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Hirosaki Park and Hirosaki Castle Guide: Stunning Cherry Blossoms, Autumn Colors, and Other Seasonal Highlights!

Hirosaki Park and Hirosaki Castle Guide: Stunning Cherry Blossoms, Autumn Colors, and Other Seasonal Highlights!

Date published: 16 March 2021

At Hirosaki Park in western Aomori, you can enjoy a variety of natural seasonal attractions, including what is oft regarded as the best cherry blossoms in Japan. Here you can also find Hirosaki Castle, the only remaining castle tower in the Tohoku Region.

The city of Hirosaki is a castle town with 400-years of history that still retains much of its old cityscape and buildings. It is a highly recommended place to visit, especially in spring - and after checking out the photos in this article, you'll understand why! Here we will introduce Hirosaki Park and Hirosaki Castle Ruins, two popular Aomori sightseeing spots with nature, history, and plenty of things to do!

Table of Contents
  1. All About Hirosaki Park and Hirosaki Castle Ruins
  2. Getting to Hirosaki Park: Ride the 100 Yen Bus from Hirosaki Station
  3. Highlights of Hirosaki Park: A Nature Walk through a Vast Park
  4. Highlights of Hirosaki Castle Ruins: Inside the Castle Tower
  5. Springtime Highlights: Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom
  6. Summer Highlights: A Beautiful Contrast between Green Grass and Blue Sky
  7. Autumn Highlights: Colorful Leaves Paint the Hirosaki Castle Ruins
  8. Winter Highlights: Enjoying in the Snow
  9. Measures Against Coronavirus
  10. Hotels near Hirosaki Park

All About Hirosaki Park and Hirosaki Castle Ruins

All About Hirosaki Park and Hirosaki Castle Ruins
Hirosaki Park and Hirosaki Castle Tower as seen from above (Photo courtesy of Hirosaki City)

Hirosaki Castle was established over 400 years ago in 1603. Wanting to build a new castle to rule the Tsugaru Region, Tsugaru Tamenobu, the first feudal lord of Hirosaki, decided upon its current location.

In 1611, the second feudal lord, Tsugaru Nobuhira, built a five-story castle tower and a strong defense consisting of turrets, gates, and walls of stone and earth. With that, Takaoka Castle (later called Hirosaki Castle) was complete.

Construction of the nearby castle town was also underway, and many samurai residences, merchant homes, and temples scattered the city. Today they are designated as Important Cultural Properties.

Statue of Tsugaru Tamenobu. Phurinee Chinakathum / Shutterstock.com

Hirosaki Castle was a famous castle of a grand scale, though it was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1627. It remained without a castle tower for a while, until 1810, when the 9th feudal lord, Tsugaru Yasuchika, was ordered to guard Ezo (present-day Hokkaido) by the Shogunate. He then rebuilt the Tatsumi Yagura turret in Honmaru.

Hirosaki Castle Tower is now the last remaining castle tower in the Tohoku Region.

The three-story castle tower of Hirosaki Castle
In 2015, the castle tower was moved for repair work on the stone walls. It is currently located at a temporary spot in the Honmaru area.

Afterward, the Meiji Restoration set Japan on the path to modernization. In 1895, the castle ruins were turned into Hirosaki Park.

While surrounded by abundant nature, the park also retained remnants of the feudal era, including the castle tower, turrets, and castle gate. It has become an Aomori hot-spot, a place of relaxation for locals, and a popular tourist attraction.

Tourists enjoying the cherry blossoms

Getting to Hirosaki Park: Ride the 100 Yen Bus from Hirosaki Station

Getting to Hirosaki Park: Ride the 100 Yen Bus from Hirosaki Station
A trip to Hirosaki is covered under the Japan Rail Pass, JR East Pass, and other discount tickets. (Image: Shawn.ccf / Shutterstock.com)

To visit Hirosaki Park, we recommend traveling by train or plane from Tokyo to Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture. By train, take the Tohoku Shinkansen from JR Tokyo Station to Shin-Aomori Station, then transfer to the local line to Hirosaki Station. By plane, take a direct flight from Haneda Airport to Aomori; then from Aomori Airport take a bus or taxi to Hirosaki.

