by Raina, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2015/04/22 - Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Report
Continuing with the northern Tohoku Region, I went to Hirosaki City in Aomori Prefecture today to check out Hirosaki Castle. The castle park bills itself as one of the top cherry blossom spots, and it doesn't disappoint at all. With great weather forecast for this weekend, I expect the Hirosaki Castle grounds to be perfect for cherry blossom viewing (hanami) if you are in the area.
As I mentioned yesterday, Hakodate in Hokkaido reported the opening of its first blossoms (kaika). Today , kaika was reported in Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, eleven days earlier than the average year.
April 21, 2015 - full bloom (Somei Yoshino)
April 21, 2015 - full bloom (weeping cherry trees)
April 21, 2015 - still closed (later flowering weeping cherry trees)
Hirosaki Castle is about a 30 minute walk from Hirosaki Station, or a ten minute bus ride (100 yen one way, regular departures) from the station. I made my way to the castle from the station and stopped by Hirosaki City Hall before entering the castle park. The roof of the city hall is open to the public from 9:00 to 17:00 (admission ends at 16:30) until May 6, and offers views of the cherry trees along the outer moat, and of Mount Iwaki (locally known as Tsugaru-Fuji due to its resemblance to Mount Fuji) on clear days.
Thanks to the great weather, I had great views of the mountain and of the cherry blossoms from the roof. The cherry trees along the outer moat were at full bloom (mankai) and there were lots of people appreciating the blossoms.
Moving on into the castle park, I found the weeping cherry trees to be at full bloom, while the later blooming weeping cherry blossoms were still mostly in their buds and would probably open over the next few days. The Somei Yoshino cherry trees, the most numerous and common cherry tree in Japan, within the park were still a day away from reaching mankai.
One of the main attractions in the castle park is the castle keep, which is currently being prepared to be moved about 70 meters away from the moat so that the keep's foundation and stone walls can be renovated. The moat had already been drained of water, and for this cherry blossom season only, visitors to the castle park can walk in the part of the moat, from April 23 to May 6, before it is closed off for renovations. Unfortunately for me, I was a day too early and could only watch the ceremonial practice and special guests in the moat.
The Hirosaki Sakura Festival officially starts tomorrow, April 23 to May 6, but due to the cherry blossoms opening earlier than expected, the festival started five days earlier and all the festival game and foods stalls were open when I was there earlier. The festivities should be in full swing from tomorrow, and you should definitely drop by for a visit if you are in the area.