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

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2013/05/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki

Main keep, inner moat and Gejyobashi Bridge

Today I visited Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture, home of Hirosaki Castle and its park - one of the best cherry blossom spots in all of Japan. About 2600 cherry trees stand at the spacious park grounds, combining with the castle's structures and moats to provide many vantage points with brilliant cherry blossom views.

Wide lawns provide excellent locations for hanami (cherry blossom watching) parties here. The park also boasts both Japan's oldest Somei Yoshino cherry tree and the one with the thickest trunk. Perhaps nowhere else in the nation is there such a large selection of festival stalls as found at the northern sections of the castle's precincts.

The first open sakura were observed in Hirosaki on April 28th this year, five days later than the average year. Last year when I visited on April 30th, the trees were already approaching their peak: today when I visited all trees barring a handful hadn't passed the halfway mark yet. This is due to the chilly weather that has limited the flowers' progress this far.

Hirosaki Castle
May 2, 2013 - opening (10-50%) (somei yoshino)
May 2, 2013 - opening (10-50%) (weeping cherry trees)
May 2, 2013 - about to open (yaebeni weeping cherry trees)

I started the day at Hirosaki Station, where I boarded a Dotemachi Bus to Hirosaki Castle's east entrance. Till May 6th, the bus operates at a special fare of 100 yen and makes direct trips between the station and the castle (10 minutes, departing every 10 minutes). A baggage deposit counter has been set up at the station exit (10:00 - 19:00, 500 yen per piece).

The cherry trees outside the east moat were at the most advanced stage among the trees at the park today. On the average they were about 30-40% in bloom. Park officials are predicting that full bloom will be reached here on Saturday, but judging by the not-so-warm temperatures forecast for the next two days, I am going for Sunday.

Outside the east entrance
Typical state of blossoms

Over at the west moat, I was a little surprised to spot only one row boat in use. I am sure more people will be renting the boats as views improve with fuller cherry trees along the moat's banks over the next few days.

As of today, the trees on the outer side of the moat were at about the quarter mark, while the trees at the inner side (the Sakura Tunnel side) were only just about ready to start opening.

Friendly pair of ladies spotted me taking pictures and started waving
Some blossoms around the west moat
Sakura Tunnel (not quite yet, but soon in four or five days)
Full-looking buds

Arriving at the Honmaru (which some call the castle's main circle of defense); there was a weeping cherry tree which was already almost at full bloom. It was by far faster than most of the other weeping cherry trees, which were only approaching the halfway mark.

The mainstream somei yoshino cherries were about 20-30% in bloom, while the yaebeni weeping cherries were only just about to open. I think the best cherry blossom views at Honmaru will arrive around May 7th.

Some cherry trees near the main keep were barely flowering yet
A weeping cherry tree at an advanced stage. On the right is a queue to enter the castle keep
Pretty weeping cherry blossoms
Picnic space at Honmaru
Yaebeni weeping cherry blossoms will start opening with another day of warm temperatures
Hirosaki produces the most apples in Japan. An apple stall was set up near Takaokahashi Bridge, north of the main keep

Around Yonnomaru (the castle's fourth circle of defense) is where the many festival stalls are situated every year. As a prelude to crowds expected to come during the Golden Week Holidays over the next four days, the area was already gleaming in festive spirits today as visitors poured in to patronize the stalls. Cherry blossoms here were similarly around the quarter mark.

Festive sprits
Hanami at Yonnomaru

My last stop for the day was at the Hirosaki Castle Botanical Garden, where there were also plum blossoms in bloom. The several cherry trees at the botanical garden were just slightly less advanced than the average for the park as a whole.

Based on observations today, the best viewing period for cherry blossoms at Hirosaki Castle would probably start around the later part of this year's Golden Week Holidays. As the park offers slightly later blooming yaebeni weeping cherry trees and some other late blooming varieties such as the ukon, the sakura season should last till the following weekend at least.

Tranquility at the castle's botanical garden
Tatsumi Turret and the center moat viewed from the botanical garden

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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