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Aomori's A Scenic Treasure Trove! Takayama Inari Shrine & 6 Must-Visit Spots (Autumn/Winter Itinerary)

Aomori's A Scenic Treasure Trove! Takayama Inari Shrine & 6 Must-Visit Spots (Autumn/Winter Itinerary)

Date published: 4 December 2020
Last updated: 17 March 2022

With some looking for some less crowded, out-of-the-way places to visit during Covid-19, the Tohoku region has become the focus of attention.

Japan's Tohoku Region, with its hot springs, historical sights, and gorgeous natural scenery, is a superb place to visit, and you'll soon see why. Winter is an especially great time to relax and see Japan's famous snowy landscapes.

For this 3-day Aomori travel itinerary, our editors will introduce some of the prefecture's best out-of-the-way scenic spots, including the impressive Takayama Inari Shrine and its 200 torii gates.

Table of Contents
  1. Off to Takayama Inari Shrine - One of Aomori's breathtaking 'power spots'
  2. Tsuru no Maihashi Bridge (Tsuruta)
  3. Hirosaki Castle (Hirosaki City)
  4. Furofushi Onsen (Fukaura Town)
  5. Lake Jusanko (Goshogawara City)
  6. Oirase Gorge (Towada City)
  7. Niogataki Falls (Nishimeya)
  8. Recommended 3-Day Aomori Itinerary

Off to Takayama Inari Shrine - One of Aomori's breathtaking 'power spots'

Off to Takayama Inari Shrine - One of Aomori's breathtaking  'power spots'

After getting tickets at Tokyo Station, our editors set out for the beautiful Takayama Inari Shrine with its thousand torii gates in Tsugaru City, Aomori Prefecture.

Takayama Inari Shrine is a beloved local shrine located in Tsugaru City on the Sea of Japan side of Aomori Prefecture. Here, the deity Inari is enshrined and is believed to bring good harvests, safe seagoing, and prosperous business.

For many visitors to Takayama Inari Shrine, the highlight is a series of around 200 torii gates. It is said to be the most mystical place in Aomori, and is also called the prefecture's best 'power spot.'

With that said, let's head to Takayama Inari Shrine in Tsugaru City, Aomori, and check out its beautiful Senbon Torii gates!

Getting there
1. Tokyo Station → Shin-Aomori Station (about 3.5 hours by Shinkansen)
2. Shin-Aomori Station → Goshogawara Station (around 1 hour via the JR Ou Line and JR Limited Express Resort Shirakami)
3. Goshogawara Station → Takayama-Jinja-Guchi (Takayama Shrine Entrance) bus stop (about 1 hour via the Konan Bus)
4. Walk (about 40 minutes) or take a taxi (about 5 minutes) to Takayama Inari Shrine

JR transportation cost
・Normal fare: 19,120 yen one-way; 38,240 yen round-trip

If you are planning to travel around the Tohoku area, we recommend using JR EAST PASS (Tohoku area), a pass available to foreign visitors and foreign residents in Japan. It allows unlimited rides on the Shinkansen, limited express trains and local trains for 5 consecutive days at a discount!

We rode the Resort Shirakami Line from Hirosaki Station
JR Goshogawara Station
The Takayama-jinja-guchi bus stop. If there's no traffic, you may want to take a taxi. In that case, you can call a taxi at the bus stop.

Takayama Inari Shrine and its gorgeous torii gates are a masterpiece!

40 minutes away from the bus stop on foot, just off the road, stands a gigantic torii gate! This is Takayama Inari Shrine. From here, we head to the Senbon Torii.

Takayama Inari Shrine is located on the Sea of Japan side of Aomori, a beloved shrine of the Tsugaru locals. It enshrines Inari, the deity of abundant harvests, safety, and prosperous business.

The shrine's highlight is the Senbon Torii, a line made up of thousands of torii gates. It's a mysterious place known as one of the best power spots in Aomori.

Past the parking lot and through the magnificent assembly hall is a long staircase. We lost our breath climbing up the stairs, but were warmly welcomed by statues of foxes at the top! The fox is said to be a messenger of the deity, Inari. You will notice there are many foxes all over Takayama Inari Shrine!

Head to the right to visit the shrine. Please note that the Chozuya (water purification pavilion) is currently closed due to Covid-19.

Proceed down the staircase on your right toward the shrine.

