18/10/2021

Hirosaki City: Cherry Blossoms and Apples in Aomori-ken

Hirosaki produces the most apples in Japan’s apple heaven, Aomori Prefecture. But be it apples or sights of wonder, Hirosaki has much to offer like popular cherry blossom viewing spots Hirosaki Castle and Hirosaki Park, apple cultivating experiences at Hirosaki Apple Park, and religious site Iwakiyama Shrine amongst others.


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction To Hirosaki
  2. Hirosaki’s Main Attractions
  3. Hirosaki Dining Delights
  4. Summary

Introduction To Hirosaki

Hirosaki cute apple flowers

Huddled in the northernmost part of Honshu Island,  Aomori Prefecture is divided vertically by the Ou Mountain Range. This led to vast contrast of climate difference between both sides of the mountain. The prefecture’s cool summers and spacious fields make it perfect for the apple cultivating industry. Besides which, the region is blessed with four seasons that render a fitting climate and environment to produce high quality fruits. 

Nestled within the Tsugaru Peninsula of Aomori-ken is one of the biggest apple producers of Aomori, Hirosaki. The apple capital Hirosaki produces high quality apples perfect for eating raw, juiced, cooked, or made into other products. It is not an exaggeration to say that visiting this city and missing out on apples would be a foolish thing to do. At the very least,if you’re not an apple fan, get some as souvenirs for family and friends. Trust us, they’ll appreciate it.

※ Apple University, “The Secret of High-quality Aomori Apples”
※ APTINET.AOMORI Prefectural Government, “Apples”
※ Aomori Prefectural Government, “Introduction to Aomori

Hirosaki’s Main Attractions

More than just apples, Hirosaki is blessed with nature, historical, and other attractions waiting to welcome visitors. To help you on your journey, here are some highlights in this town.

Hirosaki Apple Park

Hirosaki Apple Park apple trees

Since we’re boasting so much about their apples, it’s only fair we recommend somewhere you can enjoy them too. 

Established around a hundred years ago, the large scale fields of Hirosaki Apple Park is home to around 80 different types of apple trees numbering approximately 2,300. The best thing about this place is that they offer visitors hands-on experience throughout the year:

Month

Activity

Early to mid-May

Flower Picking 

To reduce burden on trees

Late May to Late June

Thinning Apples

To pluck small bad quality ones

Late September

Leaf Thinning

To help apples get more sun

Late September to Late October

Turn Apples

To help apples evenly get sun

Early August to Late November

Apple Picking

Paid Experience for 35 yen / 100g

Other facilities on the farm include the Ringo No Le Souvenir Shop where you can find apple products like juice and pie, Kimori apple cider, and even souvenir T-shirts. You might also want to check out Hirosaki Cider Kobo Komori, a brewery that makes the Kimori apple cider.

※ Hirosaki City Office, "Apple Park"
※ Japan National Tourism Organization, "Hirosaki City Apple Park"

Hirosaki Park

HIrosaki Park red bridge surrounded with cherry blossoms

Formerly part of the Hirosaki Castle grounds, Hirosaki Park was open to the public in 1895. With 2,600 sakura trees in tens of varieties, it is known throughout the world for being one of the best in Japan to enjoy sakura-viewing. 

The Annual Cherry Blossom Festival held between April 23rd and May 5th at this park witnesses a large gathering of people, both tourists and locals alike. Hanami, people, food stalls - the entire park comes alive with vibrant energy. 

Entrance Fee: 320 yen (Adult)

※ Hirosaki Park, "About Hirosaki Park"

For more information about the Cherry Blossom Festival including private picnic booking, schedule, and ticket pricing, please check the links below. 

※ Aomori Sightseeing Guide, "Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival"
※ Hirosaki Tourism And Convention Bureau, "Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival"

 Hirosaki Castle

Sakura tree with Hirosaki Castle background

As previously mentioned, Hirosaki Castle is located on the grounds of Hirosaki Park, or vice versa. Though originally a five-story building, after its destruction by lightning in 1627, Hirosaki Castle was rebuilt in 1810 into a three-story keep. The main structure, built in Hirayama design and encircled by defensive walls, fortresses and Yagura towers, was constructed on a hill to make it easier to defend itself. Other features of the tower include the famous sakura carpet moat, several attack turrets, a guard station, gates, and bridges. 

Hirosaki Park Sakura Carpet Moat

Entrance Fee: 320 yen (Adult)

※ Hirosaki Park, "Famous Places/Highlights"  "Hirosaki Castle"

TIP
Save 120 yen
with a combination ticket for 520 yen (Adult) for entry into Hirosaki Castle, Hirosaki Park, and also Fujita Memorial Japanese Garden.

Fujita Memorial Japanese Garden

Traditional Japanese Garden in HIrosaki

As its name implies, Fujita Memorial is a classic traditional Japanese Garden encompassing water ponds, waterfalls, irises, bridges, and plenty of greenery. A full circuit around the gardens takes less than an hour so do make a quick drop, especially if you’ve yet to see a Japanese garden. 

