This past weekend (September 18- September 22), Hirosaki had an Autumn Festival in replacement of not being able to have the Cherry Blossom Festival as well as Nebuta. This festival is happening in tandem with the the Autumn Sakura Light Festival, which started September 16 and goes till November 8 (光の桜紅葉).
I went to the park twice in one day, once in the morning and once again at night. Both morning and night had very different vibes and it was nice to experience both! The morning was mainly the Autumn Festival activities, and the projection mapping and tree illuminations were part of the Autumn Sakura Light Festival.
In the morning, there was a craft fair, sports area, a kids corner, performances, and food stalls. During the festival it was free to enter the castle and surrounding area which usually cost about $3～$4.
When you entered the park you’d first get your temperature checked and then a blue rubber band which you had to wear inside the park.
If you entered the park through the Otemon Gate, the arts and craft fair section was immediately to the left. There were many local goods for sale like Kogin-Zashi, Tsugaru-Nuri, and much more. You could even make some of your own crafts like bottled flowers and customized leather key chains. I bought a pair of Kogin-Zashi earrings!
After that, we walked through the park all the way to Gokoku Shrine, where they had food stalls set up and a place to watch performances. I ate before coming so I didn’t eat anything when I went in the morning. I watched a couple of performances like Tsugaru shamisen! I really love listening to the shamisen, so that was a nice experience!
At night when we came back there was a long line from the castle all the way to the Otemon gate! We waited for about an hour and a half to get to the projection mapping show at the castle. When we got to the castle they were giving out Kingyo lanterns for kids to carry with them through the castle grounds (I think adults can carry them too, they just ran out by the time we got there).
The projection mapping show was really cool and was very well made. It looked like the three levels of the castle were twisting and turning to unveil a tree in the center that took you through the different seasons, culminating into Autumn.
The tree was first barren with fall leaves on the ground. It then changed into winter by showing a Kogin-Zashi motif and snow balls for winter.
Then came spring and the tree in the middle became a big cherry blossom.
Then summer was a Nebuta display. The Nebuta even rotated like the floats do in real life, which I thought was pretty nifty.
Last was Autumn, which was represented by a colorful reddish golden tree with leaves floating all around it.
After the display finished as you were exiting, the trees would glow different colors, but the best part were these bubbles that when you popped them smoke would be released.
After the show we went to the shrine again and finally ate our hearts content of festival food! It was a lovely festival and I hope they do it again even if there is Sakura Matsuri and Nebuta.