You can see the Ryujin Shrine and the beautiful garden. The red bridge and torii gates, the pond, and the green trees create a tranquil, colorful scene that you can see all the time.

At last, to the left of Ryujin Shrine, beyond the torii gate, the line of around 200 torii gates has appeared!

Innumerable torii gates line the winding path, taking you through what feels like a completely different dimension. The gates are a little low, so be sure to watch your head!

Pass through the Senbon Torii gates and climb the small rocks for a spectacular sight!

This incredible sight overlooks the countless bright red torii gates lining the path from above! You can also see the beautiful cherry blossoms blooming in the spring, and in the fall, the colorful autumn leaves.

This fantastic view is also the perfect chance for a photo-op!

Another feature of this spot is the row of fox statues, each with their own unique expressions and poses.

The shrine grounds are pretty vast, so we recommend taking some time out for a leisurely stroll around.

The area may be a bit out of the way, but the views are so spectacular, it'll be well worth your time to venture out!

Health & Safety Measures
May decline entry to visitors in poor condition; visitors required to wear masks; disinfectant and sanitizer installed
  • Takayama Inari Shrine
    • Address 147-1 Washinosawa, Ushigata-cho, Tsugaru City, Aomori 038-3305
    • Phone Number 0173-56-2015
    • ・Hours: 9:00AM-5:00PM
      ・Closed: Open year-round

Tsuru no Maihashi Bridge (Tsuruta)

Tsuru no Maihashi Bridge (Tsuruta)
Made from 700 Aomori Hiba trees, over 150 years old

The Tsuru no Maihashi Bridge is about 10 minutes from JR Mutsu-Tsuruda Station by taxi. Made from Aomori Hiba, it was constructed in 1994. It is the longest triple wooden bridge in Japan with a width of 3 meters and a length of 300 meters. The bridge connects both banks of Tsugaru Fujimiko, the largest reservoir in Aomori.

The name Tsuru no Maihashi ("dance of the cranes" in English) comes from the bridge's gently-arching shape, which reminds one of a crane flying in the sky against the backdrop of Mt. Iwaki.

One of the attractions is the bridge's reflection on the lake's surface, which changes throughout the day, featuring light pink colors at sunrise and golden hues at sunset.

The natural landscape has something to offer in every season, from the gorgeous cherry blossoms in spring to the colorful leaves in autumn, to the pure white snow in winter.

For great photos of both the bridge and Mt. Iwaki in the background, we recommend taking pictures from the Iris Path at Fujimi Lake Park near the bridge.

Health & Safety Measures
Visitors required to wear masks
  • Tsuru no Mai Bridge
    • Address Oosawa, Mawarizeki, Kitatsugaru Gun Tsuruta Machi, Aomori Ken, 038-3542, Japan
    • Nearest Station ・Tel: 0173-22-2111 (Tsuruta Town Hall, Planning and Tourism Department)
      ・Hours: Free to visit

Hirosaki Castle (Hirosaki City)

Hirosaki Castle (Hirosaki City)
Snow can reach up to a meter around the castle!

Hirosaki Castle is about 20 minutes by bus from JR Hirosaki Station, or about 30 minutes on foot. Hirosaki Castle was constructed in 1611 by Tsugaru Nobuhira, who once ruled the Hirosaki Domain as its second daimyo.

Built in the center of Hirosaki City, this castle consists of five castle gates and a triple moat. The entire castle grounds are designated as a historical site of Japan. In 1895, a total area of about 492,000 square meters, including the castle, was established as Hirosaki Park. It is a popular leisure spot for Hirosaki locals.

Hirosaki Castle is famous for its cherry blossoms, which you can see in full bloom from late April to early May. It is renowned for its snowy scenery in the winter, when the white, snow-covered Hirosaki Castle contrasts with the clear, blue skies.

If you visit in early February, check out the Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival. The snow-covered Hirosaki Castle is gorgeously illuminated, creating a stunning scenery vastly different from its daytime appearance.

*The stone walls are currently under repair, and the castle tower is set to be relocated. The view of the castle tower with Mt. Iwaki in the background will only be around for a limited time.

Health & Safety Measures
Shops, facilities, and equipment regularly cleaned and disinfected; disinfectant and sanitizer installed; well-ventilated interiors; staff required to wear masks, wash hands, use disinfectant, gargle, and check their temperature; all visitors are required to wear masks and check temperatures

Furofushi Onsen (Fukaura Town)

Furofushi Onsen (Fukaura Town)
There are two open-air baths - one women's only bath and one mixed one

Take the JR Gono Line Resort Shirakami to Wespa Tsubakiyama Station. Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen is 5 minutes by shuttle bus.

