Adventures in Aomori / Part 1: Heading North


This time last year, I had just returned from a trip to Miyagi to stay with my fiancée’s parents for the first time. A few months after that, she flew with me to Northern Ireland to meet my own parents. Fast forward one year, and here we are – just back from another family trip, this time up to Aomori prefecture to meet her dad’s extended family.

This trip was actually the furthest north I have ever been in the country, and it was really interesting to experience a way of life so different to my own in Tokyo. I’m very grateful to have been taken to so many places that I simply would not have seen if I was travelling independently.

I never wanted IKIMASHO! to be just another boring blog about Japan. There are already scores of sites out there listing the top ten places to buy coffee wherever. And while these sites undoubtedly serve a purpose (I use them!), it’s just not what this one is about. My aim is to show what it is like to live here on a daily basis. That’s it. The everyday stuff. The little stations. The streets I walk down every day. But in order to do that, you need to inject a bit of your personal life into it. And that’s where things get tricky.

I hope in this forthcoming series of posts I have got the private/public balance right – showing what it is like to be fully immersed in Japanese culture, yet also still respecting the fact that I have a personal life.

And so where do I start when talking about my most recent trip to Aomori?

Well, I guess at the beginning 🙂

shinkansen Tokyo to Hachinohe

Here we are, straight out of work and over to Tokyo station to catch our Shinkansen up north! The E5 series that serves the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions of northern Japan is green with a pink stripe, and the 700km journey took us less than three hours.

Old Japanese home beautiful

We were actually staying in her dad’s childhood home which is now basically empty as no one lives there anymore. We were able to turn on the water and electric, but no gas. It was amazing to see so many items from decades ago still scattered about here and there. The washi paper screen doors were beautiful, with all of the rooms on the bottom floor opening up to make one large space.

Childhood memories Japan

I inherited this framed photo from when she was ten.

Traditional Japanese breakfast Aomori

The next morning we woke up early and took a short walk over to Naoko’s auntie’s house. Sitting in front of a TV showing loud Saturday morning variety shows, we enjoyed a traditional home-cooked breakfast. Clockwise from top left: scallops with asparagus; scrambled eggs with shiitake mushrooms; miso soup; mixed rice with sea urchin; grilled mackerel.

Drawing anime kindergarten Tokyo Japan

I also taught her auntie’s granddaughter  how to draw.

Justin Egli

And she presented me with this flattering illustration of myself. At least she got the hair right!

Amori coastline Northern Japan 2

After breakfast, Naoko’s parents arrived by car having driven up from Miyagi prefecture at 5am. Happily fed, we set out to explore the Tanesashi Coast – a rugged section of Pacific coastline located in the southern portion of Hachinohe City. I couldn’t believe how much this area looked like my own hometown of Bangor in Northern Ireland.

Amori coastline Northern Japan

Misty views over the Tanesashi Coast in Aomori.

Japanese soft cream green tea

10:30am and time for ice cream? Why not! The soft serve (ソフトクリーム) here was the creamiest I have ever had. 

Saba sandwich

We also tried these amazing grilled mackerel sandwiches. I wish I could find a place that did these in Tokyo.

Hachinohe quiet street

After playing frisbee in the park, we made our way back through Hachinohe and it was really interesting to see the smaller, quieter parts of the city. Regular followers of this blog will know of my love affair with lesser-known and obscure areas, and this part of the city definitely fell into that category. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking this part of town was abandoned – but there was actually a pretty big indoor fish market that evidently still serves the locals. I am happy that independent traders can still make a living in their own neighbourhoods.

Hachinohe, Aomori

Too cute.

Small indoor fish market Hachinohe

The majority of sellers at this market had stopped trading for the day…

Women chatting in fish market Aomori

But Naoko’s parents chatted to this group of women for a long time. I think Naoko’s dad really enjoyed a trip down memory lane, reminiscing about the area and asking about people who still lived and worked there.

 Part 2 coming soon 🙂

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  1. Lorraine Wilson

    I have just found your blog. I live in South Wales and am an ESOL teacher . I have taught two Japanese students over several years and my last student has returned to Tokyo recently. I have recommended that she reads your blog as well. Thanks.


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  2. Thank you so much. It really makes me happy when people take the time to comment. I really appreciate your support and feel free to join the ikimasho facebook page so you see more stuff on a daily basis. Enjoy wales – I hope the weather is better than it is in Tokyo today! 🙂

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