Last weekend I traveled to Kuroishi! I say traveled, but really it’s only about an hour drive away from Hirosaki. Actually some ALTs bike to Kuroishi on the weekends in summer because it is so close.
I think Kuroishi is a really cute town, and I wanted to explore it! Since it is winter, and also currently Japan is undergoing a COVID-19 scare, many places are closed and there is a lack of people wandering about. Not sure if it is really due to the novel coronavirus or just Kuroishi being more of a country town…
Okay, so getting back into it, the two places I went to were the Tsugaru Kokeshi Museum and Komise Doori. So I’ll just talk about those two in depth and add a couple of other things from other seasons to look forward to!
Tsugaru Kokeshi Museum (津軽こけし館)
So first the reason I really wanted to go to Kuroishi was for the Tsugaru Kokeshi Museum. I have an unrelenting love for knick-knacks, so in search of some new knick-knacks to add to my worldly possessions, I wanted to go to this museum. The museum sells a bunch of different traditional Japanese wooden toys, and of course, as the name would imply, kokeshi.
If you don’t know what a kokeshi is, it’s a traditional doll that is crafted out of wood, with no arms and no legs. They originated in the Northeastern part of Japan, and the kokeshi from the Tsugaru region of Aomori is unique due to its hourglass figure and the tree peony flower or daruma face that came be found painted on its body.
The museum itself is located next to the Tsugaru Traditional Crafts Centre, meaning you can experience more cultural crafts outside of the kokeshi dolls, such as Nebuta and Tsugaru Nuri (lacquerware). I think most of the stores were closed when I went, but I’d like to come back again someday.
Also, if you visit the center you can try Kuroishi’s traditional food: Kuroishi Tsuyu Yakisoba.
Okay, back to the museum; the place is pretty small, but they’ve packed a lot into it! The first floor of the museum is filled with kokeshi and traditional wooden toys that you can buy. There are about 4 different rooms filled with a variety of kokeshi and other souvenirs. One room is typically filled with seasonal kokeshi. So for example, when I went, Hina Matsuri (girls day) was just around the corner so they were selling Hina Matsuri themed kokeshi.
The second floor of the museum is not free (it was about $3 or ¥330), but it is nice that you can see many different kokeshi and the creative process for free on the first floor.
The second floor has even more kokeshi dolls, and talks more about the history and creation of the dolls. If you are interested in making your own doll you can even make a reservation when you get there!
A little warning, this museum only has Japanese pamphlets, and Japanese signs. However, I don’t think this will hinder your experience, because the kokeshi itself is a beautiful piece of hand craftsmanship to enjoy!
Nakamachi Komise Street (こみせ通り）
According to the cities official brochure this street has been unaltered since the Edo period. It has also been selected as one of the 100 best roads in Japan.
This street has an arcade that was built to protect people from the harsh snow of a Tsugaru winter, while also sheltering from the sun and rain during other seasons.
This road is also famous for its original sake brewery and storehouse (The pictured building at the top of this post).
If you are used to Japan, this street probably looks like any old street, but it is a really good example of how structures were built during the Edo period and shows the adaptability of humans to overcome harsh winter conditions, especially those of the Tsugaru region.
Here are some photos and other information about Kuroishi from another JET who lives in Kuroishi, Madeline Lehman! (Thanks Mads)
Kuroishi is famous for Nebuta (like most of its neighboring cities in the Tsugaru region) and the Kuroishi Yosare in summer.
Also in Fall many people from all over Aomori and Japan, travel to Kuroishi to see Nakano Momiji Mountain.
Lastly Kuroishi is famous for its abundant hot springs such as: Lamp no Yado Aoni Onsen, Nuruyu Onsen, Itadome Onsen, and many more.
That’s all for now, but I’m sure I will make more post about Kuroishi!