JAPAN TRAVEL: Tsugaru-han Neputa Village in Hirosaki City Will Immerse You with Cultural Experiences
The city of Hirosaki in Aomori is best explored through Tsugaru-han Neputa Village a spot that serves as a microcosm of the town that’s rich in culture and tradition. A trip to this village will immerse you in cultural experiences you can only find in Hirosaki, a leisurely introduction to the region’s outlying neighborhood.
The Tsugaru-han Neputa Village in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture
A significant festival in Aomori called the Aomori Neputa Festival which takes place in summer and transforms the whole city to its grandest. Held every first week of August, this monumental cultural event amasses millions of tourists yearly. Designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in the 1980s, Aomori Neputa Festival features a parade of gigantic, multicolored floats depicting mythological creatures, energetic taiko drum performances, and a vibrant participation from the locals characterized by spirited dances and powerful chants.
Japanese musicians entertain the crowd by playing the Tsugaru shamisen
As this festival is deemed significant by the Aomori Prefecture, a hall is dedicated to preserving the festival’s customs. Highlighting the region’s important traditions, the Tsugaru-han Neputa Village proves that it’s deserving of a spot in every traveler’s bucket list. Here are some of the must-see attractions inside the museum village.
A live performance of the Tsugaru Shamisen
Performers of the Tsugaru shamisen play 9 to 10 times a day from April to November, and 8 from December to March.
Watch different musicians play the shamisen, a Japanese stringed instrument that produces rhythmic folk music style through powerful strumming. It’s only fitting that you see it live in Aomori, as this is where it was originally performed by visually-impaired musicians as a way of living.
Tsugaru Craft Center
Japanese warriors are their main design theme
A place where Aomori artisans skillfully create a masterpiece, the Tsugaru Craft Center gathers craft makers who produce traditional Tsugaru items such as pottery, lacquerware, kites, and more in one roof. These skilled artisans showcase their expertise through a live crafting performance in their own respective studios.
Tsugaru Kite painting
Filipino TV host Robi Domingo paints his own Tsugaru dako kite
Activities are also available for visitors to try for themselves. Try your hand in doing Japanese traditional craft such as kite painting, an interesting activity that unleashes your talent when it comes to art.
Tsugaru dako kite painting is priced at ¥1,000 (regular) and ¥900 (students)
This traditional art called the Tsugaru Dako Kite painting is a piece of Aomori’s art culture. Guided by a sensei (Japanese teacher), visitors can paint their own Tsugaru dako kite with the face of Japanese warriors on washi paper. The whole experience is fairly easy and takes only about an hour to do. Originally, these kites were produced by samurais as children’s toys in the past.
Tsugaru Umaiya is a restaurant in Tsugaru-han Neputa Village that sets the benchmark for Aomori home-style cooking. Recognized as a Tsugaru Food Heritage Traditional Shop, it dishes up traditional Aomori specials in its simple yet delicious meals.
An essential dish to try would be their Kaiyaki, a course meal that gives you a sample of Aomori’s cuisine. Using a heated scallop shell, a raw egg is poured on top, mixed with miso and stock. The use of scallop is said to enhance the flavors of the dish. It’s also served with a side of nutritious vegetable soup, perfect for Aomori’s cold weather.
During peak season especially in spring, the restaurant can be packed. Make sure to place a reservation ahead of your visit.
Visitors feeding the koi fish at the pond
The beautiful landscape of Yokien Garden
The outdoor setting of Neputa Village provides an ideal representation of the whole town—an oasis of calm. Yokien, a small Japanese garden inside the museum village, emanates such a relaxing vibe, and a stroll around this landscape is best for an afternoon visit. You may feed the pond’s residents, the koi fishes, with feeds bought from the stall beside the garden.
Shop for souvenir items at this store located inside Tsugaru-han Neputa Village!
What better way to end the whole village tour than with shopping? Shop for Aomori goods and memorabilia at their own gift shop, where you can buy all sorts of goods—from snacks to trinkets, and more.
Tips for First-Time Visitors
- The Tsugaru Craft Experience classes are conducted in Japanese, so it’s better to have someone who can understand basic Japanese to fully understand the lesson.
- There are select areas that charge a separate admission fee.
- Tsugaru Umaiya’s menu changes regularly.
- Parking is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. only; except during Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival season. Please call for the updated parking fees.
How to go here
From the JR Hirosaki Central Bus Stop, ride the Konan Bus Dote-machi Loop and get off at Bunka Center Stop. From there, it will take 8 minutes by foot to Neputa Village.
Address: Tsugaru-han Neputa Village, 61 Kamenoko-machi Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture
Operating Hours: April to November (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), December to March (Performance until 4 p.m., Viewing 5 p.m.) Open every day
Admission Fees: ¥500 (Regular), ¥300 (Junior/High School Students), ¥200 (Elementary Students), ¥100 (Young children 3 and up)
*Prices are subject to change without prior notice.
This first appeared in Philippine Primer magazine’s December 2018 issue.
Written by Jastine Valeriano