Those who know of Hirosaki Castle (弘前城) or Hirosaki Park (弘前公園) probably know them because of their reputation for stunning cherry blossoms. More than two hundred thousand people visit Hirosaki for its Cherry Blossom Festival (弘前さくらまつり) each year! No wonder why it was chosen as one of the top three cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan as well as one of the three most popular illuminated (at night) cherry blossom viewing spots in the country.
If you are a fan of the anime “Demon Slayer”, you may also want to see the tree that might have inspired Nezuko’s (Tanjiro’s sister) namesake.
A Bit of History
Hirosaki Castle was completed in 1610 by the Tsugaru Clan (津軽藩). Originally the castle was named “Takaoka Castle (高岡城)”. Since the completion of the castle, the construction of a “castle town” that aimed to strengthen the castle’s defense facility (while also serving an administrative and commercial function) began. In 1628, together with the completion of the castle town (and the three-story turret to replace the castle keep), the castle was renamed “Hirosaki Castle”.
The Hirosaki Park today, where we may now stroll freely, wasn’t actually built for the locals’ leisure. The fortified moats, castle gates, and several corner turrets were there to protect the Hirosaki Castle from any potential invaders (´▽｀*).
The original five-story castle keep was unfortunately struck by lightning in 1627 and was consequently burnt to the ground (the lightning just happened to strike the explosives storage). Despite the importance of its defensive function, rebuilding of the castle keep did not begin. The Tokyugawa Shogunate didn’t approve the rebuilding of a castle keep, instead opting to build a three-story turret.
The rebuilding of castle keep was only allowed in 1810 to keep an eye on the Russian ships coming from Tsugaru Strait. After the burning down of Matsumae Castle’s castle keep in Hokkaido in 1949, the Hirosaki castle keep is now the northernmost castle keep of Japan. It is also the only Castle that retained its “original” appearance since the Edo period in North-Eastern Japan (and one of the 12 castles that have their original castle keep ).
The Castle Keep that Doesn’t Sit on the Stone Wall
If you are visiting Hirosaki Castle before 2025, chances are that you won’t be able to see the castle tower sitting atop the stone walls per the above photo. As of 2015, the castle keep has been moved to another spot in Hirosaki Park (just 70 meters away from where it was) so repair of the stone wall can be undertaken. (It is a mystery to us how they managed to move the castle tower (゜.゜)).
Things to Do at Hirosaki Castle
Much like most of the castles in Japan, there isn’t all that much you can do inside the castles. Below are 3 things that you can do on Hirosaki Castle’s ground:
- Study the Castle’s history at the museum inside the castle keep
- Visit Hirosaki Castle Botanical Garden (弘前城植物園)
- Get some photos with the castle keep with Mt. Iwaki (岩木山) as a backdrop
There is a mountain in Hirosaki that looks similar to Mt. Fuji!
Mt. Iwaki is also known as “Tsugaru Fuji” due to being similarly shaped to the actual Mt. Fuji. The snow cap may remind you of the view of Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi prefecture (*´ω｀)?
From where the castle keep is located, you can easily get a nice photo of the tallest mountain in Aomori prefecture. Don’t forget to take a selfie with it before you go exploring Hirosaki Park!
Hirosaki Castle Botanical Garden
If you love being surrounded by various plants, don’t miss out on the Hirosaki Castle Botanical Garden!
Boasting a size of 76,500 square meters and around 1,500 different types of plants, this well-maintained garden is as pretty as a painting from spring to autumn. You may also find cherry blossom trees that can’t be found elsewhere here in Hirosaki Park (*´ω｀).
If you are interested in which flowers bloom in what month, refer to THIS GRAPH on their official website!
This Japanese garden is said to be the origin of the Tsugaru region’s gardening style and is thus treated as a valuable asset in Hirosaki.
Do not worry if it rains during your visit. There are free resting areas and a cafe (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
HERE is a simple map of the Garden. The map is in Japanese but the drawings describe the features to some extent. If you really wish to understand everything on the map, you can contact us HERE and we will get back to you.
