After our visit to Seiryu-ji, we had a little time to do more sightseeing before we returned to Aomori for the evening. We retraced our route through the rice fields to Koyanagi to catch a train further up the coast to Asamushi Onsen (浅虫温泉 – link in Japanese).
Once again, we didn’t understand the etiquette of catching a local train at an unstaffed platform station! After the muddle of disembarking earlier in the day, we tried to board the train by the driver’s door, so that we could buy a ticket. This door was where everyone was getting off the train, of course. A teenager who was getting off thought that it was hilarious that we were trying to board at the wrong door, but she took pity on us through her laughter and pointed towards an open door further down the train. As we got on, I spotted a ticket machine next to the door, just like on a Japanese bus. We took tickets and found a seat and settled back to enjoy the trip along the Aomori-ken coastline.
When we arrived at Asamushi Onsen station, we tried to pay the driver as we disembarked, but even got that wrong! He ushered us off the train and pointed us towards the ticket office. Here we handed our tickets to the platform guard and paid the fare before passing through the gate.
The waiting area had a vending machine that sold enamel pin badges of the Aoimori line mascot, Mori. Being badge crazy, of course we had to buy one each!
Asamushi Onsen is a strange town. It looks quite run down, but has lots of hot spring hotels along the coast and a fairly new man made “beach”. We had read on someone else’s blog that a fun thing to do in the town was buy a net bag of eggs from one of the shops and take them to the hot spring at the station to cook them in the steaming mineral water while bathing your feet. We arrived just as the shops were closing, though. We went into a supermarket at the station, but they didn’t seem to have any eggs for sale at all, never mind eggs ready netted up for boiling in a hot spring. We bought a few snacks, as we were starting to feel a little hungry, then we walked down the street from the station, past the hot spring where you could soak your feet, trying to find the hot spring shown in Janne’s blog pic towards the end of the linked post above. Everywhere was closed and we couldn’t locate the spring that Janne had used.
We walked away from the town and crossed the main road towards the shore. This has been landscaped to create Sunset Beach, an area where people can fish in the waters of the bay, walk along the promenade and take in the view, bathe in the sea or lounge on the sand.
Out in the bay is Yuno Shima, which looks like a mini Miyajima, with a small red torii gate in the water. Because we were there in the early evening, there didn’t seem to be any ferries taking people across Mutsu Bay, so we couldn’t explore. Instead we took pictures from the wharf at Sunset Beach.
We settled down on the wharf to eat our snacks and gaze across the bay towards Yuno Shima.
It was very peaceful. There were a few other people around, walking along the beach or fishing further up the wharf, but not many, and as far as we could tell no other tourists like us. After a little rest and a snack, we headed back to the station and went into the tourist centre next door, thinking that if this was a tourist thing to do, they might sell bags of eggs in there. They didn’t. They sold plenty of other souvenir foods and gifts, but no eggs.
We decided that we would just have to come back to Aomori and visit Asamushi Onsen earlier in the day in order to partake of this local treat, and headed for the hot spring we had seen as we first left the station. There were plenty of local people using the foot bath, which had been sculpted to represent the hot spring flowing down from a mountain. It was pleasant to sit there and either gaze at the sculpture itself, or beyond it to Yuno Shima in the bay.
We rolled our trouser legs up, removed our shoes and socks, and plunged our feet into the steaming water. Our every move was watched by an older woman there with her family. She grinned as our feet hit the water. “熱いですね!” she said, laughing. It’s hot, isn’t it? Her grandson was reluctant to put his feet into the water, which was hot but not unpleasantly so.
The grandfather of the family group sat next to us, and we had a chat about the weather and the water. I learned a new word when he asked, “清清しいですか。” Is it refreshing? Once he had mimed the meaning of the word, I had to agree that it was. Then he offered to take our photograph.
This is one of my favourite photographs of us, so thank you, anonymous grandpa!
Having boiled our feet and shins, we headed back to the beach and watched the sun start to go down behind Yuno Shima.
I had thought we might stay until the sun had properly set, but the sun sets very slowly on the north coast of Honshu! After an hour, with another hour to go, we were starting to feel chilled, so decided to catch the train back to Aomori. Except we missed it by one minute! We used the time to explore the eastern end of the town, walking up a back street, behind some of the onsen hotels. One of them was very dilapidated and smelled as though something had died inside. Not everything in Japan is beautiful!
We turned back onto the coast road and saw a sculpture of a giant chair looking out to sea, which looked great in silhouette against the setting sun.
Back at the beach, people were strolling down to the shoreline to look at the sunset, and we took a few more photographs of Yuno Shima, before heading back to the station again.
On the journey back from Asamushi Onsen, the sunset was spectacular. The jerkiness of the train and the number of tunnels we passed through meant that it was impossible to get a clean shot through the train window, and I regretted not waiting to see the final sinking of the red sun into the sea into Mutsu Bay.
Although we were only there for a couple of hours and it was the end of the day on a Sunday so not much was open for us to enjoy, it was a relaxing end to our day and to our week in Aomori. I’d like to go back, visit the aquarium, maybe try out one of the onsen baths, and definitely find some eggs to boil in the hot spring.