Aomori Bay

Aomori is mainly known for producing apples. But it was not always so…

The first apple saplings were imported in Japan around the year 1871. In the spring of 1875, the Department of Industry Promotion from the Home Ministry sent three apple saplings to Aomori prefecture. The apples that were grown on the grounds of the Aomori Prefectural Office were the beginnings of Aomori’s apples.

Since then Aomori apples have come a long way. Today most of the shops in the city will inevitably offer numerous kinds of apple-based culinary delights. Today however I am going to talk about one of the most photogenic spots in Aomori – the Aomori Bay.

When I was here a couple of years back, I was floored by the most incredible sunsets I have ever seen. Since then Aomori enjoys a special place in my heart. What I love the most the about it is that is just perfect for romantic walks by the sea. You can roam around the Sin-machi Dori, enjoy traditional artifacts at the WaRasse Museum or if you are lucky enough, you might also experience a most beautiful sunset like I did.

At the end of the day, you can just go up the ASPAM building, which is the tallest building in Aomori and enjoy the beautiful city at night while sipping on a warm cup of coffee. In this journal I will talk about a day I spent wandering around the beautiful bay and the incredible spots surrounding it.

Aomori Bay at Dawn

I woke up at dawn, packed my camera gear and left for the bay. I was staying at APA Aomori. The APA Hotel is located at a walk-able distance from the Aomori bay. I have stayed at this hotel before and really liked it. Its perfectly placed, equidistant from the Aomori Bay, Wa Rasse Museum and the Aomori Station.

It was still dark as I made my way towards the Bay. I reached the ASPAM building in few minutes. The Aoiumi Park in front of the ASPAM building was desolate and not a soul was around. As I set up my tripod, the morning glow was just beginning to spread over the city,

Far away towards the east, the Sun was starting to rise. As the Sun was just about to show itself, a long mass of cloud moved in from the south-eastern side and blocked the view. With every passing minute it floated more and more towards the sunrise and that was it. Even though I couldn’t capture the sunrise, the scene was still amazing to look at.

I slowly made my way along the central pier, towards the West Lighthouse. I have some amazing memories of the place from a few years back. Unfortunately the entrance to the lighthouse was locked. I am not really sure at what times they open it or its been closed for a while.

By that time the clouds had totally engulfed the sky, shattering all hopes of catching the rising sun.

However, it was not a total loss as as towards the west the sky was painted in a plethora of vivid colors in the sky. Far on the right you can see the yellow colored ship – Hakkoda-Maru. The ship which used to connect Aomori to Hakodate, was the longest Seikan ferry in operation and is now on exhibition as a memorial ferry.

I spent a few minutes near the bay enjoying the peaceful moment, before morning joggers gradually started showing up. Even though it was a cloudy day, the bay still looked incredible.

Aomori Bay in Daytime

After the peaceful morning at the Bay, I went back to the Hotel to catch up on some breakfast. After a light meal, I walked towards the Aomori Station. This time Mani was with me. It was pleasant surprise to see wild apples growing on the trees on the side-walk.

The day was dull but the queue of lovely Gingko trees near the station brought about a feeling of happiness. The broad, fan-shaped ginkgo leaves turn a brilliant yellow and can be stunning to watch during this time of the year.

We were on our way to the Seir-yu ji Temple in the suburbs of Aomori. If you want something closer you can always enjoy the amazing Nebuta Floats at the Aomori WaRasse Museum.

The Nebuta Museum WA-RASSE is a facility that introduces the history and charms of the Aomori Nebuta Festival. At the museum you can experience every aspect of the festival. On display are life-sized floats that participated in the festival in August, and Nebuta Faces that show the individuality of their respective creators

Just beside the WaRasse Museum you can find the Hakkoda Maru. The now retired ship used to ferry passengers between Aomori and Hakodate from 1964 to 1988 and is now a permanently moored floating museum.

If you take a small detour along the shore, you will pass under the lovely Aomori Bay Bridge. With the Sinmachi Dori nearby, you can find some nice restaurants in the most chirpy area of Aomori.

After lunch I would recommend a leisurely walk at Aoiumi Park along the bay. The park is decorated with some Momiji as well as Gingko trees.

Aomori Bay at Sunset

Because of its strategic location of the city, you get some really beautiful sunsets at Aomori. Click here to see my pictures of one of the most beautiful sunsets at Aomori.

For us it was not meant to be. The clouds had gathered up strongly but if you want to see what a glorious sunset looks like at Aomori bay, click the button below to read my story on the most memorable sunset I have ever been witness to.

Aomori Bay at Night

Finally, If you are willing to slug it out through the evening, the ASPAM building is the place to be. It is the perfect place to crown a lovely evening. Admire the unusual pyramid building that houses the Aomori Prefecture Tourist Center, ASPAM. Its platform on the twelfth floor offers a beautiful panoramic view of the Aomori bay and the city. I specially love the way you can capture the iconic Bay Bridge along with Aomori’s skyline.

