Aomori

Things to do in Hirosaki

When most people hear the about Hirosaki, two words come to mind: apple and castle. Hirosaki is most known for the abundance of delicious apples, as well as the famous Hirosaki Castle Park Sakura Festival, which is held every year during the sakura season
Outside of apples and castles, Hirosaki is a small historic town with a friendly local community. There are unique cultures and interesting places around this small town. Here, we’ll show you several ways to enjoy a trip to Hirosaki!
 

How to Get to Hirosaki

From Aomori City

You can get to Hirosaki from Aomori city by taking the Ou line. The Ou line runs through Aomori and Shin-Aomori Station and it takes roughly 40 minutes to get to Hirosaki Station.

From Tokyo By Bus

You can get to Hirosaki directly by bus. It’s quite an affordable option and you don’t need to transfer, but the only downsides are that there are only a couple buses a day and it takes 8-10 hours.

From Tokyo By Train

If you decide to go by Shinkansen, it would take only 3 hours to get to Aomori City, where you transfer to the Ou line to get to Hirosaki. Taking the Shinkansen is also much more expensive compared to the bus option, but you can get to Hirosaki with no additional cost if you use the Japan Rail Pass

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Hirosaki is undoubtedly during the Hirosaki Castle Park Sakura Festival, around late April or early May. There are hundreds of sakura festivals held throughout Japan, but the one at Hirosaki Castle is one of the most famous festivals. The sakura usually blooms around late April to early May, and many people visit Hirosaki during Golden Week, a national holiday week that happens to be around this time. 

If you’re visiting Hirosaki, we recommend going before Golden Week, around the last 10 days of April, so you can experience the local culture and the sakura celebration before it becomes flooded with tourists from all over Japan.

Popular Places

Hirosaki Castle

Hirosaki Castle is the pride and joy of the city of Hirosaki. 

It’s one of the most visited places in the whole Aomori Prefecture and especially popular during the sakura season. The Hirosaki Sakura Festival is one of the most famous sakura festivals in the whole country and the number of visitors to the castle in one day can easily triple the total population in Hirosaki!

While Sakura season and fall foliage are the best times to visit, Hirosaki Castle Park is always a great place to stop by when in the area. 

Hours: 24 hours

Address: 1 Shimoshiroganecho, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8356

Phone Number: 0172-33-8733

Apple Park

Apple Park is a huge park with a huge field of apple trees. There are over 1300 apple trees lined up with 65 different kinds of apples. You can pick apples to take home and learn about the different kinds of apples. You can also buy apple souvenirs that can help support the local business as well!

Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm

Address: Terasawa-125 Shimizutomita, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8262

Phone Number: 0172-36-7439

Neputa Mura

Tsugaru-han Neputa-mura , 津軽藩ねぷた村 - panoramio (1)

Right outside of Hirosaki Castle is Neputa Mura, a small plaza (inspired by) the famous Neputa Festival. There’s a food and shopping area as well as an exhibition where you can learn about the famous Neputa Festival that happens in Hirosaki around early August.

Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm

Address: 〒036-8332 Aomori, Hirosaki, Kamenokomachi, 61

Phone Number: 0172-39-1511

Historical Landmarks

Starbucks - Hirosaki Park Store

The Starbucks next to Hirosaki Park has a deep history. The building has been around since 1916 and served as the residence for a division commander Daihachi Dancho Kansha, followed by the mayor of Hirosaki. The building was then registered as one of Japan’s Tangible Cultural Assets and then renovated to serve as a Starbucks in 2016. 

If you go here, you’ll notice that the building has a vintage look and the inside was designed to both preserve the historical design while serving customers. 

Hours: 7:00am – 9:00pm

Address: 〒036-8207 Aomori, Hirosaki, Kamishiroganecho, 1-1 旧第八師団長官舎内

Phone Number: 0172-39-4051

Former Hirosaki City Library

The Former Hirosaki City Library is a great place to learn about the history of the area. It was built in 1903 to commemorate Japan’s victory in the Japan-Russo War. The building, as well as many other buildings from the early 19th century, has a bit of Western style since many Western missionaries came around this time. 

The library closed down in 1931 and it is now used as a memorial and a historical landmark. 

Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm

Address: 〒036-8356 Aomori, Hirosaki, Shimoshiroganecho, 追手門広場内

Phone Number: 0172-82-1642

Fujita Memorial Garden

Fujita Memorial Japanese Garden - panoramio

On the outer corner of Hirosaki Park is a calm and peaceful traditional Japanese garden. The garden’s creation commemorated the 100th year anniversary of Hirosaki City and it was named after the entrepreneur Fujita Kenichi, who owned the garden at the time. 

