The pursuit of the perfect apple in Japan has created a fascinating apple culture. Centred around the apple orchids of Aomori Prefecture, Japan celebrates apples with colourful mascots and apple blossom festivals, and fruit picking is one of the most popular activities of the region. Bathing in a huge bath full of apples is even an activity that one can try in Hirakawa. And then there’s the Sekai Ichi, one of the largest and most expensive apples in the world.
Apples Of Aomori Prefecture
Aomori and apples go hand in hand. The whole apple industry in Aomori started off with three saplings, which were planted in the Aomori Prefectural Office in 1875. From those humble beginnings, this northernmost prefecture of Honshu produces more than half of Japan’s total apples. Harvest season takes place from July to November.
The most well-known Japanese apple is Fuji, but there are many other varieties. There are Tsugaru, Mutsu, Kitakurenai, and Sekai Ichi, the most coveted of Japanese apples.
Apple Picking In Aomori Prefecture
Many farms offer apple picking, a fun way to enjoy the outdoors in Japan. For around ¥500-1000, the experience usually allows visitors to spend the entire day at the farm collecting apples, and you can keep three apples that you’ve picked. It’s a good idea to book ahead as places at the farms book out, especially during weekends.
There are many farms to visit for apple picking, but some of the most well-known are Aomori Kanko Ringo-en, Hirosaki Apple Park, and Aomori Ringo-no-Sato.
Apple Onsen In Aomori
To truly immerse yourself in the apple experience of Japan, you can try an apple onsen. Thats right – visitors can bathe in a natural hot spring filled with bobbing apples. Besides smelling amazing, it’s said that the apple water is moisturising due to the malic acid which seeps from the apples, and improves blood circulation and softens skin.
Minamida Onsen Hotel Apple Land
One place to try this unusual onsen is Minamida Onsen Hotel Apple Land, located in nearby Hirakawa City, 45 minutes drive from Aomori. The onsen and foot spa are available year-round, and there is also a bamboo charcoal bath, and a cypress wood bath. And for those staying in the hotel at Apple Land, expect to find a fridge full of delicious Aomori apples!
Nyango Star, The Yuru-Chara Apple Mascot Of Aomori
It’s no surprise that Aomori’s yuru-chara (city mascot) is apple themed. But Nyango Star, as he’s known, is not just any ordinary apple. He’s an apple which has been inhabited by the spirit of a cat, and is also a heavy metal drummer. He’s a viral star on Youtube, shown here shredding on the drums!
Why is he named Nyango Star? It’s a combination of the Japanese word for Meow (Nyan), Apple (Ringo), and by extension, Ringo Starr, The Beatles’ legendary drummer!
Hirosaki City Apple Flower Festival
For fans of cherry blossom season, viewing the apple trees flower is another wonderful activity to do in Aomori. The festival takes place at Hirosaki Apple Park in early May, and lasts one week. Visitors can see the flowers bloom in explosions of white and pink.
Besides seeing the flowers, the apple flower festival has plenty of other activities too. There is a giant apple pie made every year, which measures over 2 metres (over 6.5 feet!), and contains around 400 apples. There are musicians performing traditional tsugaru-jamisen music, which originated in Aomori. There is also plenty of food and drinks made with apples.
Sekai Ichi Apples – The Most Expensive Apples In The World
One of the world’s largest and most expensive apples is the Japanese variety Sekai Ichi. Literally translated to ‘number one’, these apples are known or their humungous size, perfect round shape, sweetness, and their price tag. These amazing fruits cost around ¥2200 (approximately $21USD)! Sekai Ichi are grown in Aomori Prefecture, Japan’s main apple growing region, and apple picking tours are a highlight for many visitors.
First bred in 1974 in the region of Morioka, Japan, Sekai Ichi are are a cross between red delicious and golden delicious apples. Today, they are mostly grown in Aomori. Fruiting begins with cross-pollination from other apple trees, which is for manually by the farmers. While they grow, the apples are washed in honey. A Sekai Ichi can weigh 500 to 1000 grams (1-2 pounds), and easily fill your entire hand. They have a yellow background with red stripes, and a sweet, mild flavour perfect for eating raw. They will keep for 3-4 months if refrigerated.
Apples have a special place in the identity of Aomori. The apple industry is the biggest in Japan, and the tourism industry of the region has lots of apple related things to do. From apple picking, apple bathing and apple cherry blossom viewing, a trip to the region might be an unexpected highlight to any trip to Japan!