Day 4 – Saturday 26 October
Woke up early and had a hot bath in the public baths attached to the hotel. We drove through fabulous autumn scenery to Hirosaki where we stopped to visit the medieval castle, built on 1609. This was the headquarters of one of the two clans that controlled the Aomori Province. Surrounded by a moat and defended by samurai, this was also the administrative headquarters. The citadel was surrounded by a stone-built wall, part of which was being reconstructed as it had begun to fail. Each stone was being recorded in three dimensions and numbered, so that it could be replaced in the correct position. The castle is now a public park and there were spectacular floral displays being admired by the crowds out for a Sunday stroll.
The next stop was Komakino stone circle. This is located on a terrace a couple of hundred feet above the river and looking out over the coastal plan to the sea. The space for the circle was created by terracing into the slope of the hill and was constructed of stones about 50 cm in length. The stones were laid against the upper and lower slopes of the terrace in a pattern of two uprights with horizontal stones between. In the centre is a ‘sundial’ setting and there are radial stone setting and alignments to the peaks of mountains visible across the valley. There was a cemetery of grave pits and infant burials in the circle placed in Jomon pots, along with a variety of dogu.
Visitors are encouraged to visit the museum in the valley before driving up to the park area. The museum is located in a former school, the entrance featuring a mock excavation and an rea where children can create their own stone circle. The site is managed by the Board of Education, and this was evident in the careful design, with multi-layered interpretation following themes such as daily life and death and burial. Upstairs, we were fortunate to be invited to see the storage areas, giving a good idea of the quantity of pottery and other artefacts from the excavation. The stores were immaculate. At the site itself is a wooden building, large enough to hold a class for activities with a brief display about the site and selected objects.
That evening we arrived in Aomori, an important harbour for the ferry to Hokkaido. Under the arcades of the main shopping street were posts featuring dogu figurines and benches with armrests in the shape of Jomon jadeite pendants