HOME Tohoku Aomori Other Surrounding Areas Of Aomori We Use 'JR East Welcome Rail Pass' And Visit Aomori's Secret Sightseeing Spots! (12,000 Yen/3-Day Unlimited Rides!)
We Use 'JR East Welcome Rail Pass' And Visit Aomori's Secret Sightseeing Spots! (12,000 Yen/3-Day Unlimited Rides!)

We Use 'JR East Welcome Rail Pass' And Visit Aomori's Secret Sightseeing Spots! (12,000 Yen/3-Day Unlimited Rides!)

Date published: 4 December 2020
Last updated: 25 February 2021

The New Year holidays are just around the corner. And some people are undoubtedly looking for some less crowded, out-of-the-way places to visit.

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.

And if you're looking for a bargain, the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 is just what you'll want to travel around the Tohoku Region at an incredible price! For only 12,000 yen, you can ride the trains (Shinkansen and limited express trains included!) as much as you want for 3 consecutive days.

For this trip itinerary, our editors will introduce some of Aomori's best out-of-the-way scenic spots they visited using the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020. We will also show you how to buy tickets at Tokyo Station's JAPAN RAIL CAFE, how to get the best prices and answer some common questions.

What is the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020?

What is the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020?

The JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 is a limited-time-only rail pass for foreigners both living in and visiting Japan (basically, anyone with a non-Japanese passport). With this pass, you can ride the Shinkansen and JR East limited express trains for three consecutive days as many times as you like for just 12,000 yen (6,000 yen for children).

(*Ed. Note: Sales of the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 finished on February 26, 2021.)

The pass is valid in the following areas and rail lines: the Tohoku, Yamagata, Akita, Joetsu, and Hokuriku Shinkansen (between Tokyo Station and Joetsumyoko Station), JR East (including BRT), Aoimori Railway Line, Iwate Galaxy Railway (IGR) Line, Sanriku Railway Line, Echigo TOKImeki Railway Line (between Myoko-Kogen and Naoetsu), and Shinano Railway Line.

With such extensive coverage and a number of railroads, you can ride just about anywhere you want over 3 days. When you compare that to the Shinkansen's regular one-way fare (11,410 yen between Tokyo and Sendai alone!), it's easy to see why this pass can't be beaten!

Purchase Your JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 at Tokyo Station's JAPAN RAIL CAFE!

Purchase Your JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 at Tokyo Station's JAPAN RAIL CAFE!

You can buy the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 online as well as at JR East ticketing counters, like those at Tokyo Station. Head to JAPAN RAIL CAFE, just off the Yaesu Central Exit on the 1st floor of JR Tokyo Station!

It's also available at JR EAST Travel Service Center and View Plaza counters at major stations in the JR East area.

As the name suggests, JAPAN RAIL CAFE also has a cafe! It's a chic, cozy space perfect for relaxing between trips.

The Travel Information Counter staff greeted us with a warm welcome.
They also offer a variety of fun passes for foreigners both visiting and living in Japan.

Because of this, help is also available in several foreign languages. Staff members wear badges next to their names for an at-a-glance look at the languages they can speak!

They also have plenty of easy-to-understand materials in multiple languages, including English.

Vinyl sheets and transparent partitions are currently installed at the counters as a measure against coronavirus, and staff members are required to wear masks. Enjoy a face-to-face interaction with little worries!

Now, let's purchase our JR EAST Rail Pass!

Getting Your JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020

Getting Your JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020

1. A passport is required to purchase a JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020. Each person purchasing must show their valid passport (not a copy) to the staff.

2. After your passport is confirmed, pay the fee. You can pay by cash, credit card, and UnionPay. Please note that transportation IC cards like Suica and electronic payment services and apps are not accepted at this time.

You can reserve seats for the Shinkansen and limited express trains at the same time. Since our planned destination is Aomori, we reserved seats on the Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori. You can also reserve seats at JR East Travel Service Centers and ticket vending machines (up to 6 times; for additional reservations, please inquire at a Travel Service Center). You can also upgrade to a Green Car or Gran Class for an additional fee.

3. You have now purchased your tickets! We got our JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020, and a round-trip reserved seat ticket between and Shin-Aomori and Tokyo. There were no complicated procedures required, and the service was fast!

The Perks of Purchasing JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020

The Perks of Purchasing JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020

We also asked the staff some questions about the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020.

―What are the perks of buying a JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020?
With this pass, you can ride the trains in the JR East area and several other noted lines for 3 days as many times as you want. Anyone with a passport can buy one, even if you're only visiting Japan. It was very popular this past fall to see the autumn leaves in the Tohoku Area. As an unlimited pass, it's a convenient way to visit places that are otherwise too far or too inconvenient to get to.

―The JR TOKYO Wide Pass is another unlimited JR East pass for foreigners living in Japan. What's the difference between the two?
The JR TOKYO Wide Pass can also be used for 3 days but covers a narrower range than the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020. The JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass includes virtually all areas covered by the JR TOKYO Wide Pass, so we let our customers decide which is better for them based on their travel plans.

―You also have the "Osakini Tokudane Special" ticket, where the Shinkansen is half price. Which one is better?
You need to be a member of the JR East's website Eki-net to buy the Osakini Tokudane Special. You must purchase it in advance online, between the period of 10:00AM one month before your planned boarding date to 1:40AM 20 days before that date. You also need to select the area and time zone where you plan to use the Shinkansen for the half-price discount. This option may be easier for those who already know their exact travel date and destination in advance. But for those who want a little more freedom to travel over a wider range, we recommend the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020.