It was still raining incessantly so we stayed at the coffee shop for a little longer. For photo enthusiasts. using a tripod is allowed inside. I would recommend using a lens skirt to take photos from inside the tower, so the reflections wont damage the photos.

Once the rain relented, we walked down to the Aomori Bay Bridge which looked so beautiful from the top of the ASPAM building. You don’t have to go all the way to where the flyover touches base. The bridge can be accessed from the pier by stairs. Just before you alight onto the main bridge you can see some beautiful designed street lamps. This shot was taken handheld using my Samsung S9+ device. It does surprise me more often that not.

We walked a bit further along the cable-stayed bridge overlooking the bay.
It’s the second longest bridge in Aomori Prefecture after the Hachinohe Ōhashi Bridge.

On the other side the ASPAM building was looking incredible lit up in changing colors.

So, there it is. I was certainly tired from the long day. But I was excited to post the pictures I shot. Even though the day was dull with cloud hanging over at all times, the pictures did come out interestingly well.

Aomori Bay is a nice and relaxing place to hang out. It is a major tourism attraction with many popular sights of historical, cultural, and local festivals. Even though it was my second visit to the city, I still haven’t had enough of it. Thanks for reading. I look forward to your questions or comments. Please leave me a star rating if you liked the post or continue to read the story of my visit to Showa Daibutsu in the suburbs of Aomori.

An evening along Bandai Bridge

It was almost 8 pm by the time we arrived in Niigata. The JR Station, operated by East Japan Railway Company lies at the centre of Niigata city. 

We had our reservations at the Hotel Lungwood. It’s right beside the JR Station. In fact one doesn’t even need to go out of the station building. There is a corridor that connects directly to the hotel.

Niigata is the largest city on the Sea of Japan coast. The city is blessed with an abundance of nature, surrounded by sea on one side and mountains on the other. On the way we had been already treated to one of the most jaw-dropping beautiful sunsets.

After dropping our luggage at the hotel, we went out for a walk towards Niigata city’s iconic Bandai Bridge (萬代橋) , a landmark that’s popular with both local residents and tourists alike. The bridge lights up at night, showing off its beautiful workmanship.

It was about 8 pm and most of the stores had closed for the night. We walked along the wide footpath following the trusted Google Maps. It took us about 20 minutes to reach the waterfront. The current Bandaibashi (as it is called in Japanese) was constructed in 1929, spanning the Shinano River in a continuous arch of reinforced concrete. In April 2004, the bridge celebrated its 75th anniversary and was designated as a national Important Cultural Property. This same year, much of the bridge was reconstructed to resemble its original model from 1886. 

The Bandai Bridge is a prime example of large-scale concrete arch bridges from the Showa Period. The current bridge contains six arches and is made of reinforced concrete with granite siding, and was strong enough not to collapse during the 1964 Niigata earthquake which destroyed large sections of the city. Today the Bandai Bridge is considered the symbol of the city of Niigata and is one of the city’s most scenic spots, especially when lit up at night. We stood there for some time enjoying the light show.

Towards the north of the bridge one can find the Furumachi and Honcho shopping districts, and towards the south, from where we came, lies the Bandai shopping district and Niigata Station.  Below the Bandai bridge there is an underpass that takes to the other side to a verge along the banks of the river.

Along the river bank many groups of people were lying down, enjoying the cool breeze flowing across the river. A few stalls of food and beer were still open. I guess this is a very happening area of the city and lots of people come down in the evening for fun.

We got us some grilled chicken from a nearby convenience store and sat on the soft carpet of green grass overlooking the silent river.

History of Bandai Bridge

The bridge lights had gone off at 9 pm but we were in no hurry to go back. The gentle breeze from the river forced us to relax for a bit more. The bridge has a long story with historical importance. The first Bandai Bridge was constructed out of wood in 1886, during the Meiji Period, and was the first bridge across the Shinano River.  Before it, people had to use boats for daily trade which was a big inconvenience. As the first bridge across the Shinano River, it encouraged trade between communities on the opposite banks. The original bridge was 782 meters long, the longest bridge in Japan at the time, and 2.5 times the current length as the river has grown significantly narrower since. After the destruction of the first two wooden versions, the third features a reinforced concrete design. 

In March 1908, a major fire destroyed more than half of the Bandai Bridge. The second Bandai Bridge was completed in December 1909, and quickly became the transportation hub of the growing city of Niigata. The new bridge was built using planks recovered from the remains of the 1908 fire as a base, and was the same size as the original design.