It will take you approximately 40 minutes to an hour to stroll around the Garden (^_-)-☆.
Hirosaki Castle’s Admission Fees and Opening Hours
HERE is a complete map of Hirosaki Park (in Japanese as there is currently no English version). The part that is coloured in light orange can only be accessed with an admission fee. The light orange area on the left is where the Hirosaki Castle is located, and the area to its right is the botanical garden.
Hirosaki Castle (弘前城本丸・北の郭)
- The adult admission fee is 320 yen (100 yen for primary and middle school students)
- The Castle is open 9 am to 5 pm between the 1st of Apr and the 23rd of Nov
- During Cherry Blossom Festival in late Apr, the Castle is open from 7 am to 9 pm
Tips: From the 24th of November to the end of March, it is instead FREE to stroll around this area. Though, you can not explore the interior of the Castle during that time.
Hirosaki Castle Botanical Garden (弘前城植物園)
- The adult admission fee is 320 yen (100 yen for primary and middle school students)
- The Garden is open 9 am to 5 pm from mid-Apr to the 23rd of Nov with admissions closing at 4:30 pm
- During Cherry Blossom Festival in late Apr, the Castle is open from 7 am to 6 pm with admissions closing at 5:30 pm
Tips: Go to the Garden on the last Sunday in May to explore the Garden for FREE!
There is also a combo ticket available for purchase to enter both areas (520 yen for adults and 160 yen for primary and middle school students). With this combo ticket, you can also access Fujita Memorial Garden (藤田記念庭園) – another popular attraction spot in Hirosaki city, for free (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
The Hirosaki Park spans 492,000 square meters. The Park features a variety of plants, from approximately 2,600 cherry blossom trees (50 different types) to ginkgo and chrysanthemum, all there to add seasonal colours to this massive park throughout the year (*’▽’).
As Hirosaki Castle is located inside Hirosaki Park, how do you know whether you are on the castle grounds or the park grounds?
Simple! If you have not yet paid, you are on the park grounds (´▽｀*).
Here is a list of attractions that we highly recommended:
- Hirosaki Castle Sannomaru Ōtemon Gate (弘前城 三の丸追手門)
- The Famous West Moat (西濠)
- Hirosaki Castle Lotus Pond Moat (弘前城 蓮池濠)
- Heart-Shaped Cherry Blossom Trees
- The 500 Years Old Tree That Excites Fans Of Anime – Demon Slayer (鬼滅の刃)
Hirosaki Castle Sannomaru Ōtemon Gate (弘前城 三の丸追手門)
Apart from the castle tower, the gates of the Garden and 3 other turrets also have historical monuments that are worth a visit.
This gate is just meters away from the Hirosaki Botanical Garden mentioned above. If you are getting there by bus, get off at Shiyakusho Mae (市役所前) and you will see this gate as soon as you get off!
Before you enter the garden, however, consider checking out the Ōtemon Square (追手門広場) opposite this gate for some Miniature Structures (ミニチュア建造物). There you will find 14 miniature buildings that were built during the Meiji and Taisho periods (1868 – 1926)!
For more information, please refer to our article about Hirosaki city HERE (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
The Famous West Moat (西濠)
Hirosaki Park isn’t just stunning in areas where you can stand under the cherry blossom trees. The view of the flowers on the two sides of the moat is equally famous!
Whether it is the reflection of the blossoms during the day or the romantic atmosphere in the illuminated night, you will never regret dropping by one of these moats (especially the one in the west of the Castle)!
You will also find the cherry blossom tunnel at the West Moat (^_-)-☆.
You have probably seen photos of Japan’s roads covered by cherry blossom petals in spring. And the photo on the left-hand side might look like one of them.
But, if you attempt to walk on this “road” you will find yourself bathing in flower petals – which sounds quite nice… except you might catch a cold the next day (´▽｀*).