Entrance Fee: 310 yen (Adult)

※ Hirosaki Green Assoc., “Fujita Memorial Japanese Garden

Iwakiyama Shrine

View from mountain top Iwakiyama Shrine

With a history as early as 780, Iwakiyama Shrine is built atop Mt. Iwaki. Beloved by the locals, the shrine was affectionately called “O-Iwaki-samaandO-yama”. The deities enshrined grant blessings of agriculture, fishing, transportation safety, and various other forms of luck. 

Aside from the shrine's 6 designated important cultural properties - main hall, worship hall, back gate, front gate, tower gate, and fence, the shrine’s Okumiya God Festival is also a recognized important cultural heritage. Celebrated on August 1 of the lunar calendar, the festival is dedicated to prayer for good harvest and involves hiking up the mountain whilst singing an old mountain climbing song. 

※ Iwakiyama Jinja, "History"

To enter the shrine, you will have to climb some stairs. The shrine’s approach is bordered by cedar groves which makes for a nice hike whilst you enjoy the breathtaking view of the city below. Your reward for the climb is a grand view of Mt. Iwaki from the temple entrance. Don’t forget to give your greetings to the guardian dog statues at the tower gate; one grants success and achievement, the other gives blessings of love opportunities.  

Remember to purify your hands and mouth as per the regular shrine visitation customs. An interesting fact about this shrine’s cleansing basin is the three-headed dragon water spout. The water apparently sourced from Mt. Iwaki is safe for drinking.  

※ Travel to Tohoku, "Iwakiyama Shrine"

Neputa Village

Neputa Parade with Big Neputa Fans

Hirosaki is home to the historical culture of Tsugaru. Tsugaru-han Neputa Village, which is located at the northeast corner of Hirosaki Castle, is a center for promoting, teaching, and preserving Tsugaru culture. The center’s attractions include:

  • Neputa Hall and Neputa Gallery

  • Tsugaru Craft Center

  • Tsugaru Shamisen

  • Japanese Garden and Teahouse

  • Komadokoro 

What is Neputa?
Fan shaped floats portraying dramatic images of warriors, whether it be mid-battle or triumphant in war. They come in various sizes and feature bright colours. You can admire Neputa Hall, and learn about its history in the gallery. 

Aside from this, you can watch a daily live performance with Tsugaru Shamisen. Or visit the Tsugaru Craft Center to admire Tsugaru lacquerware, pottery, and kokeshi dolls. Make your own souvenir by participating in a traditional craft making class, browse the craft menu with its wide selection of mini neputa, tsugaru pottery, pigeon whistle, spinning top painting, and more! 

For a lunch break, visit the restaurant and dine on traditional Tsugaru cuisine made with locally sourced Aomori ingredients. The restaurant here is 1 of only 34 shops authorized to serve traditional Tsugaru heritage cuisine! 

Entrance Fee: 550 yen (Adult)

NOTE: No time to tour the place? If visiting the restaurant and shop only, admission is free.

Neputa Mura 

Hirosaki Neputa Festival

Every year in the first week of August, Hirosaki Neputa Festival is held, undoubtedly the biggest event in town. There are two highlights to this event, the first being the parade around town with Neputa floats. The other being the drumming of Odaiko (big drums) whose verberating sound drives sleep demons away. 

For more information including Reserved Seating, check the link below.

※ Aomori Sightseeing Guide, “Hirosaki Neputa Festival

Hirosaki Dining Delights

Hirosaki Apple Pie Slices

Apple pie is a must when visiting Hirosaki. Fortunately, the city has kindly prepared an Apple Pie Guide Map in the link below (PDF in the link below). The map is super useful including details like price, delivery availability, eat-in availability, shop opening hours, and even levels of sweetness (甘味), sourness (酸味), and cinnamon (シナモン)! Though the map is in Japanese, it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out. 

TIP: The text can be selected so just copy paste into Google Maps or Google Translate. 

※ Hirosaki Tourism and Convention Bureau, “Apple Pie in the City of Apples

For other non-apple culinary delights, consider these places. 

Tsugaru Local Cuisine Aba 

An Izakaya located within Hirosaki Toei Hotel, Tsugaru Local Cuisine Aba specializes in Tsugaru seafood cuisine. Their menu changes seasonally based on the freshest catch and availability so don’t feel too disappointed if they don’t have something you want; chances are they’ll serve you something even better. Aside from their best item sashimi, and simmered style sashimi in summers, their store specialty is Igamenchi - crispy squid. Served with their special sauce, it is a popular dish in town!

Takahashi Chukasoba

This ramen shop is considered legendary, serving some of the best ramen in Aomori-ken. Established in 1982, Takahashi Chukasoba has been serving Tsugaru Ramen for many years. Remember to bring cash, as typical of a ramen shop, you will need to purchase a ticket from a vending machine. 

Summary

Hirosaki apple bath

Hirosaki may sound like any other city in Japan, but the historical town of cherry blossoms, apples, and Neputa should not be overlooked! A city brimming with culture and art, where western and traditional Japanese buildings coexist, and home to one of the most stunning hanami viewing places. Hirosaki City is unquestionably a must-see destination.

For a special end to your trip, consider taking an apple bath at
Minamida Onsen Hotel Apple Land

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