Day 6: Rainbows. A snowy start to the day in Morioka transformed into rainbows of dramatic color inside and out. Arriving in Aomori we have learned to stow our belongings in a locker to be as light as possible on the day's walkabout. Today's discovery started with an array of drama at the Nebuta museum that displays former floats. This is an annual 5 day celebration with gigantic elaborate floats made essentially from paper on wire frames. Gorgeous. Scrumptious was next on list with a donburi bowl at the fish and vegetable market. 1080 yen grants you ability to purchase pieces from various vendors to create a unique dish. The last gentleman rearranged my bowl before adding the fish from his booth I selected. Our day of exploring Aomori was accented by lovely real rainbow wishing we could see Hokkaido thru the clouds. (original tumblr post 2015)
Our morning was met with snow. We stayed at a business hotel across the street from the Morioka train station that offers buffet breakfast. Our view from the hotel showed the train station and the infrastructure in this northern area in managing the snow. We are heading to Aomori today via the Shinkansen.
Aomori - apples, seafood and grand views!
This city is in the north of the main Japan island of Honshu located on a bay. This was selected on the itinerary not only for the highlights of the place, but as a transportation link to Hokkaido via Hakodate. It is most known for apples and sake as well as seafood which is expected due to the location. The architecture here is a blend of extremely unique contemporary architecture such as at the Nebuta museum with the seaside urban post-war design with faded colors and interesting signage.
Our daily routine is to stow the luggage so that we are hands free to walk around the town. This works out really well because most accommodations won't allow you to check in until later in the afternoon. Lockers are located at all stations and it's a real amazing feature of the travel here if you are willing to be adventurous. It's also affordable depending on the size you choose for your belongings, or what is available.
Near the train station in the visual distance across a square is an appealing architectural structure with bright red in contrast with the pale winter hues. This is the Nebuta museum and the primary goal to visit for the day. Please visit my photo gallery page that shows so much of what delights are inside. The lines are fantastic!
Inside this fascinating structure you will find illuminations that will mesmerize. Nebuta is a float that is carried by people into the town center. This festival in Aomori occurs every August and is one of the most popular in the country causing the city to swell with visitors. The designs are made of rice paper and hand crafted through the year prior to the parade. The museum exhibits the previous floats that depict the mythological or brave warrior-figure. Visit my album to see more of the gorgeous floats illuminated.
Nokkedon Fish Market
Have you ever wanted to walk through a fish market and hand select your lunch of fresh nigiri sushi? The Nokkedon Fish Market allows you to pay a rate for a bowl of rice and to walk around to different vendors to fill up your dish with the amount of nigiri pieces you've selected. Nokkedon means 'seafood' donburi or rice bowl. The day we were there our timing was good as it was not crowded.
You purchase the ticket and walk around to the different vendors. Once you have used all of your options, find a table and enjoy.
My absolute favorite is scallops and look at those beautiful specimens. Hotate is scrumptious! While the flounder look more like pets for the booth owner.
The Aomori Prefecture Tourist center is a triangular 15 story skyscraper with a great view of the sea. It also features little booths and information on the area specialties including everything apples. Kristie got herself an apple fritter! And we took a little break on a cold day for hot matcha from a vending machine.
As the trip winds down for Kristie, she was looking for gift items which is a tradition in Japan. We took some time to walk around the small city center while we waited for a bus schedule to head to an art museum. We found all sorts of crafts and fabric as well as lovely independent shop owners helping us out.
AOMA Aomori Museum of Art
This contemporary museum was built in 2006 and is partially underground. Due to the restrictions on photography the only imagery is allowed outside. The gallery space is large with extremely high ceilings and the contemporary work was definitely worth the bus ride from downtown. We made it just in time to walk through prior to closing. The vista with the snow was really lovely. The Aomori Dog sculpture is by Yoshimoto Nara. "The concept design of AMOA, located near the world famous archeological Sannai Maruyama-Site, is inspired by the ancient Jomon era (BC10,000-BC400). The structure is uniquely designed by the image of the earth trench capped by the huge white cover. Therefore many of the museum's interior walls and floors with materials made of earth are designed to be in harmony with the ancient remains. One of the two main colors, a dark-brown, is makes a good contrast with other main color, white." (http://www.aomori-museum.jp/en/guide/)
Close by across and slightly down the street is the historical site for archaeology which we were able to walk into briefly before needing to catch the bus back to town before the building closed. Sannai Maruyama-Site is likely a fantastic place to visit when it's not all covered in snow. This website is in English for purposes of future planning. This area was known to be of significance at least in the Edo period but it wasn't until 1992 when excavation began. The large settlement that was revealed dates from the Early and Middle Jomon Period which is approx. 3,900 to 2,200 B.C., 5,900 to 4,200 B.P. and includes many pit buildings, pillar-supported buildings, mounds, and burial pits and jars as well as artifacts of life of the time.
BUS Ride and Dinner
Riding a bus in Japan is relatively easy. Grab a little ticket from the machine when you enter and you can watch the rate above the driver change based on distance. When you get off, the number of your ticket is associated with a fee that is listed on the board. Drop the change into the small coin box next to the driver who sits on the right side of the bus. If you don't have exact change there is a bill coin exchange there too. What's nice about riding the bus is feeling like a local and getting out of a more tourist area to get a glimpse into the local life. In this case, the rainbow of colors maybe so happy in the inclement weather. And also notice the roof angle of the houses most likely to manage the snow. This adventure even in moments of downtime and transport continues the architecture and weather making it a moody examination.
Once we got back from the museums to the train station, we were off to find our airbnb accommodations after collecting our belongings from the lockers. The directions meant we were a bit farther out that I had anticipated. We had to wander a bit in the dark attempting to find an address among rows of houses without numbers. The hosts were quite gracious and we were set up in their guest room with traditional tatami mats. Then we went off for a well deserved hot meal. Not many options so we chose the korean barbecue. I was so hungry that I ended up almost choking on a bigger piece of meat that I had a hard time with maybe in recollection without a knife. Kristie noticed that I was struggling and got up immediately to go behind me and whack my back allowing the food to become dislodged. That's a true friend! Reminder to always slow down and try to figure out how to get pieces of meat to be smaller to chew them well. Today was a long, but amazing day.
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