In November I really wanted to visit Hirosaki in Aomori prefecture and see the local castle tower. This former capital of the Tsuruga region is now on Aomori prefecture in the North of Tohoku region and is nowadays known by its heritage from the Edo period and local castle.
The Hirosaki bus terminal
Together with a colleague from the dorm, who really wanted to explore a little bit more of Japan, we took a bus from Sendai to Hirosaki.
We arrived around lunch time and we decided to make a food stop at a local restaurant before setting out to explore Hirosaki. We ended up in Kiku Fuji 創作郷土料理の店 菊富士 restaurant where we ordered two lunch menus.
Lunch menu at the Kiku Fuji restaurant
From there we carried on, through paths colored with the bright red Autumn colors to the Hirosaki castle grounds. These were really expansive and included one of the best Cherry Blossom Viewing spots, as well as a kids’ play ground and also a castle tower.
The Autumn colours all around
From the former Hirosaki castle you can nowadays see one of it’s towers, build around the 1600 and later renovated. In my opinion one of the best things here was the original steep stairs inside the castle tower that lead you to the upper levels.
The Hirosaki castle tower
When our exploration of Hirosaki park was done we walked around and discovered a small temple nearby. The Saishō-in Temple, built to honor soldiers who fought for the reunification of the Tsugaru region with its 5 storey pagoda standing tall with 31 meters.
Street and the Saishō-in Temple
From there we finally got to the hostel to drop our things and rest for a while. When we got there we were greeted by an old obaasan who was asking a neighbour to help her cut a very hard kabocha.
Street View near the hostel
This neighbour was a trainer for a winter ollympic Japanese team called Kimura san and he was very kind because he provided us with a very unique view of the area the following day. It would be thanks to him that we ended up having a very exciting weekend.
First thing that we were recommended by him was a Japanese restaurant for dinner named 佐和家. Although this restaurant looked really shabby from the street, since it stood on top of a parking lot, the food was beautiful and delicious. I totally recommend it if you come to Hirosaki.
Dinner at the 佐和家
Our day was ending and we returned to our hostel. It was very interesting that I ended up sleeping in the same room as two old obaasan as we shared bunkbeds in the youth hostel.
Heavy and nutritious breakfast at the youth hostel
On the next day after a home cooked filling breakfast in the hostel, Kimura san would take us around the Aomori prefecture. But first he stopped at the Chōshō-ji Temple, located a little bit further from the center of Hirosaki city center in an area famous for its several Zen temples that were moved here from all around the region.
The Chōshō-ji Temple
Aomori prefecture is nationwide known for Apples. If you are in Japan eating apples, there is a high probability that they come from Aomori. My biggest wish for this trip was to go apple picking and when we told this to Mr Kimura, he made sure to take us to a place that he knew. It was a terrain where supposedly some high quality apples were produced.
He took us to 弘前りんご公園, Hirosaki ringo park, where ringo stands for Apple. Here, we were taught how to properly pick apples and spent some time picking the ones closer to the ground. In the end we were even given a huge load of bags filled with the most delicious apples I ever ate, so deliciously fresh, I had apples enough to share with several people in the dorm.
From here we were driven around Aomori prefecture on a very unbelievably full day that I will leave for the next post.
Hirosaki is famous for its castle tower in the Hirosaki park, the Neputa Mura, the local Neputa paper sculptures and the Samurai District with it’s preserved old Samurai vilas.
You can get to the city by taking a bus from Sendai as we did which left at 7:30 and arrived at 11:30. It’s a very long bus trip, but with some very beautiful views.
By train you can travel first to Aomori by the Tohoku shinkansen, departing from Tokyo, and then change to a local train to Hirosaki train station. A total travel time of around 5 hours that will cost around 175 dollars. This trip can be easily done if you stop along the way to visit other parts of the Tohoku region.
I think that you should plan for a whole weekend, one day to explore the city center and another to join other activities around, such as hiking Mt Iwaki or Apple picking.
I really loved the youth hostel here, it was comfortable and with a very delicious breakfast served in a single table for everyone to eat together. You might see less youthful people which can still be perfect if you speak some Japanese and can interact with everyone that comes around. I had the best time speaking about politics and the coming olympics of 2020 in Japanese with the obaasan there.
Also, outside the winter season there is a city loop bus that will take you around including to the Chōshō-ji.
To get to the Apple park I believe there is a city bus that goes there, but the information office at the station will be able to give you accurate information on times and prices since they may vary.
What would I do differently
The samurai district, definitely must have been totally worth it, I wish we had seen it.
For the next day we were taken all around Aomori prefecture by Kimura san, it was an amazing experience and I will post about it soon! じゃねー