Saturday, August 11, 2012

Seibien Garden (Arrietty’s House)



Seibien Garden is located in Hirakawa City. This garden was completed in 1911. The garden and the estate, which blends Japanese and Western architectural styles,  are nationally designated scenic spots. The site has recently been used as the inspiration for the setting of the Studio Ghibli animated film : The Secret World of Arrietty. The house and gardens are beautiful, whether you are a fan of Miyazaki’s work or not!


Tanbo Rice Crop Art



Since the Yayoi period, Inakadate Village has been known for growing rice and has passed on the northern rice culture from generation to generation. Since 1993 Inakadate has been showing two fields of crop art to honor their history and tradition . The art is made by using different colored rice such as “ancient rice” and “Tsugaru Roman” rice.  Each year the designs are more and more elaborate.





     To view the crop art, you will be standing on a tower. It is quite an amazing site!


At ground level, this is what the field looks like. It is really cool to see the colors and textures of the different types of rice!

Period: June- September

(Peak Viewing : Mid July-Mid August)

Tsugaru Kokeshi Museum


     If you’ve been in Japan for any amount of time, you have probably noticed a popular souvenir called the Kokeshi doll. For doll collectors and fans of Japanese tradition, the Kokeshi Doll Museum in Kuroishi is an interesting and fun venue. DSC_9407

     The museum was the first stop on a recent ITT trip. The path leading up to the museum is aligned on either side with shops selling local crafts, restaurants, and artisan workshops.


     At the very head of the path is a foot onsen. Great for relaxing tired feet and a good start for those of you who are too shy to go to a full onsen! Smile The water here is VERY hot so, be warned!



     At the end of the path and around the corner is the actual doll museum. Visitors can see an exhibition of 11 types of traditional kokeshi dolls found nationwide, as well as watch craftsmen create Kokeshi dolls. I believe the actual museum costs ¥300. We didn’t go to the actual museum because…..



we were too busy painting our own Kokeshi dolls! That’s right, at the museum  you can sign up to paint your own Kokeshi doll however you like. The teacher will give you some guidelines to follow if you want to go the traditional route but you can be as creative as you want! Check out our designs below!



Tsugaru Kokeshi Museum

TEL: 0172-54-8181

ADDRESS: 72-1 Tomiyama, Fukuro-aza, Kuroishi City

ACCESS: Car: approximately 10 minutes from Kuroishi IC

         Train: approximately 10 minutes from Kuroishi Station on foot

         Hours: 800-1800 ( in winter)open from 0900-1700

         Closed: January 1

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Lake Ogawara Park


Many of you may know Lake Ogawara from Base Beach but on the other side in Tohoku Town there is Lake Ogawara Park. You can grill, camp out and go for a boat ride out here!


If these two sisters look familiar to you, then you are right! There is another similar statue at Lake Towada. These are not the same two sisters, however.  On the other side of the statues is written the legend of Lake Ogawara:

About 1300 years ago, there were two beautiful sisters in a city that was far south. They  were searching for their missing father, and traveled many countries tracing their father’s footsteps. When they reached here, they found out their father had already gone. In despair, the older sister, Tamayo, threw herself into the lake. Then a water monster rose out of the lake and attacked the younger sister, Katsuyo. Katsuyo transformed herself into a huge serpent and defeated the monster. She inherited the watery kingdom and will reighn in it forever. Now the lake where Tamayo died is called Ane-numa (Old Sister Marsh), The lake where Katsuyo sank is known as Lake Ogawara or Imoto-numa (Younger Sister Marsh). You can see here Tamayo revived as the left statue looking up at a blessing of Mt. Hakkoda. Katsuyo is here as the right statue praying for safety and happiness of the lake.


10th Anniversary, Japan Blues Festival 2012



We decided to head to Aomori City to check out the blues festival. It was absolutely phenomenal and better than I expected! The festival was located right next to ASPAM. On the day we went, two Chicago based blues bands, The Lurrie Bell Blues Band with special guest  Matthew Skoller and Koko Taylor’s Blues Machine, played that evening. The night ended with an unexpected fireworks show over the bay. Outstanding!



Taiwanese Restaurant



We were very excited when one of our Japanese friends told us about this Taiwanese restaurant in Towada! The food is pretty good and really cheap! You get a lot for what you pay for. You can order a set (like you see above) or a la carte.

Hours: 1100-1500; 1700-2400

Directions: From POL gate:  Go straight all the way into Towada (Route 10). Take a right at Towada Technical High School (Route 165). The restaurant will be on your left, before you hit the light at the intersection for Route 4. There is parking on either side of the restaurant.

