Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Ultimate Guide to the Attractions in Hirakawa City

After a day or two of exploring Hirosaki, you might feel like you haven’t experienced enough of the Tsugaru region’s hospitality. You decide to hop on a train and are on your way to the sister-like city, Kuroishi. During the 50-minute train ride, you might look out of the window and think, “I wonder whether there is anything interesting to see along this train line…”.

Hirakawa (平川市) is a city that is located between Hirosaki and Kuroishi. There are quite a few interesting places in the city, like rice paddy art, that will make you want to hop off the train and explore! If you are a Ghibli Studio fan, the model of the house and garden in the movie – The Secret World of Arrietty is in Hirakawa city (*’▽’).

Coming from Hirosaki, you can visit the attractions below as you slowly move towards Kuroishi city (=゚ω゚)ノ. They are listed in sequence, so you won’t be going back and forth!

Neputa Exhibition Hall (ねぷた展示館)

© Aomori Prefecture

Meet the world’s largest fan-shaped Neputa. It is 12-meter tall and 9.2 meters wide with a depth of 8 meters Σ(゚Д゚).

The gigantic lantern is about twice the size of a normal Neputa and takes a seven-floor building to store it indoors. In addition, the ink painting style on the lanterns is something you probably won’t find elsewhere in the world!

During the exhibition hall’s opening hours, feel free to visit it as many times as possible since it is free to enter the unmanned facility. There is also a gallery on the second floor displaying information about neputa festivals that take place in Hirakawa, Kurosaki, and Hirosaki.

Neputa Exhibition Hall’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The exhibition hall is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm daily
  • You can refer to HERE and translate it to English by Google Chrome’s translation function at the right of the address bar for the days that the hall will be closed
  • To get to this spectacular neputa lantern, get off at Kōnan Railway Company’s (弘南鉄道) Hiraka Station (平賀駅). It is then just a 10-minute walk away.
  • From Hirosaki (弘前駅), it takes around 15 minutes to get to Hirakawa Station by train

Shigabo Forest Park (志賀坊森林公園)

Shigabo Forest Park is located 350 meters above ground level, giving you a fantastic view of the Tsugaru Plain.

© Aomori Prefecture

As the sun goes down, Mt. Iwaki (that mountain in the photo) becomes a clear silhouette, and the city’s streetlights form a heart shape!

If you are visiting the park during summer or autumn night or early morning, there might be fog or clouds covering the Tsugaru Plain, making it look like Mt. Iwaki is floating on top of the clouds (*´ω`).

During the day, it is a great spot for trekking. The tracks are well-maintained and go through a peaceful forest with several lookouts for resting and photos.

Important: As you can see on the map HERE (only in Japanese), there is only one toilet facility in the park. So utilize it when you can!

Tip: Although in rare cases, you might have your first bear encounter during your time at the forest park. In such case, remember not to panic (they are afraid of humans too) and slowly get out of the scene (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Shigabo Forest Park’s Access Information and Opening Hours

  • The park’s office is open from mid-April to mid-November from 9 am to 5 pm daily except Wednesdays. It is when a manager is onsite (the office is located just opposite the public toilet)
  • Currently, no direct bus services stop anywhere close to the park. You will either need to drive there or get off at Kōnan Railway Company’s (弘南鉄道) Hiraka Station (平賀駅) and catch a taxi (which takes around 15 minutes).

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Hirakawa City.

Inakadate Village Rice Field Art (田舎館村田んぼアート)

When we first saw a picture of the rice field art (or rice paddy art), we thought, “ah, who destroyed the rice field by putting paint on those poor plants…”. And then, when we were told the drawings are formed by planting various types of rice to create different colors at different spots of the field, we were just too astonished that all we could think of for a few seconds was, “oh my god!”.

© Aomori Prefecture

If you are impressed by the photo on the right, refer to our article on Inakadate Village Rice Field Art for more information!

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Hirakawa City.

Saruka Park (猿賀公園)

© Aomori Prefecture

Sakura Park (猿賀公園) is a 6.3-hectare park surrounding the Saruka Shrine. It can be enjoyed at any time of the year (*’▽’).

In Spring, the pink flowers on almost 330 cherry blossom trees gorgeously decorate two ponds in the park. If you want this magical experience, attend the Cherry Blossom and Tree Planting Festival (桜と植木まつり), held from mid-April to early May each year.

For more information, please refer to our article on Saruka Park!

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Hirakawa City.

Seibi-En Garden (盛美園) and Seibikan (盛美館)

The Seibi-En Garden is a typical example of the Oishi Takegaku style (大石武学流) landscaping which was popular in Tsugaru. Labeled as one of the national scenic spots, the garden itself is actually more stunning than what the photos show (´▽`*).

