Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Aomori Japan

I love Japan. I think this is about my 8th trip here and this time we are staying away from the most touristy areas. We had a few days in Tokyo before heading straight up to Aomori on the Shinkansen using our JRPasses. We have spent the last 4 days in Hirosaki which is the centre of the largest Apple growing area of Japan and the apples are enormous! Even the smallest Fuji Apple I could find at the supermarket fed 2 of us for dessert.

This area is also where a style of Sashiko called Kogin comes from. It’s basically a running stitch originally used to strengthen fabric and make it thicker and warmer as Aomori is very cold in winter.

These are Kogin pieces in the display cases at the Hirosaki kogin institute , 61 Zaifucho-Cho, Hirosaki.
We walked there in the pouring rain yesterday at the tail end of a Typhoon. The institute will organise a workshop if you have group , an interpreter would be helpful too .
There are lots of other shops selling Kogin in Hirosaki and you can buy a kit to make your own, from the fabric shop on Chuo Dori. Just veer right from
The front of the railway station/bus station. Head up the road till you see this big store 

The fabric store is at the front of the car park. 

It has quilting fabric, sewing fabric, sewing supplies, kogin and Sashiko kits, needles etc. The prices seem better than a similar shop in Aomori City, but I suspect that is because the rent is lower in Hirosaki.

The Aomori shop

Similar sorts of sewing fabrics, quilting supplies and knitting wool. The owner speaks English I think, the signs around the shop are bilingual. The address is
Across the intersection from
The Nakasan department store. Corner of Showa Dori and Nikoniko-dori.
You will see the Japanese fabric fat quarters outside the door. 

Most of the big department stores also have a Japanese souvenir department on one of the upper floors. The Nakasan in Hirosaki has a good selection of Kogin souvenirs and a lovely selection of indigo dyed clothing which I can’t afford but I love to look at.

In Hirosaki you can also visit the Kawasaki Dyeworks shop. If you are missing your cat then this is also a good place to spend time with a very affectionate black cat who loves people. I never saw out the back where the vats are, once again I think this might be possible with the help of an interpreter.

Hirosaki and Aomori City also have great displays of Neputa. These are festival floats made of wire and painted paper with lights inside.
In Aomori they look
Like this

In Hirosaki they are fan shaped and look
Like this ( see below)

I also liked the little goldfish made from
Paper and wire. Kids carry these in the annual Neputa parade.

Last time I came to Aomori I visited the Aomori Prefectural Folk Museum which had a good display of the different Kogin motifs. A very helpful lady translated the meanings for me. They were things like ‘mountain’ and ‘butterfly’.
Unfortunately the museum is closed till
Next March. This helpful sign is in the tourist office.

There is a lot more to see in this area. I travelled from
Hirosaki to Kuroishi on Saturday for a craft fair being held at the Kokeshi Doll museum. This was on the 21/22 October in 2017. I only bought three Kokeshi dolls, and two hexagon shaped fabric brooches. It was nice to buy things from
The actual makers rather than from a shop or museum.

To get to the Kuroishi Kokeshi doll
Museum take the non JR line to Kuroishi( you have to pay if you are in a jr pass because this is a private line) then ask the information office people how to get to the Kokeshi doll museum by bus. The bus doesn’t go very often so it’s a good idea to find out what time the bus comes back too! Take a small towel so you can soak your feet in the foot baths round the back where the shops are.