I love passively taking pictures as much as the next guy. And these days, who needs to carry a bag full of fancy lenses, right? Cell phones have made it so easy to just snap and shoot.

However, there are times when taking a photo just isn’t enough, when you can no longer be passive, when you need to roll up your sleeves and get involved with the location.
Donica and I have made our way in Hirosaki City, Japan, way up in Aomori, the most northernmost prefecture before hitting Hokkaido. Hirosaki is a cool little place. Cute castle, surrounded by a leafy park. A canal known for its flowering cherry blossoms. A shop selling hot sweet potatoes. But none of these reasons are why we’ve come here. You see, Hirosaki is apple town.

Aomori, in general, is famous for its apples. In fact, the prefecture produces 60-70% of the country’s apples, and oh my, are they good! Hirosaki is smack in the center of Aomori’s apple growing region and the place to go there is “Apple Park” on the outskirts of town.

We arrive at the gift shop around 10am and quickly learn there’s a tour going out in a few minutes. By tour they mean that you and a group of 20 people are taken into the orchard to pick your own apples. But there’s a trick to it. You want the choose deep red apples that are tipped just right, with their stems tilted at just the correct angle. Oh, and you can only pick 4 apples each!
A few minutes later, we’re scrambling around the trees like we’re on a treasure hunt, searching for the best Hirosaki apples. I’m thinking that this one in front of me will do the trick, but my wife says, “Grab a ladder, Dave; there’s a perfect one above your head!” Trying to resist FOMO (fear of missing out), I reach for the apple, and then another one just behind it. And you know what – they ARE perfect! Crisp, tart, with a pink vein of sugar running through the middle. They are the best apples we’ve ever had – and the biggest!

Of course, four pieces of fruit each is nowhere near enough for apple enthusiasts like us, but luckily there’s an fruit stall near the bus stop selling a full variety of the local specialties: Fuji Tsugaru, Jonagold, Mutsu, Santsugaru, etc.

What opportunities are there in your area to engage with your environment? How might things change in your life if you sought out ways to roll up your sleeves and be physically active in your neighborhood?