its famous Nebuta Festival, with dances, floats, flute music and folk songs. The Festival Meal comprises 14 dishes made from assorted vegetables and seafood from Aomori. The hotel also has a large hot spring area and a breakfast cafeteria designed to look like an old Japanese-style house.
The next morning, we take the hotel’s shuttle bus to Misawa Station. We catch the 9.15am train and alight at Ottomo Station, which is about 15 minutes away. The next train departs from here at 10.45am. We ask a local to recommend a popular spot. He tells us about the Manaka Cafe, located in a renovated 100-year-old Japanese-style house with a thatched roof. Situated in a park, the reservation-only cafe is just open on Saturdays from June to October. Most of its customers come from other towns to try its dishes made with locally grown vegetables.
Our next destination is Noheji, two stations away from Ottomo. We arrive at 10.55am and have an hour to explore the area. A local mentions the Noheji Snowbreak Forest, where trees have been planted to prevent the railway tracks from being buried in heavy snow and stalling the trains. It is said to be the first snowbreak forest in Japan and was designated as a railway monument in 1960.
After this, we enjoy a scenic train ride along Mutsu Bay to Asamushi Onsen Station. A resident we speak to suggests we have lunch at Tsurukame Canteen - which is popular for its huge tuna bowl - or an eatery called Sharumu. The latter is closed so we head to the Tsurukame Canteen. However, it is rather crowded so we ask another local to recommend a place. He tells us to try a speciality of Asamushi, a whale-shaped rice cake called kujiramochi. This popular confection made from steamed rice and red bean paste is sold at Nagai Kujiramochi, which opened in 1907. We decide to buy some as souvenirs.
We ask the shop’s staff to recommend a restaurant and she mentions Masadate Canteen, known for its delicious seafood bowl. We enjoy the view of the sea as we walk to the restaurant. We notice a small island off the coast, called Yunoshima. It got its name from the hot spring water that spurts from the bottom of the sea near the island. Dogtooth violets blossom all over Yunoshima in spring.
Masadate is located in an area which has many restaurants facing Mutsu Bay. We can hear the sound of the waves and feel the cool sea breeze waft in through the windows as we tuck into our seafood bowl with sea urchin and scallops. The restaurant purchases ingredients directly from fishermen.
We plan to go to Koyanagi next, three stations ahead. However, on the train, a passenger tells us that Koyanagi is a residential area, comprising mainly housing complexes. So we decide to head straight to the final stop along the Aoimori Railway Line, Aomori Station. A local resident recommends we check out Sennari Ramen, which also serves ice cream and anmitsu. However, it is closed on this particular day so we ask another passerby for suggestions. He mentions Cafe Marron, a long-established eatery in Aomori. This quaint restaurant has been around since 1970 and boasts many antiques and even Peko dolls inside. The passerby tells us we must try its fruit parfait, which is only available after 2pm as it is time-consuming to make. We make our way there and try the parfait - it even has red bean paste which goes well with the whipped cream.
We ask another local about a popular spot and are told about an observatory at the Aomori Prefecture Tourist Centre, ASPAM. It was built in 1986 and the observatory on the 13th floor offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Aomori, including Aoiumi Park and the sea.
1) A speciality of Asamushi is a whale-shaped rice cake called kujiramochi
2) A must-visit spot in Aomori is the observatory at the tourist centre, ASPAM, which boasts a panoramic view of the city and the sea