Aomori (青森) , the capital of Aomori prefecture, Japan, is located on Mutsu Bay, at the northern tip of Honshu.
Aomori City as seen from Aomori Bay
Aomori's airport is served by Japan Airlines. JAL flights arrive from Tokyo Haneda Airport, Nagoya Centrair Airport, Osaka Itami and Kansai Airports, Sapporo Chitose Airport, and Fukuoka Airport. Buses connect the airport to the main train station for ¥560. The bus ride lasts 35 minutes.
Aomori is the northern terminus of Japan's Shinkansen train service. From Tokyo, Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate (はやて) and Hayabusa (はやぶさ) trains run to Shin-Aomori station, from which regular trains shuttle passengers over to the more centrally-located Aomori station. The trip on the Hayate takes approximately 3 hours 40 minutes, including average transfer and waiting times at Shin-Aomori, while Hayabusa trains are slightly faster. Ticketed passengers are permitted to travel to Aomori station in the non-reserved car of any train, even if a limited express train heading towards Aomori departs first.
The regular one-way fare from Tokyo to Aomori is ¥16,370 on the Hayate and ¥16,870 on the Hayabusa, and so the better deal for the round-trip is to purchase a JR East Rail Pass (¥22,000 (12+)/11000 (6-11) for 5 non-consecutive days within a 14 day period). If your travel plans include other parts of the country, such as Hokkaido, the better option will be the regular Japan Rail Pass. Note that the Green Car version of the rail pass is valid for Green Cars on the Hayate and Hayabusa, but any version of the pass will cover just the basic fare for the premium first class seating on the Hayabusa called "GranClass". Travelers using "GranClass" will be pampered with an all-leather seat resembling business class on an airplane, a personal on-call train attendant, high-quality meals and complimentary alcoholic beverages. Rail pass holders willing to partake in such an experience will have to fork over the limited express and GranClass fare (¥16,490 from Tokyo). Without a Rail Pass, "GranClass" costs ¥26,360 between Tokyo and Aomori.
Hakucho and Super Hakucho trains run 10 times per day between Shin-Aomori, Aomori and Hakodate (2 hours, ¥5300).
While just about all long-distance overnight trains which run toward Sapporo (on the northernmost island of Hokkaido) stop only in Aomori to change direction, and not to discharge passengers, some other overnight services actually start/terminate in Aomori. Here are the most convenient trains:
- From Tokyo's Ueno Station, the Akebono (あけぼの) runs daily to Aomori in 12 hours via Akita.
Update: regular use of Akebono has been discontinued. But according to East Japan Railway Co., the Akebono sleeper train will continue to be used for charter runs during busy seasons. (Highly recommended due to historical value)
- The daily Hamanasu overnight express connects Aomori with Sapporo in about 7 1/2 hours.
Note that the Akebono stops at Shin-Aomori, while the Hamanasu does not.
Aomori, at the northernmost point of Honshu, is the terminating point for several highway buses.
From Tokyo Station, JR Bus Tohoku's La Foret service runs once per night, reaching Aomori in 9 1/2 hours at a cost of ¥9,000 each way on Fridays, Saturdays and the day before holidays, and ¥8,500 on all other days. Konan Bus' Tsugaru runs over the same route; their bus costs ¥7,500 each way, or ¥9,000 during peak travel periods.
From Ueno Station in Tokyo, Konan Bus runs discounted bus services to Aomori: a daytime service called Sky (¥5,000) and two night services called Panda (¥4,500; ¥5,000 during peak travel periods). These buses take longer to Aomori - about 11 hours each way - due to an additional stop made in Hirosaki.
Willer Express operates several buses from Tokyo Station, Tokyo Disneyland and Shinjuku to Aomori with prices starting from about ¥5,000. Bookings can be made online in English.
Four bus operators jointly run Blue City daytime buses between Sendai and Aomori (5 hours, ¥5,700). There are more runs during the summer months than the rest of the year.
Seikan Ferry  and Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry  operate ferry services from Aomori to the port of Hakodate with multiple departures daily. One way fares are cheapest on the Seikan Ferry at ¥1,500 for a carpet space. The Tsugaru Kaikyo ferries are more expensive: one way fares are ¥2,700 for second class (carpet space), ¥5,000 for first class and ¥6,000 for special class. Note that first and special classes are only offered on specific departures and offer better amenities, such as a room with bed. Travel time on all services is approximately 3 hours, 45 minutes.
Taxis are always available from the train station.
Buses exist in Aomori, but it can be confusing without at least an intermediate Japanese ability.
Anywhere on or around the downtown main street is easily accessible by foot.
As with most outlying prefectural capitals, there isn't much to see in the city itself if you go in without knowing what to look for.
- Nebuta Festival (ねぷた祭り). Aug 2-7. Said to be Japan's biggest fire festival. This festival includes an abundance of street vendors. Each day culminates in a huge parade featuring lit up lantern floats and costumed dancers.
- Nebutanosato (ねぶたの里), . This museum houses exhibits about the Nebuta if you're unable to make it during festival season. 12/01 to 03/31: ¥420; 04/01 to 11/30: ¥560.
- Aomori Bay Bridge. A symbol of Aomori city that incorporates many "A" shapes into its design. It is lit up at night with colorful lights. There is a stairwell accessible from the waterfront area that provides nice free views of the bay.
- Aspam Center. A large triangular building that can be easily spotted from the train station or the bridge, this is the tourism center for all of Aomori prefecture. It includes a movie about the prefecture (Japanese only) and an observation deck with views of the harbor and city (extra charge).
- Tsugaru Kaikyo Fuyu-Geshiki. This memorial alongside the ferry terminal looks like it might honor some historical event or local hero, but it's actually dedicated to a song. Meaning "Tsugaru Strait winter scenery", the 1977 hit ballad is an all-time karaoke favorite.