Hours: 9:00am – 4:30pm

Address: 8-1 Kamishiroganecho, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8207

Phone Number: 0172-37-5525

Choshoji Temple

Go a bit south of Hirosaki Castle and you’ll see a huge gate leading to Chushoji Temple. This temple is one of the main historical sights of Hirosaki and is the oldest wooden building in the city. There are statues of the 100 disciples of Buddha and a monument for the Tsugaru Clan, former rulers of the area.

Hours: 9:00am – 4:00pm

Address: 1 Chome-23-8 Nishishigemori, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8273

Phone Number: 0172-32-0813

Saisho-in Monastery

The monastery dates all the way back to the 16th century and was built by the Tsugaru clan. This monastery is one of the most popular shrines visited in Hirosaki, especially the five-story pagoda.

Hours: 9:00am – 4:30pm

Address: 63 Doyamachi, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8196

Phone Number: 0172-34-1123

Adventuring Out

Mt Iwaki

Wherever you are in the city, you can always see a mountain in the background. Mt Iwaki is like the Mt Fuji of Hirosaki and is often called “Tsugaru-Fuji”. At the foot of the mountain is Iwakiyama Jinja and has a very serene atmosphere. 

If you want to climb the mountain, it takes about 4-5 hours but only an hour if you take the cable car lift. You can go hiking in the summer months and during the winter, there is a ski resort. 

Hike at Shirakami Sanchi

Shirakami Sanchi is a mountain range that sits on the border of Aomori and Akita Prefecture. The core region of the mountain range is considered a UNESCO world heritage site because of the high number of beech trees that serve as home to many animals. 

Getting into this core region requires some additional procedures, but one of the most popular routes is to hike up to the Anmon waterfalls on the northern edge of Shirakami Sanchi. 

Shirakami Sanchi Visiting Center

Hours: 8:30am – 5:00pm

Address: Kanda-61-1, Nishimeya, Nakatsugaru District, Aomori 036-1411

Phone Number: 0172-85-2810

Events in Hirosaki

Hirosaki Castle Park Sakura Festival

The Sakura Festival is one of the biggest events held in Hirosaki. Hirosaki Castle is home to over 2600 cherry blossom trees and there are over 50 different types. The Castle Park is HUGE and every part has a different scenery filled with cherry blossoms. 

The festival starts around mid/late April and goes on for 2-3 weeks. During this period, there are food stalls set up where you can buy lots of different festival foods, play Japanese carnival games, and have a hanami (cherry blossom picnic) in lawns surrounded by the cherry blossom trees. 

There are many unique ways to enjoy the sakura. Around the center moat, you can ride a traditional boat where a staff member guides you around in the petal covered lake. If you prefer to row you rown private boat, you can do that in the west moat, where the banks are lined up with trees. After sunset, the lights come on and you can walk around and experience the Yoruzakura (night sakura). 

Here’s a video by the Hirosaki Tourism Bureau  to show you how incredible the Sakura trees in Hirosaki Castle are!

Food Stall Hours: 9:00am – 9:00pm

Night Illumination Hours: 6:30pm – 10:00pm

Address: 1 Shimoshiroganecho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori 036-8356

Cost: 300-500 yen

Phone Number: 0172-33-8733

Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival

Another famous event at Hirosaki Castle is the Snow Lantern Festival! During the snow festival, the Castle Park is covered in over 400 snow lanterns and statues all made by the local citizens. There are also food stalls, night illuminations, various cultural artworks, fireworks, and activities such as a snow slide!

The festival is a short weekend event around the 2nd week of February and goes on for 3 days. Snow festivals are incredibly beautiful in Japan and if you happen to be in Japan during the early half of February, we highly recommend checking out the Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival!

Here’s a video introducing what to expect!

Food Stall Hours: 9:00am – 9:00pm

Night Illumination Hours: 6:30pm – 9:00pm

Address: 1 Shimo-shirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori 036-8356

Cost: Free

Phone Number: 0172-26-3600

Neputa Festival

The Neputa Festival is a festival in the summer where they parade around the old town near Hirosaki Castle with over 70 traditional floats. The festival starts around 7:00pm during the first week of August.

In Aomori city, there is a similar festival called the Nebuta Festival. While both festivals celebrate for the same cause, the festivals are celebrated in slightly different ways. The Nebuta Festival has a more energetic atmosphere while the Neputa Festival is more calm and visually aesthetic. The Nebuta also uses 3-D figures as floats while the Neputa in Hirosaki have fan-shaped mural floats. 

Inakadate Field Art

Tanbo art in Inakadate 2012 B

Japan has a long history with rice and in Hirosaki, rice has even become a form of art. Every year, over 700 local citizens collaborate and plan out the artwork and the result is always remarkable. The artwork is viewable around June to October and changes every year. 

