At the gates of wild Shirakami-Sanchi Park (a natural World Heritage Site) and surrounded by vast apple orchards, Hirosaki is an ancient cultural capital in Northern Tohoku. From its long History, a strong three-storied castle remained in the heart of a beautiful park known for its thousand of cherry trees. And the city is also Japan’s apples main producer and home of the Neputa Matsuri, held each year in the first days of August.
As for us at Nippon100, the city – one of the Heisei 100 landscapes – was a bit challenging for at least two reasons:
- While the city is a huge destination for hanami, with its many cherry trees, we were kinda busy at that time, traveling in Matsumoto, Kamakura and Takayama (and the list is longer) and were not able to make it North in time.
- The main sight of Hirosaki is its castle keep standing on its inner wall. But because the structure had been weakened by the Sea of Japan earthquake in 1973, the whole keep was moved in 2014 to begin renovation work. An impressive operation involving moving experts, and the small castle moving along on rails for 100 m.
But still, Hirosaki is a lovely town in the North, even without sakura and with the castle standing 70 meters away from its original location. And being the region main city at the beginning of Meiji period (Aomori became the prefectoral capital only in 1871), it offers a rich city center with many buildings of European inspiration.
Hirosaki is finally known for two particularities: apples and the annual summer festival. Every year from the 1st to the 7th of August, huge lantern floats are carried in town for the Neputa Matsuri (not to be mingled with Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri at the same time!).
How to get there?
Hirosaki is about 40 minutes away from Shin-Aomori by train. And the last is connected with Tokyo thanks to Ayabusa trains of the Tohoku Shinkansen. The full journey is 4,5 hours, and costs around 17500 yen. From the station, the castle is a 15 minutes bus ride trip.