- Aomori Prefectural Museum. Houses exhibits about the history of Aomori prefecture.
- Asamushi Aquarium, . A nice aquarium that features a dolphin show and a transparent underwater tunnel.
- Asamushi Onsen. A hot springs resort on Mutsu bay with a rather large number of inns.
- Sannai Maruyama. A historical site dedicated to the Jomon people, as many Jomon artifacts have been uncovered here.
- Hakkoda-maru Ferry. The ferry which connected Hokkaido and Aomori prior to the building of the Seikan Submarine Tunnel, is now a somewhat run down museum, a short walk from the train station. The rear part of the deck of the ferry serves as a beer garden on summer nights.
- Aomori Museum of Art, 185 Chikano, Yasuta, Aomori City, Aomori Pref. 038-0021 (From the JR Aomori train station 10-15 minutes by car or taxi, 20-30 minutes by bus), ☎ 017-783-3000, . 6/1 - 9/30 9:00 - 18:00 10/1 - 5/31 9:30 - 17:00. A well maintained museum that has a surprisingly big collection. 500 yen.
- Wa Rasse, 〒 030-0803 1-1-1, Aomori City Cultural tourism exchange facility Aomori (Aomori station East exit turn North and you will see it), . 017-752-1311. Everything you wanted to know about the Nebuta Matsuri and more in one musuem. Floats, drums, dancers as well as exhibits about other parts of Aomori culture. This musuem exhibit is similiar in content to the Neputa Mura in Hirosaki.
- Nebuta Matsuri, . This is Aomori's most famous festival. It is held in early August.
For loading up on regional souvenirs, head to ASPAM, the unusual-looking triangular building located just behind the bridge on the harbor. It contains an exhibition hall for promoting tourism and local products.
- Ganesh, (A few blocks SE of the train station — go down Shinmachi a few blocks and then right a few blocks.). This is a small restaurant with very good Indian food. It is difficult to find but worth the search. The restaurant is not directly on the road; it is tucked in with a small parking lot and has a small but incredibly garish sign.
- Aomori Grand Hotel. This hotel has a bar on the top floor, with a nice view of the bay bridge and the Aspam center. As far as hotel bars go, this one is quite reasonably priced.
- Karaoke U-Bo. A large karaoke chain that has a branch about four or five blocks down the main street on the left. This location has a nice selection of English songs and, of course, offers all you can drink plans.
- Cafe Skyline Gusto, Shinmachi. 7AM-2AM. The Gusto chain is always a safe bet for foreign travelers. It is similar to the Denny's and Jonathan's chains in Japan and not too different from the Denny's or Perkin's restraunt chains in America. Gusto is often the best option for the weary traveler due to its late hours and relaxed atmosophere (as well as the farmiliar menu items, all with pictures). Cafe Skyline Gusto is across from the Aomorikan Hotel, down a street or two. It has pretty standard fare in terms of Japanese breakfast food (toast with mayonnaise and eggs), but also features bacon and sausage as sides to eggs (most expensive is ¥499). In addition, you can also get a stack of three pancakes or two pancakes with condensed milk, banana and maple syrup (both are roughly ¥450). Gusto is particularly know for the drink bar (included with most set menu items), which includes milk, a wide variety of juices (remember Aomori is famous for their apples!) as well as the coffee machine, which dispenses cappuccino, American style coffee as well as espresso. The bar is self-serve, and makes for an easy morning. The drink bar by itself is roughly ¥350, so buying breakfast is worth it for the drink service alone.
- Carpe Diem English Bar (ichi go ichi e), (5 min walk from the train, Shinmachi passage is a pedestrian area on the right side of the main street. Carpe Diem is between Bonitos Coffee Shop and the spagetti shop. 2 doors down from the ramen shop.), ☎ 017 722-2129. 11:30AM-late. Carpe Diem is a foreigner friendly bar with premiership football and curry made by a Calcutta chef. Free internet. ¥500 for a large beer..
Numerous hotels dot Shinmachi, the main street that stretches out from the train station. These hotels generally increase in price the closer you get to the train station.
- Aomori Grand Hotel. This hotel is probably the closest and most expensive of these hotels. It is on the left as you begin down Shinmachi.
- Iruha Ryokan (いろは旅館), 030-0803 Aomori, Aomori, Yasukata 1-31-21 (Right outside Aomori Station East exit behind 'Route Inn'), ☎ 017-722-8689. checkin: 15:00-23:00; checkout: 10:00. Sato San likes her guests and will take good care of you in this ryokan. For the location is is hard to beat but the facilities are a bit old and spartan. ¥4000.
The city tourist information center is located next to the bus stop on the left as you exit the train station; they have good brochures and maps in English. You can pick up the free Northern Tohoku Welcome Card  here, which gets you discounts on transport and attractions.
- Hirosaki, the "Kyoto of the North", is 45 minutes away by train.
- The Shimokita Peninsula, one of the most remote but also one of the most beautiful places in Japan, is a few hours away by train.
- The route from Aomori city to Hachinohe via Sukayu Onsen and Lake Towada is accessible via an infrequent Japan Rail bus (leaving e.g. 10:10am, noon) which leaves from the terminal (stop 8) outside Aomori Station. This is a picturesque route in a 45-person-capacity bus with a recorded tour commentary in Japan and English, and which also allows day trips to the Hakkoda Mountains. This area is an hour away by bus from Aomori, and can be hiked via Sukaya Onsen or from the local cable car, which the bus also stops at. The last bus for Aomori leaves from the onsen at 16:58 (cable car 17:08). Lake Towada is also a worthwhile stopping point on the road to or from Aomori.