―What should people do when traveling with family, friends, or other companions who only have Japanese passports?
Japanese passport holders can purchase the Osakini Tokudane Special ticket or any travel product that includes transportation and accommodation with the GoTo Travel Campaign.

You may also change your reserved Shinkansen seat by request if there are other available seats. If you'd like to move your seat to sit near your companions, feel free to ask when purchasing your ticket.

―What are the advantages of purchasing passes at the counter?
Purchasing at the counter may be more convenient since you can ask questions and see helpful materials. It is easier for the staff to clearly answer customers' questions. There are staff members who can speak English, Chinese, Korean, and more, so don't worry if you can't speak Japanese!

JAPAN RAIL CAFE also offers travel suggestions and accommodation arrangements!

JAPAN RAIL CAFE also offers travel suggestions and accommodation arrangements!
You can also get pamphlets like these in every language!

If you want to travel with the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 but haven't decided where to go yet, you're in luck!

The Travel Information Counter at JAPAN RAIL CAFE is also a tourist information center that can recommend travel destinations based on the season and events being held.

They can also help you make accommodation arrangements, which is great for people who haven't decided on a particular plan. You can easily select a travel destination at the same time you buy your JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020!

Various pamphlets are also available in multiple languages.

JAPAN RAIL CAFE will become your new best friend when planning a trip, and the staff is kind and friendly from beginning to end. After purchasing the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020, you can contact them at any time with any issues regarding your trip.

Measures Against Coronavirus
Disinfectant and sanitizer installed; partition plates installed; staff required to wear masks, wash hands, use disinfectant, gargle, and check their temperatures; restrictions on the number of people entering the store and seat spacing

  • JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO
    JAPAN RAIL CAFE TOKYO
    • Address 1-9 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0005 Outside Yaesu Central Ticket Gate GRAN TOKYO NORTH TOWER 1F
    • Hours: Weekdays 8:00AM-10:00PM Saturdays, Sundays, holidays 8:00AM-9:00PM
      *Travel Counter in-person support: 8:00AM-4:00PM (daily)

Our JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 Aomori Itinerary

Our JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 Aomori Itinerary

From here, we're off to Aomori to find some incredible, out-of-the-way landscapes!

The purpose of our trip is to travel to some hidden Aomori spots using the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020. With that said, let's head to Takayama Inari Shrine in Tsugaru City, Aomori, and check out its beautiful Senbon Torii gates.

Access
1) From Tokyo Station to Shin-Aomori Station by Shinkansen (about 3.5 hours)
*Use JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020
2) From Shin-Aomori Station, transfer to the JR Ou Line and JR Limited Express Resort Shirakami to Goshogawara Station (about 1 hour).
*Use JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020
3) From Goshogawara Station, take the Konan Bus to Takayama-Jinja-Guchi (Takayama Shrine Entrance) bus stop (about 1 hour)
4) Walk (about 40 minutes) or take a taxi (about 5 minutes) to Takayama Inari Shrine

Cost Compared to JR Transportation:
Regular Admission: One-way: 19,120 yen; Round-trip: 38,240 yen
JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020: 12,000 yen

With the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020, you can ride the regular lines, the limited express trains, and even the Shinkansen. Compared to the average round-trip fare, you can save as much as 26,240 yen!

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 Senbon Torii is a masterpiece!

Takayama Inari Shrine and its gorgeous Senbon Torii is 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 coronavirus.

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 a thousand 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!

Measures Against Coronavirus:
May decline entry to visitors in poor condition; visitors required to wear masks; disinfectant and sanitizer installed

  • Takayama Inari Shrine
    高山稲荷神社
    • 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

6 Recommended Scenic Spots to Visit in Aomori

There are many more hidden scenic spots in Aomori. Here are 6 recommended attractions, carefully selected by our editorial department.

1. Tsuru no Maihashi Bridge (Tsuruta)

1. 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.

Measures Against Coronavirus:
Visitors required to wear masks

  • Tsuru no Mai Bridge
    鶴の舞橋
    • Address Oosawa, Mawarizeki, Kitatsugaru Gun Tsuruta Machi, Aomori Ken, 038-3542, Japan
    • Phone Number 0173-22-2111
    • Admission: Free

2. Wintertime Hirosaki Castle (Hirosaki City)

2. Wintertime 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.

Measures Against Coronavirus
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

3. Furofushi Onsen (Fukaura Town)

3. 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 Koganezaki that 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.

Measures Against Coronavirus
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

4. Lake Jusanko (Goshogawara City)

4. 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!

Measures Against Coronavirus
May refuse entry to visitors in poor condition; all visitors required to wear masks and check temperatures

  • Lake Jusanko
    十三湖
    • Address Jusan, Goshogawara Shi, Aomori Ken, 037-0403, Japan
    • Phone: 0173-38-1515 (Goshogawara City Tourist Association)
      Hours: Visit anytime

5. Winter Oirase Gorge (Towada City)

5. Winter 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.

Measures Against Coronavirus
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

6. Niogataki Falls (Nishimeya)

6. 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.

Measures Against Coronavirus
May refuse entry to visitors in poor condition; all visitors required to wear masks and check temperatures

  • Niogataki Falls
    乳穂ヶ滝
    • 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 your pass with a rental car.

Day 1

Hirosaki Castle Illumination

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.

Day 2

The snowy landscape of Tsuru no Maihashi

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's 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.

Day 3

The frozen waterfall at Oirase Gorge

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. Take advantage of the JR EAST Welcome Rail Pass 2020 and travel 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.

*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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