Hirosaki Castle is one of the few original castles left in Japan listed as one of the 100 Fine Castles of Japan. Because most castles in Japan were dismantled or burnt down because of the war and rebuilt later, amazingly, this castle still stands on the same ground as it was built approximately 400 years ago during the Edo period. Today, the castle ground is maintained as Hirosaki Park, which includes archives, an information center, and a botanical garden. It is a popular tourist spot where various events are held throughout the four seasons, and is one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan, attracting about 2 million visitors every year during the blooming season.
One of Original & Iconic Castle
Built in 1611 by the Tsugaru samurai clan, Hirosaki Castle has remained one of the city’s most loved and visited icons. Originally the castle towered over five stories, but a large portion of its structure was destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning in 1627. During the time of destruction five storied castle towers were prohibited by the local feudal military government, which meant its rebuilt height was limited to a still very respectable three stories.
Sitting at the northern tip of the Japan’s main Honshu island, Hirosaki Castle’s collection of neighbouring cherry blossoms and snow capped winter wonderland surroundings have garnered it the reputation for being one of the most scenic spots in Japan.
Though the castle’s magnificence and the garden’s beauty are consistent throughout the year, arguably the best time to visit is during the famous cherry blossom season. In the spring over 2,500 individual trees come to life, painting the entire area in soft pastel pink. If you’re going during this time, expect tunnels covered with cherry blossom ceilings, flowing, pink petal filled moats, and evening illuminations. To celebrate the spring, an annual festival is hosted in the area from late April to early May 5, when the blossoms are usually in peak bloom.
Spring isn’t the only seasonal celebration hosted in the castle area. Early February sees the prefecture face one of its coldest and snow covered months, and with it comes the legendary Hirosaki Castle Yuki-Toro Festival (Snow Lantern Festival). The Hirosaki Castle Yuki-Toro Festival is one of the five major snow festivals of the Tohoku region. In the main exhibiting space around Shi no Maru, snow recreations of iconic historical architecture play the main feature. While the illuminations, and lanterns dotted around the grounds create a truly mystical atmosphere. If that wasn’t enough, the organizers have also incorporated displays of projection mapping onto the large snow sculptures featuring accompanying music.
Closest station to Hirosaki Castle/Park is Hirosaki Station. However, from the station to the park is about 30 minutes walk or 10 minutes by taxi.
Its about 3.5 hours from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori station on Hayabusa train on the JR Tohoku Shinkansen. This is covered by JR East Pass (Tohoku Area).
From Shin-Aomori station, take the limited express train, Tsugaru to Hirosaki Station. It is about 30 minutes train ride.