Café Fuku


We often pass Café Fuku on our way to Towada and have always wanted to drop in, so we did ! The seating style is mostly Japanese but I love that the seats on the floor have backs to them. I find that very American friendly.

This café’s specialty is soba noodles (cold or hot). At certain times during the day, I believe you can go to the building next door and either watch or help soba noodles being made!

A free service here is inari filled with not only rice but soba noodles as well. Everything here is delicious!

The menu is in Japanese so I advise bringing someone who can read Japanese, or if you know common soba dishes’ names you can probably ask for it and they most likely will have it.



Directions: From POL gate, go straight all the way into Towada (Route 10). Café Fuku is on a hill on your right. You will see a sign peeking out from a hill. I will have to get back to you on the approximate distance.

Kabushima Shrine


If you are afraid of Hitchcock's famous suspense/ horror The Birds, you may want to stay away from this next location. Or, if you are a big Hitchcock fan, this may just be the place for you!

Kabushima Shrine in Hachinohe is a Shinto shrine which also habitat for forty thousand Black-tailed Gulls or, “Umineko.” It is suggested to bring an umbrella if you go to the shrine to shield you from any gull “accidents". There are also umbrellas available at the bottom of the shrine if you forget. I brought my own and it didn’t get dirty. It is also said that you should walk around the shrine three times for good luck. We did! It was very loud but really interesting. I liked Kabushima Shrine!


Note: Dogs and cats are not allowed at Kabushima. Also, don’t be surprised if you see some injured (or dead) baby gulls. There is a pecking order and it is quite a crowded island. (We only saw one dead baby bird and a few with a bit of blood on their head).

I don’t have directions to Kabushima right now but I’m pretty sure there are directions available at Misawa Inn and Misawa ITT.

Tanesashi Beach Coastline Festival



Tanesashi Beach in Hachinohe is a beautiful grassy beach located in Hachinohe. We had our first visit here during their coastline festival. There were pony rides, a juggler, bon dancing, several Japanese musicians, a kite coloring contest and more!

The beauty of this beach is very popular among the Japanese and I’m sure it will be a favorite for you too!



Directions: (Thanks to Misawa Life) Approximate travel time is about 50 minutes.
Take the toll road or route 45 to the Hachinohe exit. Make a right at the stoplight and travel towards downtown Hachinohe. You will go about 4 km before you see the Ferry Wharf exit (stay in the left lane). Go down the ramp and make a left, there will be a gas station on the left. Travel down this road about 5-6 km and stay in the left lane. The road will split and you want to stay in the left lane. After the split you will travel through a small tunnel and over a small bridge. After the bridge get in the right lane. The Ferry Wharf (large boats will be in front of you at the stoplight) make a right at the stoplight and travel over two very large bridges (you will get a great view of the coastline). At the first stoplight after the two bridges make a left turn. Immediately following this make a right turn (Shell Gas Station on the right). You be traveling down this road for about 4 km. Before you get to Kabushima Shrine (it will be directly in front of you make a right turn down the small alley and an immediate left turn. This will get you on the road that takes you in front of the big blue building (Hachinohe Marine and Science Museum). This is a winding almost one lane road for about a kilometer. It will take a strange turn up the hill and you will be forced to either go left or right, go LEFT. Drive up the hill and you will see signs for the Hachinohe Seagull View Hotel. Keep going straight on this road until you see the sign for Shirahama Swimming Beach. Make a left turn to drive along the beach and at the end of the beach you must make a right up the hill to the stoplight. Make a left at the stoplight and travel straight for another 6 km (there is a sign in English that reads "Tanesashi Beach". You will pass a gas station on the left and cross a set of train tracks right before you see a long stretch of grasslands and the beautiful ocean. There is parking available on both sides of the road.

Hirosaki Castle: Cherry Blossom Festival


I can’t believe it has taken me this long to update for the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival! The weather was sunny and beautiful when we arrived but soon became overcast and quite windy! It seemed most of the cherry blossoms had already fallen by the time the we got to the festival, but it was still beautiful and we had a wonderful time. Cherry blossom season is my favorite time in Japan! Since Aomori is so cold, don’t be surprised if there is a mix of cherry blossoms and snow falling at the same time! I have heard it happens!


The Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival occurs between April 23 and May 5 every year.

Admission: ¥300 ( Castle Only) ¥500 (Castle and Botanical Gardens)

You can find directions to Hirosaki Castle in my other blog post.



Ootoya Restaurant

Ootoya is a chain restaurant located in Hachinohe. They serve Japanese style dishes. There is also an Ootoya located in New York!



I apologize for not having directions or hours, but if you are in Hachinohe and happen to go by Ootoya, why not try it out?