Staff Reports
Sean's Japan Travel Journal
by Sean, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2012/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki

Main keep

I write as I am on board the train towards Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture. Aomori is the northernmost prefecture of Honshu, the main island of Japan. The train is quite packed with whom I assume to be tourists, judging by the number of baggages on the racks. Maybe some are also heading back home to visit relatives during the Golden Week Holidays. Fortunately I've got my window seat reserved days in advance. It's nice to see those little red and blue tractors ploughing the vast rice fields in preparation for the year's rice cultivation. A beautiful day.

It's the first time I will be visiting Hirosaki Castle during the cherry blossom season. The castle is renowned for being one of the best spots for cherry blossom viewing in the Tohoku Region. Actually, some consider it to be the best in Japan.

The cherry trees in Hirosaki started flowering on April 27 this year. As the past couple of days have been warm, the cherry blossoms should have been developing steadily, and therefore I am excited at the prospects of being able to catch pleasant views of them at the castle grounds.

West moat
Visitors head towards the east entrance, along the outer moat

Hirosaki Castle
April 30, 2012 - approaching full bloom (50-80%) (Somei Yoshino)
April 30, 2012 - full bloom (Weeping cherry trees)
April 30, 2012 - just opened (Yaebeni weeping cherry trees)

It is estimated that one million people visit Hirosaki Castle every cherry blossom season. Today it certainly felt like I was just one out of a million visitors. I meant it in a good way: the festive atmosphere was great and very enjoyable.

I became one of those who regard here as the best cherry blossom watching spot in all of Japan. There was just so much of interest. Firstly, the array of festival stalls available was simply unbelievable. I've been to a fair share of festivals in Japan, but never have I seen so many different kinds of festival stalls at one location. There were food and drink stalls, game stalls, a haunted mansion attraction, a maze for kids, magic show tents, stalls selling colorful balloons, idol merchandise, candy, ice-cream, the list goes on.

Secondly, happiness is infectious. When everything around you is in the joyful spirit, you just feel that much better. I loved looking around, at every path and corner, and seeing everyone just having a good time with their hanami (cherry blossom watching) parties, picture taking, boat rowing and festival stall patronizing - with a smile.

And of course, the castle was beautiful with its moats, bridges, turrets, and cherry trees in all their glory. Today I found the majority of the trees not at their peak yet, but I think they will be within a day or two. Some of the Somei Yoshino near the main keep were already in full bloom, where else those around the Sakura Tunnel were only almost near the halfway mark.

The weeping cherry trees were either at their peak or reaching their peak, while the weeping cherry trees of the Yaebeni variety were only just opening. The variance in stages of development of the many trees at the castle means the season for cherry blossom viewing here would stretch, thereby good views should last to the weekend and possibly beyond.

Some practical information: there is a shuttle bus service between Hirosaki Station and the castle until May 5 (100 yen) in addition to regular city buses and the Dotemachi Loop Bus. There is also a temporary luggage deposit service just outside the station to accommodate the surge in tourists (500 yen per piece).

Bicycles parked close to the east entrance
Cherry blossoms in front of the Aomori Prefecture Gokoku Shrine
A haunted mansion attraction set up just next to the Gokoku Shrine's entrance
Hanami parties held at the Sannomaru picnic grounds
West moat from a different perspective
Human traffic jam at the Shunyobashi Bridge
Sakura Tunnel
Nothing beats festival apple ice-cream on a warm day
Aomori is famous for its apples; many of the local goodies are apple flavored
Workers trim a tree with barren branches
Lotus Pond
Great festive spirit
Main keep, castle walls and Gejyobashi Bridge
Hanami parties at the Honmaru area
Yaebeni weeping cherry blossoms
I was taking close-ups of some weeping cherry blossoms when a smiling girl came into focus coincidentally
Mount Iwaki in the distance (taken from Honmaru)
Lots of open space at Honmaru
Illuminations at the castle will be on from sunset till 22:00, until May 5
Seemingly endless stream of visitors
Hirosaki Castle's botanical garden is within the castle grounds; a good place to take a break from the crowd
Beautiful inner moat
A duck and a swan at the outer moat
Tatsumi Turret, Suginoohashi Bridge and the center moat

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List of Posts:
2014/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2014/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae
2014/04/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2014/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takato
2014/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2014/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2014/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hikone
2014/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsuyama
2014/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2014/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2014/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/03/06 - Shopping around Northern Osaka
2014/01/23 - Nikko in Winter

2013/12/31 - Sean's Travel Highlights 2013
2013/12/06 - Kamakura Report
2013/11/26 - Tokyo Report
2013/11/22 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/21 - Miyajima Report
2013/11/19 - Korankei Report
2013/11/18 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/11 - Sakurayama Report
2013/11/08 - Karuizawa Report
2013/10/29 - Nikko Report
2013/10/18 - Nasu Report
2013/10/17 - Nikko Report
2013/10/14 - Mount Fuji Report
2013/10/10 - Oze Report
2013/09/27 - Alpine Route Report
2013/09/13 - Nakanojo Biennale 2013
2013/08/07 - Exploring Tokyo 2: Around the Tokyo Imperial Palace
2013/05/20 - Tottori Sand Museum 2013
2013/05/07 - Fuji Shibazakura Festival
2013/05/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2013/05/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2013/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami
2013/04/23 - Northern Kanto Flower Report
2013/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takayama
2013/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumoto
2013/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2013/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2013/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma
2013/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2013/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/03/31 - Visiting Shodoshima for the Setouchi Triennale 2013
2013/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2013/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/12 - Tokyo Early Cherry Blossom Report
2013/02/17 - Tokamachi Snow Festival
2013/02/16 - Zao Snow Monster Report
2013/02/15 - Yokote Kamakura Festival
2013/01/10 - Winter Visit to Manza Onsen
2013/01/02 - Tokyo New Year Report

2012/12/31 - Sean's Travel Highlights 2012
2012/12/11 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Takaosan
2012/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Shosenkyo
2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2012/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Naruko
2012/11/05 - Autumn Color Report: Hiraizumi
2012/11/01 - Autumn Color Report: Kuju
2012/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Minakami
2012/10/24 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Norikura
2012/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2012/10/09 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Route 292
2012/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2012/09/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kogen Onsen
2012/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/17 - Exploring Tokyo: Gate Bridge
2012/08/20 - Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2012
2012/06/27 - Hiking at Mount Azuma
2012/06/18 - Legoland Discovery Center opens in Odaiba
2012/06/18 - Hydrangea Flowers in Kamakura
2012/06/04 - Tokyo Skytree
2012/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sapporo
2012/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2012/05/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2012/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2012/04/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiraizumi
2012/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2012/04/24 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukushima
2012/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2012/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2012/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2012/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2012/03/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/03/08 - Plum Blossom Report from Kairakuen, Mito
2012/03/07 - Trip to Iwaki, Fukushima
2012/02/21 - Plum Blossom Report from Tokyo
2012/01/30 - Skiing in Inawashiro, Fukushima
2012/01/27 - Kusatsu Hot Springs