A famous spot for cherry blossoms, many Japanese people want to visit at least once.
Hirosaki City in Aomori prefecture is located in the northern tip of the main Honshu island. Hirosaki Castle and its cherry blossoms are known as one of the best scenic spots in Japan, listed in the “100 best spots for cherry blossoms in Japan” selected by the government, “Japan’s 100 scenic spots where people and nature blend in harmony” and “Japan’s Top 100 Castles”. Cherry trees were first planted around Hirosaki Castle 300 years ago . It is said that the population of trees was devastated at one time, but the number of trees has increased over the last 100 years thanks to donations from many people, making Hirosaki Castle as beautiful as it is now. The “Hirosaki Sakura-Matsuri” cherry blossom festival is held at Hirosaki Park from late April to early May every year when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The park bustles with people enjoying rental boats, stalls and the illumination of cherry blossoms at night.
Why are cherry blossoms in Hirosaki Park so beautiful? The reason is in the pruning technique. Apples are a local specialty of Aomori prefecture, and when local apple farmers pruned old, weak cherry trees the way they prune apple trees, the trees regained vitality in the following year and produced even more beautiful cherry blossoms. Typical cherry blossoms have 3 to 4 floral buds, but the cherry blossoms in Hirosaki Park have 5 to 7. The increase in the thickness of the flower makes the cherry blossoms look more vigorous and the shape of the tree becomes more beautiful because the weight of the flowers causes the branches to hang down. The cherry blossoms in Hirosaki are nurtured by the wisdom of the local people and their love for the trees.
To get to Hirosaki, take the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Aomori (about 3 hours and 20 min.) and then take the Tsugaru limited express train to Hirosaki Station (about 30 min.) From Osaka, fly to Aomori Airport (about 1 hour and 30 min.) and then take a bus to Hirosaki Station (about 55 min.) It is about a 30-minute walk or a 10-minute taxi ride from Hirosaki Station to Hirosaki Park. An admission fee of 310 yen for adults and 100 yen for children (age 15 and under) is required to enter the Honmaru area (the central part of the castle).
Construction to repair the stone walls of the Honmaru in Hirosaki Park started in 2014 and is scheduled to take 10 years to complete. The construction is planned to shift into high gear after the Hirosaki Sakura-Matsuri in 2015, so visiting the park before it starts is highly recommended.
The best spots in Hirosaki Park for viewing cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms from approximately 2,600 trees bloom vibrantly, creating a scene like a work of art everywhere you look. Here is a special selection of most spectacular scenic spots for cherry blossoms in Hirosaki Park.
Spot 1: The golden trio of the castle, bridge and cherry blossoms
When Japanese people think about Hirosaki cherry blossoms, the first image that comes to mind is that of Hirosaki Castle with cherry blossoms. Adding a red bridge to the scene makes it even better. The scenery at Gejobashi Bridge in front of the castle tower is particularly beautiful, blending the images of the sky, the castle tower, cherry blossoms and the bridge into one.
Spot 2: Mt. Iwaki and the weeping cherry trees
Beautifully shaped weeping cherry trees are planted in the Honmaru area of Hirosaki Castle. Mt. Iwaki stands in the background, an isolated mountain with a grand base like Mt. Fuji. The mountain is a symbol of Aomori prefecture, and the contrast between the remaining snow on the mountain, the blue sky and the cherry blossoms is spectacular.
Spot 3: Cherry blossoms to view from a boat
If you want to appreciate cherry blossoms at leisure with your family or that special someone, the west moat area, located on the west side of the park, is recommended. Rental boats are available from 9 am to 5 pm at 1,000 yen for 60 minutes and you can enjoy the view of cherry blossoms on the water. The water’s surface reflects Hirosaki Castle, the bridge and the cherry blossoms. It is like a special seat just for you to view cherry blossoms.
Spot 4: Cherry blossoms tunnel
The tunnel of cherry blossoms is another popular spot in the west moat area. Strolling through countless numbers of cherry blossoms will surely be an exceptional memory for you. This spot is so popular that it is particularly crowded in the daytime during the cherry blossom season. If you want to enjoy it in a more relaxed atmosphere, we recommend visiting early in the morning or in the evening.
Spot 5: Fantastical illumination
Hirosaki Park is usually only open during the day, but you can also enjoy cherry blossoms at night during the “Hirosaki Sakura-Matsuri”. At night, the cherry blossoms are lit up with spotlights and seem to float in the dark, a magical and enchanting sight. It’s another way to enjoy the beauty of cherry blossoms and one which cannot be seen in the daytime.
Spot 6: Cherry blossom carpet
The sight of cherry blossoms in all their glory is what everyone wants to see, but there is another superb view left for those who missed the full-bloom period. It is the view of the moat covered with the fallen petals. The entire surface of the moat turns pink for several days from early to mid-May. This present from nature is available only to those who visit during this time of the season.
Cherry blossom viewing spots worth traveling a little further to visit
Other famous spots for cherry blossoms besides Hirosaki Park are scattered around Hirosaki City. If you have time, it is worth traveling a little further to visit these places.
The oldest cherry tree in Aomori Prefecture is the weeping cherry tree in Hirosaki Tenmangu Shrine. This cherry tree, with a 9-meter trunk circumference (354 inch), is estimated to be 700-800 years old and has a distinctive atmosphere different from other cherry trees. Although there are other cherry trees in the shrine site, this cherry tree is so amazing that some people come just to see this tree. It is about a 10-minute taxi ride from JR Hirosaki Station.
The grounds of Kongozan Saisho-in Temple are one of the most famous spots for cherry blossoms in Hirosaki. Double cherry blossoms are a type of cherry blossom that have many petals in layers. This spot is not as crowded as Hirosaki Park and therefore you can relax and enjoy the cherry blossoms at leisure with the northernmost Five-Story Pagoda in Japan in the background. To visit, take Konan Bus for Shin-Teramachi from JR Hirosaki Station, get off at “Hirosaki Koukou Mae” and walk for about 3 minutes.