Underneath these petals is actually the Castle’s moat! The Japanese call it the Floral Raft (花筏). It is one of the must-visit spots if you ever visit Hirosaki from the end of April till the beginning of May!
If you are curious what the boats are for in the photo above, they are for the scenic boat tour. Hopefully, the tours will be offered this year. If they are, the boats operate from 9 am to 5 pm (last admission at 4:30 pm) from late April to early May.
Hirosaki Castle Lotus Pond Moat (弘前城 蓮池濠)
Opposite the West Moat, you will find this moat, filled with lotus.
In summer, from July to August, hundreds of brightly coloured lotus flowers are blooming (*´ω｀).
If you happen to visit Hirosaki for its Neputa Festival at the beginning of August, this scenery might be something to chill out to (´▽｀*).
The Most Romantic Part of Hirosaki Park
Looking for ideas for where to propose to your loved one? How about Hirosaki Park (≧▽≦)?
This spot is the most romantic when the branches of the trees are covered by pink cherry blossom flowers. But throughout the year even in winter, this heart shape can be seen!
This was initially a hidden spot in Hirosaki Park until summer 2014.
Now, if you pay attention to the ground, you will find this mark (refer to the photo on the right-hand side). As soon as you find this mark, look up, the heart shape be just above you (if you are tall, you might need to lower yourself a bit)!
And if you aren’t good at finding things, here is the map to guide you (^_-)-☆.
The 500 Years Old Tree for Fans of the Anime “Demon Slayer” (鬼滅の刃)
弘前公園の「ねずこ」鬼滅の刃ブームで脚光 https://t.co/dTTxbJ0PLx— やまんば (@yamanba_iwaki) December 29, 2020
If you love the anime “Demon Slayer”, you might want to visit this old tree called “Nezuko”. Yes, it has the same name as the main character’s little sister in the anime!
Hirosaki Park’s grounds was originally a massive virgin forest with plenty more Nezuko trees. Together with the development of the city, it is said this tree might be the only Nezuko tree left in the Northern part of Japan in the future.
The tree is therefore precious to Aomori prefecture and has been under good care for a long time. When students come to Hirosaki Garden on an excursion, they are told how valuable this tree is. The fact has not gained much attention from the audience until after the anime became a big hit. These days, the guides of the park can clearly see more excitement from the students’ faces (´▽｀*).
To find this tree, find your way to the Hirosaki City Gardening Information Center (弘前市緑の相談所). The tree is just next to it (^_-)-☆.
Dress-Up Experience and Guide Tour at Hirosaki Park
If you ever dream of becoming the lord or the princess of the Castle, then don’t miss out on the dress-up experience offered at the park! Starting from 500 yen, your dream will temporarily come true!
Please click HERE for more information (^_-)-☆.
Also, if you happen to arrive at the Park outside of the snow or cherry blossom season, try out their smart glasses tour guide so you still get to see the most beautiful side of the Park! For more information, please refer to the official website HERE.
Festivals at Hirosaki Park
Cherry Blossom Festival (弘前さくらまつり)
The Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival takes place from the 23rd of April to the 5th of May in 2021.
You can follow the model course on the official website HERE. While the website is in Japanese, you can still easily follow the map pinned with attractions!
Hopefully, the scenic boat tour at the West Moat (西濠) and Middle Moat (中濠) will be on this year. If it is on, the boats operate from 9 am to 5 pm (admission closing at 4:30 pm) from late April to early May.
For more information, please refer to the official website HERE!
Apparently, Hirosaki wasn’t always a city full of cherry blossom trees. The cherry blossom trees in the Park aren’t even native!
In 1715, samurais who were born in Hirosaki brought back 25 cherry blossom trees from Kyoto. This effort was continued in 1882 by Tatee Kikuchi, who planted 1,000 cherry blossom trees to make the city more lively. But some of those 1,000 saplings were uprooted because others thought the castle grounds should not be used as a place of entertainment. The last major cherry blossom tree planting took place from 1901 – 1903 to celebrate the emperors’ wedding anniversary.
