Aomori

Japanorama’s Irwin Wong took some time off to visit Aomori and Hokkaido.  Click through for leg one of the journey.

Some of you may have noticed that one member of the Japanorama team (me) had gone conspicuously silent in the previous weeks – the reason for that being that I’d taken a sabbatical up north to breath some fresh air and get really drunk.

Aomori was one of the cities I hit, and then Hakodate -I’ll take a post to introduce Aomori first and then do another later.

Now Aomori is the northern most prefecture on the main island – and quite possibly one of the least developed.  Certainly it’s one of the least traveled due to its distance from Tokyo (3 hours by Shinkansen, ~16,000yen), and lack of flashy tourist attractions. That’s not to say Aomori is completely devoid of attractions – they’re just less accessible and more for the seasoned traveler of Japan.

Anyway we hit up Aomori city (pop. ~400,000), and it was fair to say we weren’t completely prepared for how desolate it was.  It sounds like a decent-sized city, but well, it isn’t.

We arrived on a day when the city and the surrounding countryside was mired in an enduring fog. It seemed kind of fitting.  Aomori to me was a mysterious place and it only seemed to heighten the mystery.  I wasn’t sure what I’d find there but it was something to look forward to.

The gloomy pall the weather cast over the city seemed to suit it perfectly.  Aomori city itself is gray, careworn and heavily industrial; it seems scarcely populated despite its supposed population of 400,000, and the general impression was of a dying city.  It’s actually quite creepy walking the endless rows of shuttered shop-fronts on a Friday night – one gets the impression that they’ve stumbled right into the opening scene from a zombie movie.

Gloominess notwithstanding, the sheer decrepitude of Aomori makes it a bloody great place for photos. Aomori takes urban decay to a new artform – and there are plenty of opportunities for photographers looking for that kind of stuff.  Just for shits I decided to shoot Aomori with my D700 set to 6400ISO and I still wanted more grain in my photos. The place has a film-noir feel that is straight out of a Ukrainian murder mystery.

None of this is to say that Aomori is without its charms though. If you’re ever in town drop by the bar Aloha, play some darts and have some good conversation with the master there.

All of these are with the 24-70mm f/2.8G or the 135mm f/2 AF-D and at ISO6400. Most of the photos are as shot straight to JPG in monochrome mode with a little bit of levels in Photoshop. I’d like to come back with a Leica loaded with some Ilford Delta 3200.

Overall, Aomori is a fun place to be for a couple of days, but don’t go alone, because there are scarcely any people around.  If I ever go back I’ll try to find where they actually are.

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