Japanese Castles: Hirosaki Castle
Hirosaki Castle 弘前城
Hirosaki Castle is set within the huge Hirosaki Park, which was once part of the large, original castle of around 49 hectares, which had six concentric, walled baileys, separated by moats.
Hirosaki Castle is particularly famous for its over 2,600 cherry trees of different varieties in spring and its red maples also attract visitors in autumn. Most of Hirosaki Castle Park is free to enter and admission is only charged to the keep, which is open as Hirosaki Castle Museum and the Botanical Garden (Arboretum). Hirosaki City Museum (Tel: 0172 350700) is also within the castle environs and displays archaeological finds from Aomori Prefecture, as well as local art works including sculpture and painting.
Hirosaki Castle was first planned in 1603 by the first feudal lord of Tsugaru, Tamenobu and completed in 1611 by his successor Nobuhira. The surviving three story keep was rebuilt in 1811 after the original five story building was destroyed by lightening in 1623. Hirosaki Castle's keep includes the Hirosaki Castle Museum.
The Hirosaki Castle Museum displays samurai swords, suits of armor, historical documents, roof tiles and other historical items from Edo Period Japan.
Hirosaki Castle has a number of other original turrets or yagura (Ninomaru Tatsumi Yagura, Ninomaru Hitsujisaru Yagura and Ninomaru Ushitora Yagura) and impressive wooden gates or mon (Sannomaru Otemon Gate, Sannomaru East Gate, Ninomaru South Gate, Ninomaru East Gate and Kitanokuruwa North Gate) all designated as Important Cultural Properties as well as several stone-flanked moats and eight bridges (Sugi-no-Ohashi, Gejo-Bashi, Hane-Bashi, Shunyo-Bashi, Yoshita-Bashi, Ichiyo-Bashi & Kamenoko-Bashi) in the park.
Remains in the Kita-no-Kuruwa area of Hirosaki Castle also exist of rice graneries that stood within the castle walls, the Neno Turret, which was used to store arms and a shrine built in remembrance of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, called Tategami. Articles dug up in excavations of the castle grounds are on display at the woodenButokuden Rest House, built in 1911 as a martial arms training hall and now a cafe.
Hirosaki Castle Park contains a number of old trees, including the 120-year old "Oldest Somei Yoshino Cherry Tree", the "Otaki Zakura" weeping cherry tree and a number of aged fir and gingko trees.
Hirosaki Castle was opened as a public park in 1895 and now contains the Hirosaki Castle Arboretum, with over 1,200 trees and 1,500 species of plants divided into 23 zones. There are views of Mt. Iwaki from the west side of Hirosaki Castle over a large lotus pond and the Gokoku Shrine is close to the North Gate.
The colors of the autumn leaves are relected in a moat at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori Prefecture
Just outside the North Gate of Hirosaki Castle is the Nakacho Historical House Preservation Area with a number of old samurai and merchant dwellings, set in lovely gardens. South of the castle are a number of preserved European style buildings as well as an area of Buddhist temples including the pagoda at Saishoin Temple.
Hirosaki Castle General Office
Hirosaki Park is host to the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival from April 23-May 5 each year, the Hirosaki Castle Chrysanthemum & Fall Foliage Festival from mid-October to early November and the Hirosaki Castle Snow lantern Festival in early February. Hirosaki's main festival is the Hirosaki Neputa Festival held from August 1-7.
Hirosaki Castle's North Gate (Kamenokomon) leads out to an area of preserved Edo Period houses
Take the 100-yen Loop Bus from JR Hirosaki Station and alight at the Shiyakusho-mae stop or a local bus heading for Fujishiro Service Office.
Book Hotel Accommodation in Hirosaki Aomori