This hot spring inn is located in the scenic spot of Koganezaki, which overlooks the Sea of Japan. The unique name translates to "never age, never die" and comes from a local belief that anyone who bathes in these springs will not grow old or weak.

It is a chloride spring containing iron, sodium, and magnesium, said to improve the body's heat-retention, keeping you warm to the core. Oxidation makes the water appear reddish-brown.

The open-air baths at the beach overlook the Sea of Japan. Take a soak in this rustic hot spring, and feel yourself becoming one with the coast. Evenings boast especially impressive scenery, when the sunset dyes the surface of the sea and hot springs in a beautiful, golden hue.

Health & Safety Measures
Shops, facilities, and equipment regularly cleaned and disinfected; disinfectant and sanitizer installed; well-ventilated interiors; coin trays used; partition plates installed; staff required to wear masks, wash hands, use disinfectant, gargle, and check their temperature; number of visitors is monitored; may refuse entry to visitors in poor condition; all visitors required to wear masks and check temperatures
  • Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen
    • Address 15, Shimo-Kiyotaki, Oaza-Nobesaku, Fukaura-machi, Nishitsugaru-gun, Aomori, 038-2327
    • Phone Number 0173-74-3500
    • ・Hours: Check-in 2:00 p.m., Check-out 10:00 a.m.
      ・Rates: From 12,800 yen per night with 2 meals

Lake Jusanko (Goshogawara City)

Lake Jusanko (Goshogawara City)
Although their numbers have decreased in recent years, swans sometimes gather near the mouth of the river

From JR Goshogawara Station, take a rental car or taxi down National Route 339. You will reach Lake Jusanko in about 45 minutes. Lake Jusanko is Aomori's third largest lake, spanning 7 kilometers north-south and 5 kilometers east-west, with a circumference of 31.4 kilometers. The lake is also the perfect habitat for Yamato Shijimi, a type of plump, delicious clam used in many of the dishes sold at the shops around the lake.

The vast lake overlooks the magnificent Mt. Iwaki on the south side and Lake Jusanko Bridge on the west. In the evenings, the view becomes romantic and peaceful as the sunset is reflected in the quiet lake.

There is a small island called Nakajima Bridge Park, which you can access by crossing the 250-meter promenade bridge. There you can find fun outdoor activities such as a campground and an athletic plaza. The view of the lake from the promenade bridge is something you won't want to miss!

Health & Safety Measures
May refuse entry to visitors in poor condition; all visitors required to wear masks and check temperatures
  • Lake Jusanko
    • Address Jusan, Goshogawara Shi, Aomori Ken, 037-0403, Japan
    • ・Phone: 0173-38-1515 (Goshogawara City Tourist Association)
      ・Hours: Visit anytime

Oirase Gorge (Towada City)

Oirase Gorge (Towada City)
You're sure to love the rugged icefall landscapes!

Though the JR Oirase bus normally runs from Hachinohe Station and Aomori Station to Oirase Gorge, it is out of service from early November to mid-April. So in the winter, we recommend using a rental car or taxi through Routes 103 and 102.

The Oirase Gorge is a nationally designated special scenic spot and natural monument. Its clear waters flow through the forest, stretching for 14 kilometers from Lake Towada Nenokuchi to Yakeyama.

Many tourists, both international and domestic, visit this spot throughout the summer. It has recently also been gaining popularity as a winter attraction for its peaceful, natural scenery. In the middle of winter, the waterfalls of Oirase, an area with abundant water, freeze, and icefalls and icicles appear here and there on the rocky cliffs.

The rocks protruding from the gently flowing river surrounded by snow-capped trees looks just like a scene from a landscape painting. Makado-iwa is one of the highlights, where you can see dynamic ice waterfalls up close. You can also take a night tour to see the fantastic nighttime illuminations.

Health & Safety Measures
May refuse entry to visitors in poor condition; all visitors required to wear masks and check temperatures; sanitizer available; admission restrictions may apply
  • Oirase Stream
    • Address Okuse, Towada-shi, Aomori, 034-0301
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Hachinohe Station (Hachinohe Line / Tohoku Shinkansen / Hokkaido Shinkansen / Aoimori Tetsudo)
      90 minutes by bus
    • Phone Number 0176-75-2425

Niogataki Falls (Nishimeya)

Niogataki Falls (Nishimeya)
An impressive, up-close look at a giant icicle!

