The fast track to love in Aomori

December 9th, 2010 by Felicity Hughes

What do orchards, a giant dog sculpture and huge paper lantern floats have in common? The answer is that they can all be found in Aomori, the rather chilly city that sits at the northernmost tip of Honshu island. JR East who opened up an extended high-speed train route to Shin-Aomori on Dec. 4, is hoping that the combined charm of these things will be enough to attract Tokyoites, sparking a boom in local tourism.

The “My First Aomori” campaign is now in full swing and centers around a series of TV commercials that depicts a blossoming love affair between a handsome young train station employee who’s come from Tokyo to work in Aomori and a beautiful local girl. So far seven episodes have been released, showing the opening of the new Shin-Aomori Station and, most recently, the couple dating while sightseeing around the region.

Initial responses to the campaign have been positive, according to Sankei News, a shop in Chiyoda Ward that exclusively sells products from Aomori, was given a face-lift in time for the launch of the new route and did brisk business on that day. Popular items were Aomori apple juice and garlic jam.

However, bearing in mind the fact that snow has already begun to fall in the region, we’re thinking visitors who are interested in strolling around Aomori’s orchards might put that trip off till summer. Visitors in winter will be limited to snow sports, onsen (hot springs) and the Aomori  Art Museum, which houses an impressive collection of work by world-famous artist Yoshitomo Nara, who was born in the city. But there’s another reason to visit in winter: The city is a convenient stop-off point for visitors traveling up north for the Sapporo snow festival in February.

The real Aomori tourism boom will probably come in summer when the more temperate temperatures up north will attract those looking to escape the sweltering heat of a Tokyo summer. Tourists will be also be drawn to the annual Nebuta Festival, which is held on Aug. 2-7. Every year Aomori is packed with tourists who come to see the parade of colorful paper lantern floats that flow through the city streets at night. With the trip from the capital to Aomori now even quicker, the streets of Aomori look set to be packed even more tightly.

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