Due to gradual dilapidation of the second bridge, a third version was constructed in 1929 using reinforced concrete. Because of water diversion projects along the Shinano River throughout the early 20th century, the water level at the time of construction had decreased from 770 meters to 270 meters since the construction of the first bridge. Because of this, the third bridge was far shorter yet wider in order to allow for easy passage of automobiles.

On June 16, 1964, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake hit Niigata, causing major damage to nearly all bridges on the Shinano River. Although the base of the Bandai Bridge on both sides sunk approximately 1.2 meters, the bridge was left intact. 

In 1985, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first bridge, new lanterns were added to the bridge to decorate the night skies. A folk-dance procession is held annually as part of the annual Niigata Festival. 

It was almost 10 pm and the area wore a desolated look. The waterfront was still simmering with the lights from the buildings on the far side of the river. We gradually made our way back to the hotel. 

Please leave your comments if you enjoyed my journal or you can read about my visit to the Niigata Manga Museum.

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, with a length of almost four kilometers, is the world’s longest suspension bridge. Opened in 1998, it spans the Akashi Strait (Akashi Kaikyo) between Kobe and Awaji Island and is part of the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway.

Prior to the bridge’s construction, the strait was considered one of the world’s most dangerous waterways. For instance, in 1955 a severe storm caused two ferries to sink resulting in the deaths of 168 people.

How to get to Akashi Kaikyo

If you are coming from Osaka, you have to get down at the Maiko Station, on the Sanyo Line. Shinkansen trains don’t stop here, you have to use a local train. I had purchased a Kansai Wide Pass. If you want to stop at various stations just to take photos this pass makes it very cheap to travel around the Kansai region.

Once you come out of the Maiko station, you will have to cross the road and walk past the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center on the left. A few meters away a small lane goes right to the edge of the Akashi Strait.

It took 180,000 tonnes of steel to complete the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

It is a substantial 6-lane road bridge that connects Kobe on the main island of Honshu with Iwyaya on the smaller Japanese island of Awaji. This, in turn, is linked to the island of Shikoku via the Ōnaruto Bridge over the Naruto Strait.

The bridge was originally planned by the Japanese National Railways (now JR) in the mid-1950’s, as part of a rail link between the islands of Honshu and Shikoku. In 1975, after an exhaustive study, the Japanese government elected to build JR’s bridge, the Seto Bridge, over a much shorter span closer to Okayama. If you have been to the island of Shikoku by rail, you must have already used this route.

About 300,000 kilometers of cabling was used in the bridge’s construction

The length of the bridge alone presented a tremendous challenge to the engineers, but that wasn’t the only issue they had to face in designing this monumental structure. For one, the bridge also had to be tall enough to let boat traffic in the strait pass unimpeded.

As the bridge stands in a seismically unstable part of the world, engineers also needed to ensure its design would stand the test of time. To this end, the bridge includes a complex system of counterweights, pendulums, and steel-truss girders that allow the bridge to withstand wind speeds of up to 290 km/h. The foundation depth of the bridge is equivalent to that of a 20-storey apartment. Yet despite its inherent strength, the bridge is also able to expand and contract several times a day.

The rocky bank is a beautiful spot to take a shot of the lovely bridge. I had reached the spot at around 5 pm. The bridge is exactly 3,911 meters long, has three spans supported by two main supporting towers that stand 297 meters apiece and a series of anchoring cables. This makes Akashi Kaikyo Bridge also one of the world’s tallest.

Light was pretty bright. At first I took some shots with a 10-stop ND filter. They came out okay. I wasn’t too excited to see the results since the skies had no drama.

The bridge is used by around 25,000 cars everyday

How I took captured Night View of Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

After that I walked further west along the coast but couldn’t find a better spot, so I walked back to the earlier spot and waited for the lights to come on and then took this shot. I used the 10-24mm nikkor at 24mm on my Nikon D7100. I lowered the aperture to F16 to slow down the shutter speed to get the water to look smooth.

The Akashi–Kaikyo bridge has a total of 1,737 illumination lights!

The Akashi–Kaikyo bridge has a total of 1,737 illumination lights: 1,084 for the main cables, 116 for the main towers, 405 for the girders and 132 for the anchorages. Sets of three high-intensity discharge lamps in the colors red, green and blue are mounted on the main cables. The RGB colour model and computer technology make for a variety of combinations.

How long did it take to build the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge?

Ten years (1988 -1998)

What is the longest span bridge in the world?

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

Why is the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge called the Pearl Bridge?

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is called the ‘Pearl Bridge’ because of the 28 different patterns and various colors of lights used to illuminate her at night. When illuminated it gives the appearance of beautiful pearls on a necklace.

Who designed Akashi Kaikyo Bridge?

Honshu Shikoku Bridge Authority

When was Akashi Kaikyo opened to public?

April 5, 1998