Noheji Town: A Brief Overview Based on Initial Observations

We’ve introduced Noheji to you in photos, now it’s time to try words.  Let’s begin with an overview of the prefecture.

Aomori-ken

Noheji is nestled in the northern center of Aomori-ken (or Aomori Prefecture) on the edge of Mutsu Bay.  Aomori-ken is the northernmost prefecture on Honshu (Japan’s mainland).  It is famous for many things, most notably apples and snow.  The ‘Fuji apple’ was developed in Aomori in the 19th century and has since gained popularity the world over.  Apples have literally become the symbol of Aomori-ken as the fruit has been incorporated into the prefecture’s logo.

Winters in Aomori-ken are supposedly long, cold, and full of snow.  However, the abundance of mountains and hot springs provide ideal locations for ski resorts and onsens scattered across the prefecture.

The Shimokita Peninsula to the far Northeast section of Aomori contains the world’s northernmost habitat of wild monkeys.  And, yes, they like hot springs.  The mountainous region is also known for its population of bears, but I don’t believe they are as abundant there as they are in Hokkaido.

Eventually winter succumbs to spring.  Hirosaki City, in central Aomori-ken, is world famous for its blooming cherry blossoms (sakura) at HIrosaki Castle.  Apparently there are over 5,000 cherry trees that surround the castle.  Wow.

Summers in Aomori are short, and thus, packed with festivals.  The temperatures during this time are warm, but less humid than other parts of Honshu.

Autumn is another dramatic season in Aomori.  Lake Towada is a famous site for witnessing the changing colors of the deciduous leaves.

People make a living in Aomori-ken in a variety of ways.  First, there’s the fish.  Plenty of halibut, squid, salmon, cod, abalone, sea urchins, and scallops to feed the nation.  The hiba cypress is the prefectoral tree and is used to make local furniture.  Apparently it naturally wards off bugs.  Yams, rice, and garlic are also farmed in abundance.

Noheji Town

At the junction of the Tohoku train line and the southeast corner of Mutsu Bay is the town of Noheji, a small fishing community of about 15,000 people.  Noheji embodies many of Aomori-ken’s characteristics.  First there is the snow.  We will receive much of it this winter.  The town, conveniently, contains both a ski resort/onsen that will be ideal for winter recreation.

Noheji will probably be the only place we live that will have both a ski resort/onsen and a public sandy ocean-side beach for cooling off during the summer.  We have yet to visit both the beach and ski resort, but when we do we’ll be sure to post a full report (with photos).

Noheji, like most towns and cities in Japan, benefits from great city planning.  Noheji train station offers services for commuters and tourists alike and will probably be our gateway to traveling around Japan on weekends and holidays.  The town itself, unlike much of suburban and rural America, is not spread out.  Living with the community in such close proximity allows much of the breathtaking landscape to remain mostly unspoiled.

Noheji and the surrounding area is famous for scallops.  You can find scallops in everything here, including pizza (we recommend the scallop, bacon, and basil pizza at Cafe R, a small Italian restaurant in town).

There are several grocery stores in Noheji, including two supermarkets.  Restaurants we’ve encountered thus far have included two Italian diners, at least two ramen shops, take-out sushi, and a few others that offer traditional Japanese cuisine.  There are also three pastry bakeries (two of which specialize in cake by the slice), a pet bird and fish shop, manga store, handball gymnasium, a hospital, and a large police station.  The ubiquity of the town’s barbershops and hair salons (at least one on every street) is surpassed only by the vending machines that offer cool, refreshing lemon water, green tea, milk tea, ice coffee, and a variety of sodas.

Many people own cars in Noheji but right now one can easily get around on a bike.  That’s precisely what Julie and I have been doing.  It’s wonderful.  We have enjoyed our frequent trips to school and the store as we practice our greetings to the people we pass on the streets.  They usually return the greeting with a smile and a bow.  We also frequently pass by gardens and grassy meadows where one can hear the pleasant ambient chirping of insects at all hours of the day and night.

Three times during the day (8:30 AM, 12:00 PM, and 8:00 PM), traditional music is pumped out of a PA speaker from the town hall.  We have taken comfort as these ‘theme songs’ of Noheji prompt the various transitions of the day.

Thus concludes the overview.

Living a dream…

On a more personal note, Julie and I have had dreams about Japan almost every night.  Then we wake up and realize we’re still there.

All information in this entry not gleamed from personal observation or conversations with residents and former residents of Noheji was found in a guide to Aomori published by the International Affairs Division of the Aomori Prefectural Government.

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2 Responses to “Noheji Town: A Brief Overview Based on Initial Observations”

  1. sarah austad Says:

    I’ll make sure Dad reads this. You know how he loves scallops! It sounds like a great place for you and Julie to spend your year. I am anxious to see pictures of the fall colors there and compare them to Wisconsin. When I went to DC, the cherry blossoms were in bloom. It was truly breathtaking so I know you’re in for a treat too. Love you both. Mom

  2. More Photos of Noheji « Pacificloons Says:

    […] photos are a nice companion piece to an earlier post that offered a brief introduction to the […]

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