Tsugaru: Deep Snow, Warm Hearts *RERUN
The Tsugaru region lies in the west of Aomori Prefecture, far in the north of Japan's main island. It is famous for having some of the heaviest snowfalls in the whole country. The local people are proud of their distinctive traditional culture and food products, which have been passed down to the present day. On this episode of Journeys in Japan, our traveler is Kanoa, a model who grew up in the warm climate of Hawaii and southern California. She visits Tsugaru in the depth of winter, and discovers the warmth that comes from the community spirit linking the people who live in this region.

Owani-onsen bean sprouts

In winter, farmers in Tsugaru grow a special variety of bean sprout, using heat from their local hot spring. The bean sprouts are available for purchase at the "Wani Come" facility, near Owani-onsen station. Please note, the bean sprouts are very popular and sometimes sells out in the morning. Many restaurants in Owani town serve the special bean sprouts with ramen noodles or in stir-fried dishes.

Sawada Candle Festival

This event is held every year on the 15th day of the first month by the old lunar calendar, at Sawada Shinmei-gu shrine in the Sawada district of Hirosaki City. Visitors to the shrine climb up to a small inner shrine on the mountainside, and place lit candles on a rock to pray for abundant crops and the safety of their families. The shrine is about 30 minutes from Hirosaki train station by car.

Tsugaru-nuri Lacquer Ware

For more than 350 years ago, this traditional style of lacquerware has been made in the Tsugaru area, especially in Hirosaki but also in other places. Objects are coated with multiple layers of colored lacquer. Polishing or grinding the surface reveals intricate patterns. Tsugaru-nuri items are sold at souvenir shops and stores specializing in local product.

Access

To reach Tsugaru from Tokyo, flights from Haneda Airport to Aomori Airport take 70 minutes. From there, it takes another hour by bus to Hirosaki. If you are heading to Owani, take the train to Owani-onsen, on the Ou Line.