Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Saruka Park – The Best Park in Hirakawa City

Sakura Park (猿賀公園) in Hirakawa City in Aomori Prefecture is a 6.3-hectare park surrounding the Saruka Shrine. It is the best spot in the area where anyone can enjoy some relaxing time 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!

It is not just an event to appreciate the flowers while you picnic under the trees (like how most cherry blossom festivals are held in Japan). It is also an event for you to get some gardening tips, add some new trees to your garden, and enjoy various water sports on the pond!

Normally, there are only swan-shaped boats that let you float on the pond’s surface. But, on the Sunday during the festival, there are canoes, yachts, and water walking balls (you will be inside the ball) for you to try!

© Aomori Prefecture
© Aomori Prefecture

Of course, the lakeshore is illuminated at night when the flowers bloom along the sides of the ponds. (^_-)-☆.

Tip: if you are looking for a spot to enjoy the flowers but don’t want the crowd, Saruka Park should be a great place for you (the weekends and public holidays obviously will have more people, but still less than other destinations).

In Summer, from late July to early September, Kagamigaike Pond’s (鏡ヶ池) surface will be covered by hundreds of lotus flowers.

Tip: The lotus flowers begin to bloom around 6 am. Your best photo opportunity will be before midday because the flowers will start to return to bud or fade in the afternoon.

© Aomori Prefecture

In autumn, you can enjoy the bright red autumn leaves. And in winter, the contrast between the pure white snow and the red bridge creates a fantasy kind of vibe.

Koikoi Shrine (こいこい神社)

© Aomori Prefecture

This part of the park is called Koikoi Shrine. It isn’t actually a “shrine” but more like a monument. The reason why it is called “koikoi” is because it is just next to the koi fish feeding spot.

Believe it or not, if you feed the koi fish while making a wish, the 100 or so koi fish will make it come true as a thank-you gesture for your food (´▽`*).

P.S. You can get the fish bait for 100 yen from April to early December.

Important: Please don’t give koi fish food other than the fish feed sold in the park.

About the Boats in Saruka Park

  • The boats can be rented from early April to early November from 9 am to 5 pm.
  • From October, the boats can be rented from 9 am to 4 pm.
  • There are two types of boats, rowing boats and pedal boats. Pick the one that suits your purpose of renting the boat (if you want to impress your partner with your arm muscle, maybe go for the rowing boats?)!
    • The cost of renting a rowing boat is 500 yen for 30 minutes
    • The cost of renting a pedal boat is 800 yen for 30 minutes

Saruka Park’s Hot Spring Facility: Sarukasō (さるか荘)

Apart from the ponds, there is also a free foot spa and an onsen facility within the park grounds. In the onsen facility called Sarukasō (さるか荘), there is a cafe and also a restaurant that has a few vegetarian options that you can choose from (such as the stir fry vegetables set – but please ask them not to put in any meat).

The most popular dishes in the restaurant are spicy ramen (ピリ辛味噌ラーメン) and miso curry milk ramen (味噌カレー牛乳ラーメン). However, both are non-vegetarian. We have confirmed with the restaurant that all noodle dishes aren’t vegetarian because either the soup or the noodle contains meat/fish products. Before ordering, you can always check with the restaurant by using the phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians!

If you are just stopping by for a morning or afternoon tea, you can enjoy some special dessert items in the cafe Saruka Sabō (さるか茶房). Why do we say “special”? Because most of their desserts were made from rice flour!

  • Saruka Sabō is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm daily except from the end of December to the beginning of January.
  • Card payments are accepted at Saruka Sabō

Saruka Park’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Entry to the park is free and can be accessed anytime that suits your schedule.
  • From Kōnan Railway Company’s (弘南鉄道) Tsugaru-Onoe Station (津軽尾上駅), it is a 15-minute walk to the park.

Saruka Shrine (猿賀神社)

Saruka Shrine was erected back in 807 and is quietly sitting on one side of Saruka Park. The old but elegant main hall, Honden, was built in 1826 and is designated as Aomori Prefecture‘s important cultural property.

The god of Saruka Shrine has been a guardian deity of agriculture, fishery, transportation, and eyes since the Edo period (1603 – 1868).

© Aomori prefecture
© Aomori prefecture

There are quite a few festivals that are held at Saruka Shrine. Below are the main ones:

  • Otaue Festival (御田植祭) in late May. A ritual is performed, praying for a good harvest.
  • Kari Ho Sai Festival (苅穂祭) in late September. On the day of the festival, a prayer mows the abundantly grown rice and offers the first ear of rice to the god.
  • Jūgoya Taisai Festival (十五夜大祭) takes place from the 14th to the 16th of August on the lunar calendar. As one of the three major autumn festivals in the Tsugaru region, the shrine’s precinct is always packed with worshipers. It is a festival to appreciate the locals’ gratitude for a good harvest. Tsugaru kagura performance, lion dance competition, and folk song competitions are some of the highlights of the three-day event.

Discover Other Interesting Attractions in Hirakawa City

Saruka Park is surely not the only attraction you will stop by when you visit Hirakawa City. But if you are unsure where else to head, refer to our article on Hirakawa City for more ideas!

Click the photo to find out more about this fascinating attraction!