14 Nov 2019 in In immersion
Experience the culture of Aomori, including an immersive celebration of its exuberant festivals.
From Tokyo, it’s a 3-hour ride by shinkansen to Hachinohe City. Here, on the east coast of Honshu’s northernmost Prefecture, a shuttle bus will take you directly to Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya.
After passing the small town of Misawa, you’ll arrive at the entrance to the resort. The 180-acre grounds are dotted with historical buildings typical of the Aomori region, many of them set around the resort’s large lake.
Time to check in. There are some 235 rooms in 3 different buildings, all connected by an underground passageway – a welcome comfort during Aomori Prefecture’s harsh winters.
Head downstairs to discover the resort’s most lively area. This basement complex is where Aomori’s boisterous side comes to life. There’s a games arcade, an izakaya-style bar serving tempura, sushi and sake, a stage for nightly music performances, and a shop proffering local specialities.
Everything is inspired by the region’s summertime festivals, famed throughout Japan for their liveliness.
Near the stage, you’ll find a small store renting exuberant yukata. Wearing one of these colourful summer kimonos is part of the resort’s experience – especially if you’re attending the evening show at the Michinoku Matsuriya restaurant.
Treat yourself to the design of your choice and set your chosen yukata aside for tonight.
Before you get ready to live it up, take time to wind down in the resort’s sumptuous hot spring baths. The large indoor baths are crafted in Aomori Hinoki cypress, known for its calming and cleansing effects. Once you’ve acclimatized to the 42C temperature, head to the outdoor baths.
Overlooked by a waterfall and thickets of pine trees, the circular outdoor tub is raised ever so slightly above a large pond. Lie back and you’ll feel like you’re bathing in an outdoor lake.
Even better, come back in the late evening to star-gaze in the natural warm waters.
The Michinoku Matsuriya restaurant and show is the resort’s must-do experience. Seated at your own table in front of a colourful stage, you’ll be immersed in the atmosphere of Aomori’s 4 major summer festivals. The stage is bedecked with the festivals’ trademark giant paper lanterns sculpted in the form of mythical creatures, waitstaff are elaborately costumed, and audience cheering is encouraged.
Onstage, the performances begin with traditional shamisen and folk singing before a riotous festival atmosphere takes hold, complete with rhythmic taiko drumming, clashing cymbals and energetic dancing. The meal itself is a series of culinary Aomori treats including senbei rice cracker soup and an assortment of 5 steamed dishes.
If you’re still feeling festive, you can catch the free Jawamegu Show in the basement. Expect more infectious shamisen and folk music.
Then head out towards the calm of the resort’s lake. Just a few minutes’ walk along the water is the Yawatauma Lounge, a thatched-roof cottage that now serves as a bar.
Order a Japanese sake and lie back on the terrace contemplating the water.
On your way back, stop off at the lakeside foot bath. Soak your feet in the natural hot spring water while gazing up at the stars. What better way to ensure a sound night’s sleep?
Start the day with a lavish breakfast at Nanbu Magariya, a traditional thatched farmhouse lined with tatami mats. In the lakeside dining room, you’ll be treated to a spread of Aomori specialities, including charcoal-grilled fish, egg cooked with scallop in its shell, and miso soup with succulent clams.
The restaurant also serves a memorable multi-course kaiseki menu in the evenings, including 7 kinds of fish roe and a host of creative seafood treats.
How about riding around the lake in a wooden carriage drawn by horses from the resort’s ranch? Or starting the day with a massage? Alternatively, you can head out to nearby Hachinohe City to explore the fascinating fish market or take a hike on the wild Tanesashi Coast.
At Hoshino Resorts Aomoriya, there’s no end of possibilities for exploring the rich culture and unique experiences of Aomori Prefecture.