If you are wondering what the Oishi Takegaku style is, we have explained the origin of the style in a bit more detail when we talk about the Kanehiranarien Garden in our Kuroishi city article HERE.

Seibikan, the house in Seibi-En Garden is a rare building with the first floor built in pure Japanese style and a complete western style second floor.

© Aomori prefecture

The two styles doesn’t really blend well in our view (we actually thought it looked quite weird), but it has great historical value as it shows the progress of Japan’s westernization.

A Brief History of Seibi-En Garden

© Aomori prefecture

The garden and the building were only under construction during the winter each year, when the farmers couldn’t do any farm work. They needed money to support their families, which is why it took nine years to complete both Seibi-En Garden and Seibikan in 1937.

Seibi-En is finely arranged with beautiful decoration throughout, incorporating the local elements such as the Tsugaru Plains and mountain range.

Studio Ghibli’s Movie – The Secret World of Arrietty

Currently, only the garden and the Japanese-style first floor are open to the public. So it might be hard to imagine the little Arrietty borrowing things from the house here and there. But when you stroll around the garden, maybe you can find some parts of the garden that are similar to what you have seen in the Ghibli movie?

As the garden isn’t too big, if you have 40 minutes to an hour, it will be more than enough to fully appreciate this gorgeous spot (^_-)-☆.

© Aomori prefecture

Also, if you want to have a light meal or grab some locally grown vegetables and/or fruits, drop by the Roman House (もてなしロマン館) next door (^_-)-☆.

As a side note, when you visit the garden, if there is no one at the ticket counter, feel free to stroll around the property first. You can pay on your way out (which should be what the note says left on the counter of the ticket office (´▽`*)).

Seibi-En Garden’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The garden and the house are open from 9 am to 5 pm from mid-April to the end of September
  • From October to mid-November, the garden and the house is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm
  • From mid-November to mid-April, the garden and the house is open from 10 am to 3 pm but closed from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January
    • Please head to the Roman House next door for admission during this period
  • The admission fee is
    • 500 yen for adults
    • 330 yen for high school students
    • 220 yen for elementary school students
    • Free otherwise
  • From Kōnan Railway Company (弘南鉄道)’s Tsugaru-Onoe Station (津軽尾上駅), it is a 10-minute walk to the garden
  • You can also walk from Saruka Park, which should take less than 10 minutes

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Hirakawa City.

Seito Family Study Cottage Garden (清藤氏書院庭園)

The Seito Family Study Cottage Garden is another example of the Oishi Takegaku style (大石武学流) landscaping which was popular in Tsugaru. This national scenic spot is actually someone else’s home, so if you don’t make a reservation in advance, you won’t be able to enter the property if the owner is away.

To make a booking, please give the owner a call at +81-172-57-2127.

© Aomori prefecture
© Aomori prefecture

If you manage to make a booking with the owner, he might even show you around his house that was firstly built in 1873!

Seito Family Study Cottage Garden’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The garden and the house are open from 9 am to 5 pm
  • The admission fee is
    • 300 yen for adults
    • 200 yen for university and senior high school students
    • 100 yen for elementary school and junior high school students
  • From Kōnan Railway Company’s (弘南鉄道) Tsugaru-Onoe Station (津軽尾上駅), it is a 10-minute walk to the garden
  • You can also walk from Saruka Park, which should take less than 10 minutes

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Hirakawa City.

Ikarigaseki Onsekisho (碇ヶ関御関所)

© Aomori prefecture

Sekisho (関所) is a checkpoint back in the old days. This Sekisho in Ikarigaseki replicates one of the local checkpoints used from 1586 to 1871.

In this museum-like facility, you will find old documentations that were processed at the checkout and also a space where dioramas are used to recreate the brutal interrogation scene of the time (those are some really well-made humanoids …it would be quite scary if you break into this space at night…).

The Ikarigaseki Onsekisho is located inside the Roadside Station, Ikarigaseki Tsugaru Sekinoshō (道の駅いかりがせき 津軽関の庄). Other facilities at the roadside station include an onsen, souvenir shops, and restaurants (which aren’t vegetarian friendly).

How to Get to Ikarigaseki Onsekisho

  • From JR Hirosaki Station (弘前駅), it will take around 20 minutes to reach JR Ikarigaseki station (碇ヶ関駅). It is then a 5-minute walk to Ikarigaseki Onsekisho
  • Entry is free

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Hirakawa City.

How to Get to Hirakawa City

Hirosaki-Castle-Aomori-Japan
Learn more about all the great attractions in Hirosaki City with our article!

Most of the attractions in Hirakawa city are accessible by Kōnan Railway Company’s (弘南鉄道) train services or Kōnan Bus’s (弘南バス) bus services.

There are also a couple of attractions that are located along the JR’s Ōu Line (奥羽本線) (^_-)-☆.

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