The weather is crisp when I arrive at Shin-Aomori Station via the Tohoku Shinkansen. I'm not surprised, though, the northernmost prefecture on the island of Honshu is known as a cold and isolated place.

It's likely thanks to the chillier environment keeping people inside with little to do — and the local economies of logging, fishing and farming — that this prefecture has developed many distinctive traditional arts and crafts. These include wooden crafts using local lumber, straw crafts, indigo dyeing fabric and sashiko embroidery.

Ms. Tanaka, the taxi driver who takes me from the train station to downtown Aomori City, lights up when I tell her I'm here to immerse myself in the prefecture's artistic culture. The first thing she mentions is nebuta.