matohu matohu




Summer is certainly fine, but winter holds a different kind of charm.
I explored the nature, architecture, and craftwork of Snow Country.

1. Lake Towada

Lake Towada is a crater lake formed from a volcanic eruption. It straddles Aomori and Akita prefectures, with about three-fifths in the former and two- fifths in the latter. It is a very deep lake that does not freeze in winter. Although bustling with visitors during the peak recreation season from spring to fall, in the middle of winter, when mountain winds roughen its waves and thick snow and bitter cold descend, it is deserted. This world devoid of humans takes on a sort of divine beauty.

2. Kumoi Waterfall

This magnificent waterfall flows into Oirase Stream. Water pours over a rock face separated into three sections from a height of 20 meters. Giant icicles hang off the half-frozen waterfall. The nearby mountain path is buried in knee-deep snow.
“Kumoi” means the feeling of being amongst the clouds. When you look at the water streaming out over the white snow, it really feels like you are standing amongst the clouds.

3. Balsamy Apple

Looking at the row of oak barrels, you would think you’re in a whiskey warehouse, but instead they hold 100 percent balsamic vinegar made from Tsugaru apples. The apples’ subtle sweetness mixed with the vanilla notes that seep out of the wooden barrels after one to two years of aging create a novel flavor like no other. You can drizzle Basalmy Apple on your salad, but it’s just as delicious over ice cream!

4. Tsugaru-nuri lacquer ware

Tsugaru-nuri is a lacquer ware technique that has been practiced since the Edo Period (1603–1868). Characterized by complex coloration and organic patterns, it can be found on a wide range of housewares used locally, from chopsticks to tables. Masakazu Kobayashi practices this traditional craft with a youthful flair. He made some custom-order button and accessories for me.

5. Tsugaru hammer-forged blades

After the Meiji Restoration (1868) that ended feudal rule, the blacksmiths who had made samurai swords and guns turned to making pruning shears for apple trees and kitchen knives. Hammer-forged blades (uchihamono) became a traditional industry of Aomori. Go Yoshizawa is the eighth-generation head of Nigara Forging. I instantly fell in love with one of his paper knives! Its blade can cut like a Japanese sword and has beautiful wave-like patterns on it called anmon.

6. Hirosaki Episcopal Anglican Ascension Church

It’s as if I wandered into a church in the English countryside. This gothic red-brick church was built in 1920. Open its old-fashioned wood and metal doors, and you come to Japanese papered sliding doors at the entrance! Walk in farther, and you’ll enter a quaint Tudor-style chapel. The church still holds Sunday services as a house of the Lord.

7. Chosho-ji Temple

As the family temple of the Tsugaru clan and housing the mausoleum of Tsugaru feudal lords, Chosho-ji Temple has a long and distinguished history. The large triple gate in front of the temple is 400 years old, and the priests’ living quarters draped in icicles is 500 years old. The temple has an austere rather than ornate feel, in keeping with the character of the people of Tsugaru.