By Train
・From Tokyo Station to Shin-Aomori Station (Travel Time: Approximately 3 hours)
・From Shin-Aomori Station to Hirosaki Station (Travel Time: Approximately 40 minutes)

By Plane
・From Haneda Airport to Aomori Airport (Travel Time: Approximately 1 hour 15 minutes)
・From Aomori Airport to Hirosaki Station (Travel Time: Approximately 55 minutes by bus)

Information for the 100 yen bus is also written in English

It's about 2km from Hirosaki Station to Hirosaki Park. Many people go by taxi or on foot, but we recommend taking the bus. As its name suggests, the 100 Yen Bus only costs 100 yen, regardless of where you get off. Travel to Hirosaki Park with only one coin! The bus runs every 10 minutes, so getting around is easy, even in the busiest seasons!

On Foot
・From Hirosaki Station Central Exit to Hirosaki Park (Travel Time: Approximately 30 minutes)

By Taxi
・From Hirosaki Station Central Exit to Hirosaki Park (Travel Time: Approximately 10 minutes)

By Bus
・From Hirosaki Station Central Exit to City Hall via Konan Bus (Travel Time: Approximately 15 minutes)

Highlights of Hirosaki Park: A Nature Walk through a Vast Park

Highlights of Hirosaki Park: A Nature Walk through a Vast Park
Scenic view of Otemon Gate and Sotobori (the outer moat) in the summer

Hirosaki Park is vast, about 49.2 hectares (122 acres), but you can visit most of the attractions in about 2 hours. There are information boards at each point, so don't worry about getting lost! There are several entrances, but if you're visiting for the first time, you may want to enter from the main Otemon entrance.

Guide map of Hirosaki Park

The garden is surrounded by nature and cherry trees. It is open, well-maintained, and easy to navigate for a leisurely stroll. There's something to enjoy for everyone, whether it's sitting on a bench and gazing at the magnificent scenery, admiring the colorful trees, or having a picnic in the open space.

A footpath in the park (Photo courtesy of Hirosaki Park Information Site)
Mt. Iwaki as seen from Hirosaki Park Honmaru

Get an up-close look at important cultural properties. Several buildings in the castle ruins remain as-is, including Otemon Gate, five other castle gates, and three turrets, including the castle tower.

The castle gates are made of bare wood, retaining the style of the Sengoku Period. The structures are well-preserved, including the lattice windows and the embrasures that allowed one to aim at the enemy.

Inner South Gate in Summer
Interesting, heart-shaped metal fittings decorate the door.

There are plenty of other attractions in the park, such as the beautiful vermilion bridge and the moat where you can enjoy boating in the spring. The scenery varies by season, so your walk has something new to offer every time.

Many of the houses around the outer moat are remnants of the castle town. We recommend taking a tour around during your break!

Sugi no Ohashi Bridge in the summer
Ishiba Family Residence near the North Gate (Designated Important Cultural Property)

Highlights of Hirosaki Castle Ruins: Inside the Castle Tower

After walking around the park, head to Hirosaki Castle Tower. The castle tower is located in the Honmaru area, which requires a paid admission ticket to enter.

Tickets are available in the reception area. They also offer general tickets that allow entry into the botanical garden, which has a variety of plants and beautiful autumn leaves. Select your ticket based on the spot you want to visit.

Hirosaki Castle Tickets
・Admission Fee: (Hirosaki Castle Honmaru/Kita no Kuruwa)
・1-day Admission Ticket: Adults: 320 yen, Children: 100 yen
・General Ticket: Adults: 520 yen, Children: 160 yen
・Sales Period/Time: April 1st-November 23rd 9:00AM-5:00PM (April 23-May 5, 7:00AM-9:00PM)
*Free admission November 24-March 31 (Castle Tower closed)

A Hirosaki Castle Tower design decorates the admission tickets (Meeh / Shutterstock.com)

Originally, the castle tower of Hirosaki Castle was built atop a stone wall. However, as mentioned above, it has been temporarily relocated for repairs. The temporary observatory is a popular photo spot. On clear days, you can see Mt. Iwaki behind the castle tower. Repairs on the stone walls are scheduled to be carried out until 2025. Snap some special photos of this gorgeous castle tower scene - it won't be here for long!

Hirosaki Castle Tower and Mt. Iwaki
Get an up-close look at the architecture of the Edo Period, from the triangular barge boards and gables to the shachi ornaments on the roof

Get an admission ticket, enter the castle tower, and enjoy the view from above. Head up the stairs, check out each floor, and look out at the outside scenery - you will feel as if you were a daimyo yourself!

Please note that it is not open for entry during the winter season (November 24-March 31).

Inside the castle tower, a Designated Important Cultural Property
Overlook Hirosaki City from any angle

Springtime Highlights: Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom

Springtime Highlights: Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom
Bunches of cherry blossom petals

Spring is the most popular season in Hirosaki Park. More than 2 million tourists attend the annual Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival to take in the spectacular sakura scenery.

