Hirosaki Castle is an ancient castle located in Hirosaki, southwest Aomori Prefecture on the northern tip of the main island of Honshu in Japan. The historic town of Hirosaki was established in the feudal era by the Tsugaru clan and is today one of Tohoku’s cultural centres. The town flourished during the 17th century as a castle town with Hirosaki Castle its crowning jewel.
Hirosaki Park which surrounds the castle is home to more than 2,500 cherry trees making it one of the best spots to view the beautiful cherry blossoms in Japan. Over a million people enjoy the park’s cherry blossoms every year and you can easily see why with cherry blossom tunnels, petal filled moats, festival food stalls (yatai) and plentiful picnic areas.
The park is home to a variety of cherry trees that are illuminated along with the castle buildings in the evening. You can even rent a rowing boat and view the spectacular blossoms from the west moat, located on the west side of the park. Rental boats are available at 1,000 yen for 60 minutes. There is something special about rowing a boat under a beautiful cherry tree and admiring its beautiful blossoms from the water.
The cherry blossoms are usually at their best from late April to early May. The annual Hirosaki Sakura Cherry Blossom Festival is held from April 23 to May 6 when the blossoms are at their absolute peak. This is the best time to see the cherry blossoms if you don’t mind all the crowds.
As I mentioned a little earlier Hirosaki is famous for its apples, and this skill with apples certainly comes in handy when it comes to the cherry blossoms. The local apple farmers prune the cherry trees the same way they prune apple trees, which leads to regained vitality and a fruitful blooming the following year. Cherry blossoms usually have 3 to 4 floral buds, but the ones at Hirosaki Park have 5 to 7. This makes the cherry blossoms look more vigorous and the trees to look more beautiful as the weight of the flowers causes the branches to hang down.
At the heart of the Hirosaki Park you will find Hirosaki Castle surrounded by overhanging cherry blossoms in the spring.
A little about the history of Hirosaki Castle
Hirosaki Castle, also known as Takaoka Castle was first completed in 1611, but the five-story main tower was struck by lightning only 16 years later in 1627 and burnt to the ground. The current structure is a three-story tower that dates from 1810. It was rebuilt with only three stories rather than five because at the time, five storied castle towers were prohibited by the Edo Shogunate, which ruled Japan.
It is still impressive, especially when surrounded by cherry blossoms. I recommend viewing the castle tower from the red gejobashi bridge. There is nothing better in my opinion than the trinity of castle tower, cherry blossoms and red bridge. This image is especially spectacular with a blue sky in the background.
Hirosaki Castle is truly a stunning place to see the cherry blossoms in Japan and it is easy to see why it is listed in the “100 Best Spots for Cherry Blossoms in Japan”.
Address: 1-1 Shimo-Shirogane-cho, Oaza, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori Prefecture
Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Closed: November 24 to March 31
Admission: 310 yen to enter the Castle Tower
To get to Hirosaki, take the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Aomori (about 3 hours and 20 minutes), followed by a Tsugaru limited express train to Hirosaki Station (about 30 minutes).
Hirosaki Park is located a short 15 minute bus ride west of JR Hirosaki Station. Take a Dotemachi Loop Bus from the station and get off at Shiyakusho-mae bus stop.