To get to Niogataki, take the Konan Bus from JR Hirosaki Station to Nishimeya-mura Yakuba-mae, then walk. Pass through the torii gate just off the parking lot and go up the slope. You will see a 33-meter high waterfall right before your eyes!

The ice-covered waterfall gushes down between the tall cedar trees, creating an awesome, sacred view. Behind the waterfall is a cave-like opening with a Fudo-son shrine that you can visit. During the winter when the temperature has dropped, the waterfall often freezes into a single, giant icicle (depending on the weather, it may not always freeze completely).

Every February, the Niogataki Ice Festival is held where people predict the coming year's agricultural yield based on the shape and thickness of the icicle. When the sun has set, the surrounding area is beautifully illuminated. Forget about the cold and lose yourself in a hypnotic gaze at the mysterious, colorfully-illuminated icicles.

  • Niogataki Falls
    • Address 47-1, Tashiro, Nakatsugaru Gun Nishimeya Mura, Aomori Ken, 036-1411, Japan

Recommended 3-Day Aomori Itinerary

The following itinerary is an efficient way to tour the seven spots introduced here. Aomori is the 8th largest prefecture in Japan. Many places cannot be reached by train alone, so you may want to consider combining a rail pass with a rental car.

Hirosaki Castle Illumination

Day 1

1. Hirosaki Castle
Take JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori Station, transfer to the JR Ou Line, and ride to Hirosaki Station. From Hirosaki Station, you can take a taxi, car, bus, or walk.

2. Niogataki Falls
After checking out the snowy Hirosaki Castle, head to Niogataki Falls by rental car. Afterward, head back to Hirosaki Station and return the rental car.

3. Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen
Take JR Gono Line Resort Shirakami to Furofushi Onsen.

There is an ekiben (boxed train lunch) shop inside the Resort Shirakami, so you can enjoy a meal as you gaze out the window at the beautiful Sea of Japan. The ride takes about 3 hours. Get off at WeSPa Tsubakiyama Station, and ride the onsen shuttle bus to the inn. Refresh yourself with a relaxing open-air bath and delicious seafood dishes.

The snowy landscape of Tsuru no Maihashi

Day 2

1. Takayama Inari Shrine
From Furofushi Onsen, walk or take the hotel shuttle bus to Henashi Station, then take the JR Gono Line to Goshogawara Station. You can rent a car near the station to get to Takayama Inari Shrine.

2. Lake Jusanko
From Takayama Inari Shrine, drive to Lake Jusanko. For lunch, there are plenty of local Shijimi ramen shops that use fresh Yamato Shijimi, straight from Lake Jusanko!

3. Tsuru no Maihashi
Admire the beautiful triple-arched wooden bridge! It's about an hour's drive away.

4. Oirase Gorge
Drive to Oirase Gorge and take a walk along the canyon. While you can also get there via the JR Line, going by car may be more convenient. You can even stay at a hotel near Oirase Gorge and take a night tour of the illuminated mountain stream.

Nearby hotel:

  • Drive Inn Keigetsu
    • Address Horyo Yakeyama 64-263, Towada, Aomori, 034-0303
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Shichinohe-towada Station (Tohoku Shinkansen / Hokkaido Shinkansen)

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

The frozen waterfall at Oirase Gorge

Day 3

1. Oirase Gorge
You may want to wake a bit earlier than usual for a short morning stroll through Oirase Gorge before leaving. Next, drive to Hachinohe Station, about 1 hour and 10 minutes away.

2. Hachinohe
Hachinohe is one of the leading fishing ports in Tohoku. It's about 10 minutes away from the station by bus. You can also enjoy local seafood fished from Hachinohe Port. After lunch and a bit of shopping, ride the Tohoku-Hokkaido Hayabusa Line from Hachinohe Station to return.

As you can see, Aomori has plenty of hidden scenic spots with gorgeous winter scenery. Enjoy traveling to places you might not usually see! Be aware that during the winter, some days may drop to below-freezing temperatures. So dress warmly, bring your scarves and gloves, and enjoy a safe and wonderful trip!

Text by: LIVE JAPAN Editorial Team / ShoePress
* The information in this article is as of December 2020. Hours and prices may have since changed.

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*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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