Nearly 2,600 cherry blossom trees of 52 different varieties are planted throughout the park. They are in full bloom from late April to early May, painting the castle ruins in an array of beautiful colors.

The Hirosaki cherry blossoms have lots of petals and are carefully maintained with unique pruning techniques. When the trees are in full bloom, it is quite a spectacular sight!

People boating through the cherry blossoms in the West Moat

There are plenty of great photo spots, too, including the Sakura Tunnel, Hirosaki Castle Tower, and Hanaikada, where fallen petals blanket the moat like a pink carpet. The nighttime light-up is a breathtaking scene truly deserving of the title, "the best cherry blossoms in Japan."

The Sakura Tunnel is a popular photo spot
Hanaikada, where the moat is blanketed in a pink carpet of petals
Cherry blossoms, Mt. Iwaki, and Hirosaki Castle Tower
Sakura and Shunyo-bashi Bridge, reflected in the water

Summer Highlights: A Beautiful Contrast between Green Grass and Blue Sky

Once the cherry blossoms have fallen, the summer season brings in dazzling, fresh greens and gorgeous lotus flowers. There is a beautiful and refreshing contrast between the vivid green park and the clear blue sky.

Many tourists attend the Hirosaki Neputa Festival in August, and you'll often find visitors enjoying a stroll while eating ice cream in the summer. Relax on a bench in the quiet garden, and rejuvenate your body and soul.

Hirosaki Castle Tower under a clear, blue sky
Enjoy a comfortable summer walk under the shade
The lotus flowers in the Lotus Pond are in full bloom from July to August

Autumn Highlights: Colorful Leaves Paint the Hirosaki Castle Ruins

Autumn Highlights: Colorful Leaves Paint the Hirosaki Castle Ruins
The Inner South Gate surrounded by autumn leaves

From around October, the cherry and maple trees surround the castle tower with colorful autumn leaves and solemn air. Leaves flutter down into a red and gold-colored carpet. It has all the magic you'd expect from a clear fall day.

There are many photo spots, such as the bright yellow ginkgo trees, and the beautiful foliage light-up. We recommend visiting during the Hirosaki Castle Chrysanthemum and Autumn Foliage Festival. You can enjoy not only the autumn leaves, but also the gorgeous kiku-ningyo (chrysanthemum dolls) and chrysanthemum flowers.

Ginkgo trees in Nishi no Kuruwa
The illuminated autumn leaves have a different beauty from the daytime (Photo courtesy of Hirosaki City)
Kiku-Ningyo (chrysanthemum dolls) Exhibit

Winter Highlights: Enjoying in the Snow

Winter Highlights: Enjoying in the Snow
Hirosaki Castle Tower and the snow lanterns at night

It begins to snow as early as November, turning the park into a beautiful winter wonderland. At the annual Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival in February, about 150 snow lanterns decorate the park, giving the area a fantastical vibe.

There are plenty of attractions featuring snow art unique to Tsugaru, including the Hirosaki Castle Tower light-up, mini igloos (called kamakura) with lights, and snow sculptures made by locals.

The Winter Cherry Blossom Light Up, in which snow-covered cherry trees are illuminated to look like real, blooming cherry blossoms, has also gained popularity recently.

Tsugaru Nishiki-e Grand Corridor exhibits Kagami-e ("mirror image") and Miokuri-e ("farewell image") paintings from the Neputa Festival
A frozen outer moat and Otemon Gate

Measures Against Coronavirus

At Hirosaki Park, measures against coronavirus are firmly in place. Information center staff members are required to wear masks or face shields. Guests are asked to thoroughly disinfect their hands and wear masks at the entrances and around the park. Information boards are also installed as reminders to maintain social distancing and to wear masks, even while outdoors. At events, guests are asked to provide name and contact information on visitor reception forms.

Facilities and equipment in park are disinfected and sanitized/sanitizer installed/partition plates installed/staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature/visitors required to wear masks

Park information board

Hirosaki Park offers beautiful scenery, no matter which season you visit. The remnants of the famous Edo Period castle surrounded by cherry blossoms creates a harmonious, natural scenery that everyone should see at least once in their lives. Experience the excitement for yourself - visit Hirosaki City, Aomori on your next trip!

Text by: Tsubasa Shimoda
*Information in this article as of March 2021. Please check the official website for the latest updates.

Hotels near Hirosaki Park

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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