Inakadate in Aomori Prefecture is famous for its stunning and intricate rice paddy art. What began in 1993 with purple and yellow rice plants forming a picture of Mt. Iwaki has since grown into an annual event that draws in hundreds of thousands of visitors from around Japan and even internationally.
There are two observation venues: Inakadate and Yayoi no Sato. There is a free shuttle bus running from Tanbo Art Station that visits both venues.
The main purpose of the project was to show the tradition of manual work in the fields and in rice cultivation. This gave people a way to learn more about the dying art of rice farming and agriculture as society is fast-shifting toward a more urban lifestyle. Traditional rice farmers took advantage of the growing interest in rice art to make Inakadate a booming tourist center. In 2014, even the Emperor and Empress of Japan visited the site.
At the beginning of June every year, guests can get their feet wet in the rice fields and learn how to plant the variants of rice to create that year’s picture. Then, later in the year at the end of September, it’s time to harvest that beautiful rice. If you decide to try your hand at planting or harvesting the rice, you’ll get a free lunch of onigiri and pork miso soup. Prior registration is required for either event and manual-labor clothing is expected.
Get off at Tanbo Art Station on the Konan Line and take an 11-minute shuttle ride.
Hirosaki Castle, completed in 1611 by the Tsugaru clan, is located in Aomori Prefecture and is a particularly worthwhile excursion destination, especially during the cherry blossom season. Originally the tower was a 5-story building, but after a lightning strike it burned down to its foundation walls. A law at the time said that the tower could not be rebuilt in its original form, so that the tower was rebuilt as a three-story tower, as can still be seen today. The tower of Hirosaki is the only castle tower in the Tohoku region, which was rebuilt in the Edo period and it is considered a symbol of the city of Hirosaki. The first cherry trees in Hirosaki Park were planted about 300 years ago. Here visitors also have the opportunity to marvel at the scenery from a boat or to admire the evening illuminations.
Whilst 'real Japan' has arguably become a buzzword in Japan tourism marketing, travelling to Honshu's norther-most prefecture of Aomori and staying with a local farmer is as surely real as it gets as it comes alive with the sound of the drum and cries of "Yaayado!"