During the months from June to October, you can see the rice field artwork from a high point. 

Hours: 8:30am – 6:00pm

Address: Izumi, Inakadate, Minamitsugaru District, Aomori 038-1111

Where to Stay

Hirosaki is a small town and most of what to see is somewhere between Hirosaki Station and Hirosaki Castle. 

Hostels

Budget Hotels

Mid-Range Hotels

Luxury Hotels

Ryokan

Things to do in Aomori

Many people have heard of Aomori but don’t know much about it. 

Aomori prefecture is located on the northern tip of the Honshu main island of Japan. They produce some of the best apples in the country and is home to one of the most distinct dialects in Japanese: Tsugaru-ben. 

If you want to experience a completely off the beaten path experience in Japan, we highly suggest you come to Aomori. In this port town, you can indulge in Aomori’s specialty foods while learning about the local culture and the Nebuta. Separate away from the main city, and you can find lots of hidden gems in both the nature and other local towns of Aomori Prefecture.

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Aomori may depend heavily on the seasons. 

Aomori has 5 long months of winter, from November to March, with lots of snowfall, making it a great place for winter sports. Around April/May, you’d be able to visit the snow corridors and enjoy the sakura trees. During the summer and fall, hiking trails open up for those that love exploring out into nature. Finally in August, the famous annual Nebuta Festival takes place. 

How to Get to Aomori

From Tokyo

  • Shinkansen: The fastest option. From Tokyo Station to Shin-Aomori Station, it usually takes around 3.5 hours and costs around 17,000 yen. Best option if you have a Japan Rail Pass
  • Highway Bus: The cheapest option but also the longest. It takes roughly 9-11 hours to go from Tokyo to Aomori and usually the prices are less than half the cost for the Shinkansen.
  • Plane: Usually considered the middle option. The plane ride from Tokyo to Aomori takes roughly 1.5 hours, but with the trip to and from the airport, it can realistically be around 3-4 hours.

From Osaka

  • Plane: From Osaka, plane is the most effective method. It takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes and average price ranges around 20,000 yen.
  • Shinkansen: Taking the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Aomori Station will cost around 31,000 and take roughly 5.5 hours. Taking the plane is recommended, but if you already plan on getting a Japan Rail Pass and can spare half a day for travel time, we recommend the Shinkansen since it comes at no additional cost. Read more about it here

From Sapporo

  • Plane: The best way to get to Aomori from Sapporo is by plane. It takes roughly 45 minutes and average price ranges around 13,000 yen.
  • Train: By train, the journey takes 6 hours 30 minutes, costs roughly 14,000 yen, and requires a transfer at Hakkodate. 

Things to do in Aomori City

Learn the Culture at the Nebuta House Warasse Museum

Nebuta house Wa-Rasse

You can get a great introduction to the native Nebuta culture at this uniquely designed museum. Here, you can learn about the Nebuta Festival, learn how the floats are made, and experience the culture through various interactive exhibitions. There’s even a seafood buffet and a shop that sells various Aomori specialties and souvenirs. 

If you are in Aomori during August, don’t forget to check out the Nebuta Festival!

Hours: 9:00am – 6:00pm

Address: 1 Chome-1-1 Yasukata, Aomori, 030-0803

Cost: 620 yen

Phone Number: 017-752-1311

Seikan Ferry Memorial Ship, Hakkodamaru

The ferry ship, Hakkodamaru, was one of few ships that served as a connection between the main island of Japan and the island of Hokkaido. In 1988, the Seikan Tunnel was completed, which allowed trains to travel to Hokkaido from the sea, allowing a safer passage. Since then, the Hakkodamaru halted operations, docked on the shores of Aomori, and was transformed into a museum. 

Hours: 9:00am – 7:00pm

Address: 1 Chome-4 Yanakawa, Aomori, 038-0012

Cost: 510 yen

Phone Number: 017-735-8150

ASPAM

Aspam

The big A, one of the most distinct buildings in the Aomori Bay skyline. The ASPAM building is like an all in one building. The bottom floor is like a mall, with lots of restaurants and souvenir shops selling Aomori’s goods. There’s also a movie theater and an observation deck on the upper floor. 

Hours: 9:30am – 6:00pm

Address: 〒030-0803 Aomori, Yasukata, 1 Chome−1−40 1F

Phone Number: 017-735-6675

A-Factory

While you’re in the Aomori Bay, check out A-Factory to try the best foods and drinks of Aomori. Inside, there’s a market that sells various goods made in Aomori. They also brew their own ciders and juices with Aomori grown apples, which we highly recommend as souvenirs. Towards the bay-side, there are several restaurants and cafes from which you can relax and enjoy the fresh air of Aomori Bay on a nice summer day.

