Off Route

Sannai-Maruyama: History, Picnics, and Ice Cream

by Amanda Lynn Marcroft

For our inaugural article I just couldn’t help the poeticism of starting with not only one of the oldest sites in all Japan but also the first place I visited when I arrived: Sannai-Maruyama. History geeks like me will already be familiar with the name but let’s have a quick recap of the site’s cultural significance.

Dramatic Back Story

Sannai-Maruyama is the largest excavation site of Japan’s Jomon Period—the first people to ever live on the island. Famed and named for their cord-patterned pots, Jomon civilization survived and evolved for several thousand years before being replaced by the Yayoi. Sannai-Maruyama encases just a drop of that time but is still one of the best preserved and most informative sites for Jomon history—for scholars and laypeople alike. To facilitate learning, the site has not only restored structures and built a fantastic museum alongside but also offers visitors the chance to help reconstruct full-sized dwellings using the same techniques as the people who lived there. Of course, if you’d rather have something to take home there are plenty of workshops for beads and pottery as well (please don’t take the dwellings home).

sannai-maruyama potter

Jomon pottery. Not usually this size.

Don’t like history? No problem!

Sannai-Maruyama is also an absolutely gorgeous park. Grab a friend and a picnic basket and just have fun. As with all pre-historic civilizations there are more mysteries than concrete facts so feel free to wander around and make up your own. That famous six-legged structure? Could be anything! Do try to read the signs, though; most are conveniently in English and it looks bad when you take silly pictures in the child burial hut.

There are many things I love about this site: it’s very foreigner-friendly, it’s uncrowded, tours are available but not required, and it has some fantastic acorn ice cream. But by far my favourite is how un-museum-like it is; take it at whatever pace you like, whether you’re a hard-core archaeologist or just down for some nice scenery. However you decide to enjoy the site, I hope you have as much fun as I did.

Six legged statue

Shrine to the Kami of High-Rise Apartments?

Getting There:

Sannai-Maruyama is very close to Aomori City. Driving is optimal of course but there are actually several good public transportation options!

  • By Bus:

From Aomori Station take the local bus to ‘’Sannai-Maruyama Iseki-mae’’ (三内丸山遺跡前). Takes about 20 minutes and will drop you off right in front. I recommend taking the bus back at least, as it’s very regular and you can pick up the schedule at Information

  • Train & Foot:

Take the train to Shin-Aomori Station then plug the address into GoogleMaps and hope for the best enjoy the scenery! It’ll take you through a lovely graveyard and you might get a bit confused towards the end but keep on going and you’ll get there. If you get really lost (like me) ask a local, they might even demonstrate that superb Japanese hospitality and offer you a ride (this is always nice but use common sense and don’t die)

Getting Out:

  • Within walking distance there is the beautiful Aomori Driving License Centre—if you’re lucky you might see a frustrated foreigner trying to pass their licensing test
  • Aomori City is about 20 minutes away (by vehicle) and really the only thing around

More Info:

Travel Tip:

Take GoogleMaps with a grain of salt. It’s a lifesaver, but just because it leads you where you want to go doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily lead you to the front. If what you’re seeing doesn’t match what you expected walk around a bit before swearing at your iPhone. There’s no app for common sense and people are less helpful when they think you’re crazy.


One thought on “Sannai-Maruyama: History, Picnics, and Ice Cream

  1. Pingback: September 2014, Vol. 1 | Good Morning Aomori produced by Aomori AJET

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