During the festival, the Park will be lit up from 6:30 pm to 10 pm to extend the hours in which the cherry blossoms may be enjoyed (^_-)-☆.
Hirosaki Neputa Festival (弘前ねぷたまつり)
The Hirosaki Neputa Festival (ねぶた祭) is one of the “Three Great Festivals” of the Tohoku Region. This festival, which sees more than two million people coming to Aomori, is held from the 1st to the 7th of August each year.
Throughout the festival, parades of gigantic neputa lantern floats and folk art performances happen every day from morning to night.
For more information, please refer to the official website HERE!
Note that this festival does not take place at Hirosaki Park.
As we tourists are not in possession of Doraemon’s teleportation door, visit Neputa village for a peak of how spectacular the festival is!
For more information, please check out our article that has Neputa Village’s information HERE!
Hirosaki Castle Chrysanthemum and Autumn Foliage Festival (弘前城菊と紅葉まつり)
The festival held from mid-October to early November each year features several local folks performing on traditional instruments such as taiko drums and shamisen (a type of Japanese lute).
Whether it is during the day or night, you can enjoy the vibrant autumn colour at Hirosaki Castle and Hirosaki Park (and of course, anywhere else in the city)!
For more information about the festival, please refer to the official website HERE!
From mid-September to mid-November, the Park is lit up from sunset to 9 pm to extend the hours during which the vibrant autumn colours may be enjoyed (^_-)-☆.
Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival (弘前城雪燈籠まつり)
The Snow Lantern Festival that takes place in mid-February is the biggest event in Hirosaki’s winter since 1977.
During the festival, Hirosaki Park is filled with lanterns with paintings of warrior characters. Around the Lotus Pond moat, you will find more than 300 mini igloos that are lit up at night.
There are also gigantic snow statues and sliding beds for kids to have fun (´▽｀*).
From 6 pm each day, a projection show on the biggest snow statue will take place every 30 minutes (the last projection is at 8:30 pm).
And just like all festivals across the country, there are stalls selling food during the events – which is especially important to keep yourself warm!
For those who are keen to launch some sky lanterns, make sure you head to the festival’s official website to sign up!
We will update this space when the details for the 2022 Snow Lantern Festival are out. For now, HERE is the link to sign up for the event for 2021. Hopefully, in 2022, we can sign up through the English official website as well (‘ω’)ノ.
Since 2011, Tsugaru-Nishiki-e Cloister is added as part of the event program, making the whole event richer with local culture!
During the period of the snow festival, the Park is opened from 9 am to 9 pm. If you are just after night lights, then go to the Park after 4:30 pm!
For more information please refer to the official website HERE.
How to Get to Hirosaki Castle/Park
- From JR Hirosaki Station (弘前駅), it is a 30 mins walk to the Park
- You can also cut your travel time by taking a bus from Hirosaki Bus Terminal(弘前バスタミナール) in front of JR Hirosaki Station for 100 yen
- Dotechō Junkan Bus (土手町循環バス) departs from bus stop #8 between 10 am and 6 pm from Apr to Nov every 10 mins (10 am to 5 pm from Dec to Mar). You can either get off at Shiyakusho Mae (市役所前), or Mutsu Shinpō Yashiromae (陸奥新報社前), or Bunka Sentā Mae (文化センター前).
- Tanenobugō Bus (ためのぶ号) departs from bus stop #4 between Apr and Nov. You can either get off at Neputa Mura (ねぷた村) or Shiyakusho Mae (市役所前). HERE is the timetable in Japanese for your reference. Basically, the bus departs from Hirosaki Bus Terminal at 9:15 am, 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.
Where Else to Visit at Hirosaki?
It would be a waste if you only visit Hirosaki Park when you come to Hirosaki because there are so many other interesting attractions around the Park!
Find out more of our other recommended spots around the park with our Hirosaki City article (≧▽≦).