Articles by Simon Bernard    
A piece of the North Pole in Aomori

Iwazaki Village, tucked away in the southwest corner in Aomori Prefecture, is well-known for its Lake Juniko, beautiful rugged coastline, and Mt. Shirakami in the United Nations World Heritage Beech tree preserve. Its other claim to fame is having a special relationship to the Ranua region in Finland, home to the birthplace of Santa Claus.

Built just a five minute drive from the Refresh Village in Juniko, one of the best campgrounds in all of Aomori Prefecture, Santaland offers a lot of fun for kids of all ages.

The main venue is the open air Finnish playground where the children can take time to explore and have fun. Surrounded by mountains and over looking the Sea of Japan, it is also a great place for a picnic.

You will want to see the herd of reindeer brought in from Finland, visit Santa House where you can hand make a wreath keychain with the colors of your choosing and go to Santaís Post Office where you can a letter to anywhere in the world with a postmark of Santa and his reindeer! Santaland also has cottages for over night stays, a restaurant, halls for seminars and souvenir shops.

Very often while Misawa is under the clouds and fog, the western part of Aomori Prefecture is soaked in sunshine. The water in the Sea of Japan is warm and the sandy shallow Moriyama Beach, a 5 minute drive from Santaland is prefect for families. For more detailed information about sightseeing in and around Lake Juniko and Santaland, see the June 25th edition of the Northern Light.

To get to Santaland:

Go out the main gate; turn right at the second street after the light. Turn right at the 4th street, you will end up going around the perimeter of the base. Turn right at the Y and you will be on Rt. 8. From the Y go 16 km. and turn left at the CircleK light. Go 0.7km and turn right, go over the bridge and go straight, this road will eventually take you to the Michinoku Toll road. After paying the toll 820 yen, continue straight till you see the sign for Aomori Higashi Expressway. Turn left to get on the expressway. After getting a ticket, continue straight toward Namioka , this expressway will merge with the Tohoku Expressway. Get off at the Namioka Interchange and pay the toll 800 yen. Continue straight and you will run into the Tsugaru Expressway. Go to the end of this expressway (no charge), when it ends turn left at the T. You are now on Rt.101.

You can continue on Rt.101 all the way to Juniko or you can take this short cut:

From the T go 5.1km and turn left toward Ajigasawa. Follow this road 1.3km through a park and turn left at the light. You are now on Rt. 154. Go 4km. to the T and turn right. Go 0.8km and turn left at the CircleK light. You are now back on Rt.101. 78.3km. later turn left and you will be going up to Santaland.