Hirosaki is famous for it’s beautiful cherry blossoms and delicious apples. The most famous place in Hirosaki is definitely the Castle Park. This is where you can find the cherry blossoms in spring, beautiful chrysanthemums in Autumn, impressive sculptures made of snow in winter, and lush green trees in summer. The park is a great adventure no matter what season you visit! It’s also a very convenient spot because most tourist sites are within walking distance from the park.
First a little history:
Hirosaki Castle 弘前城 was built in 1611 by the Tsugaru Clan. The castle was originally a five-story keep fortified by moats, castle gates and corner turrets. The castle unfortunately burnt down in 1627 after it was struck by lightning. The castle was rebuilt in 1810, this is the three-story keep that can be seen today. It is the only remaining castle in the Tohoku Region that was not rebuilt in the modern era. There are only a handful of castles in all of Japan that weren’t rebuilt in the modern era.
In 1950 all surviving structures of the castle were designated as National Important Cultural Properties. This includes three surviving yagura from the Edo period, five gates, and the castle itself.
There are a few other interesting sites inside the park, including a botanical garden, Gokoku Shrine, and a Nebuta museum.
The four seasons of Hirosaki Park:
I’ll start with spring since Hirosaki is most famous for its cherry blossoms. Hirosaki Park is designated as one of Japan’s best destinations for cherry blossom viewing. The park has over 2500 cherry blossom trees planted around and inside the park. Sakura Matsuri in Hirosaki is distinguished by pink petal filled moats, a cherry blossom tunnel, rowing boats, many varieties of cherry trees, illuminations in the evening, and numerous pleasant places to have a picnic and enjoy the scenery. Over a million people come each year to enjoy the ephemeral beauty of these beautiful pink trees.
For me the park in summer is evening walks, people exercising, kids playing, old men fishing, and a nice place to relax outside. Summer is a great season to see the park since you can get a beautiful picture of the castle with a green Mt. Iwaki in the background. There are not many months when Iwaki is fully green and has no snow, so it’s important to enjoy it while it lasts. Many people bike, run, and play sports in the park in summer. There are a lot of trees so you can always find a nice shady spot to sit and enjoy the beautiful scenery. It’s also a good time to go and enjoy the botanical gardens!
Autumn is my favorite season, so it’s my favorite time to visit the park. Each year the park holds a chrysanthemum and fall foliage festival. The chrysanthemum half of the festival is held mostly in the botanical gardens so you have to pay to get in, but the fall foliage can be enjoyed from all over the park. They also illuminate the leaves at night so you can enjoy fall night viewing. The chrysanthemum festival always has performances, good food, large beautiful flower sculptures. The theme changes every year, but there is always a pagoda sculpture made entirely out of chrysanthemums. Just like spring, you can take boat rides to enjoy the fall foliage.
Hirosaki is known for its harsh winters, but that doesn’t stop the locals from enjoying winter anyways. Every year in the park you can enjoy the Yuki-doro festival. This festival is one of the five major snow festivals held in the Tohoku region. Lanterns are built out of snow, and feature Nebuta paintings in the windows of the lanterns. The lanterns featured in the festival are all hand-crafted by local citizens who want to entertain the community during the harsh winter months. The JET community in Hirosaki even makes their own lantern! During the festival there are many events and activities that you can enjoy like a slide made from ice and snow!
Every season offers its own unique experience of the park. No matter when you visit you’ll always enjoy your time here!