Hours: 9:00am – 8:00pm

Address: 1 Chome-4-2 Yanakawa, Aomori, 038-0012

Phone Number: 017-752-1890

Sannai Maruyama Site

Slightly separated from the city center is an ancient archaeological site with artifacts that date all the way back to around 3000 B.C. You can visit this site and experience what it was like to live in the Jomon Period. 

Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm

Address: Maruyama-305 Sannai, Aomori, 038-00311

Cost: 410 yen

Phone Number: 017-766-8282

Aomori Museum of Art

Right next to the Sannai Maruyama site is the Aomori Museum of Art. In fact, the museum’s design was inspired by the ancient structures, having a  minimalist look and low profile. The museum is most remembered for by the 8m tall dog statue, Aomori-ken. Inside, various artworks are on display that represent the art and culture of the Tohoku region.

Hours: 9:30am – 5:00pm, closed Mondays

Address: Chikano-185 Yasuta, Aomori, 038-0021

Cost: 510 yen

Phone Number: 017-783-3000

Eat a Nokke Don from Furukawa Fish Market

When you come to Aomori, you have to try the fresh fish and you can do exactly that at Furukawa Fish Market. The Furukawa Fish Market is a local fish market where they sell fish freshly caught. You can get a build-your-own bowl called a Nokke Don. You first tickets, which you can exchange at the stores for different types of fish to put on your rice bowl. Aomori is famous for having delicious tuna, scallop, and squid!

Hours: 7:00am – 4:00pm, closed Tuesdays

Address: 1 Chome-11-16 Furukawa, Aomori, 030-0862

Phone Number: 017-763-0085

Eat Apple Anything

弘前 青森 Trip to Aomori

Aomori City and the western part of the prefecture are famous for producing high quality apples. When you’re in the city, try some apple, apple pies, and take some apple ciders home!

Try Some Niboshi Ramen

In the cold climates of Aomori, people turn to ramen as a source for warmth and comfort. As a result, Aomori has developed lots of high-quality ramen, but the most native to this land is the Niboshi Ramen, made from dried sardines.

Where to Stay in Aomori City

 Budget Option

Mid Range

Things to do in Aomori Prefecture

Winter Sports at Hakkoda Mountain

If you’re looking for winter sports in Aomori, Hakkoda Mountain is the spot. When it comes to ski resorts in the Tohoku region, most people tend to go to Zao which is halfway towards Tokyo. Both Hakkoda and Zao have great onsens and the Juhyo “Snow Monsters”, but Hakkoda tends to have fewer people since Zao is the more popular resort. 

Hours: 9:00am – 3:40pm

Address: 1-12 Arakawa-Kansuizawa, Aomori-shi, Aomori 030-0111

Phone Number: 017-738-8591

Check out the Snow Corridors

Snow-wall (yuki no otani) at Murodo Tateyama

Aomori has one of the most snowfalls in Japan and you can really feel this when you go through the snow corridors. Around April of every year, roads near Hakkoda Mountain are open up after a long winter of snowfall. Only the snow on the roads are cleared and what’s left is a huge wall of snow, sometimes as tall as 10 meters. 

Time of year: Starts April 1st

Address: 青森県青森市荒川国道103号線

Phone Number: 017-723-7211

Experience the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival

Not too far from Aomori is Hirosaki, a city famous for its cherry blossoms. The Hirosaki Castle Park Sakura Festival is one of the biggest in Japan and many people travel to Hirosaki during Golden Week to experience this. At Hirosaki Castle, there are over 2600 cherry blossom trees with 50 different kinds. The whole park gets covered in pink and its like you’re in a cinematic film.

Time of Year: mid April until early May

Food stall hours: 9:00am – 9:00pm

Night Illumination Hours: 6:30 – 10:00pm

Address: 1 Shimoshiroganecho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori 036-8356

Phone Number: 0172-33-8733

Towada Lake

十和田湖

If you want to experience the real nature of Aomori, head down to Towada lake, the biggest caldera lake in Japan. There are several viewpoints around and you can also ride a ferry boat on the lake. On the way down is the Oirase Gorge, where a river flowing through a lush forest. Public transportation runs to the lake, from either Aomori or Hachinohe, but is closed during the winter time. 

Where to Stay in Aomori Prefecture

  • Nambuya Kaisenkaku – Ryokan hotel with onsen and views that overlook the bay side from Asamushi. Easily accessible and only 30 minutes away from Aomori City.
  • Lamp no Yado Aoni Onsen – Ryokan in the middle of a lush forest near the snow corridor and Lake Towada.
  • Hakkoda Hotel –  Relaxing cabin stay, close to the Hakkoda ski resort.
  • Towada Prince Hotel – Upscale hotel with a remarkable view of Lake Towada.