Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture is a city in Aomori with lots of attractions. Being one of the advanced cities in the Meiji period, Hirosaki City welcomed lots of foreigners after the opening of the country. Thus, the city has lots of western influence. Aomori Prefecture is famous as the producer of apples, and Hirosaki is the center and the largest producer of apples in all Japan. There are many cake shops and coffee shop offering apple pies, having different characteristics at each shop. In spring, thousands of cherry blossom including the oldest Somei Yoshino cherry blossom tree in Japan bloom and the city will be filled with pink colors. In summer, the floats of Neputa Matsuri give fun atmosphere to the city.
I had one afternoon and a night in the city of Hirosaki. This article guides you to the best attractions and things to do in Hirosaki when you have a half day.
1. Hirosaki Castle and Hirosaki Castle Park
Hirosaki Castle, the symbol of Hirosaki, was built in 1611. The first generation of the Tsugaru Family, who ruled the area at Edo period, started building the castle and his son completed. The original building was destroyed by thunder and fire but was rebuilt during Edo period and the part of the building, the donjon, is now left in the park.
The gates and stone walls are left as it were. It looked so historical. The water of the moat was frozen when I visited in early March, which made the scenery extra beautiful with white colors.
All the area where castle buildings existed is now a park. The best season is spring when cherry blossom flowers add pink colors to the park. Hirosaki Castle Park is considered as one of the best spots in all Japan to view cherry blossom flowers.
I could see beautiful Mt. Iwaki, another symbol of Hirosaki, from the observation deck near the donjon.
Address: 1 Shimoshiroganecho Hirosaki-shi, Aomori Prefecture
2. Traditional houses in Samurai District
The district near Hirosaki Castle preserves old houses, and some of them are open for tourists to see the outside and inside. Ishiba Residence, built in the mid-Edo period which is about mid 16th century to mid 17th century, is one of them.
Ishiba Family has been merchants all the time. They started as the merchant class in Edo period, dealing with household and straw goods. Now they changed the product to liquor and sells great Japanese sake bottles, etc. Inside, where still used as a residence, is open for tourists to take a tour. It costs only 100 yen, and I would say it was worth seeing it. It is a rare chance to see the actual house preserved since Edo period.
Address: 88 Kamenokomachi Hirosaki-shi, Aomori Prefecture
3. Historical Western buildings
During Meiji period, after the opening of the country of Japan, Hirosaki City’s slogan was “educational city”, therefore, they called many teachers from abroad to the city which gave Western influences to the city. Buildings were no exceptions.
Some of them survive until now and become sightseeing spots such as Former Hirosaki City Library.
Former Hirosaki City Library
Address: 2-1 Shimoshiroganecho Hirosaki-shi, Aomori Prefecture
And Former Aomori Bank. (However, closed during winter)
Old western style buildings had a certain atmosphere. I feel the mixture of new western wave and traditional Japanese culture. Being in a quiet old building felt really nice. Also, it has some kind of “cuteness” to us, Japanese.
Former Aomori Bank
Address: 26 Motonagamachi Hirosaki-shi, Aomori Prefecture
4. Delicious French Lunch in Hirosaki
As explained in the previous paragraph, Hirosaki welcomed lots of foreigners during the Meiji period and, of course, it affected the food culture in Hirosaki, too.
Hirosaki is famous for French cuisines. The number of French restaurants per population in Hirosaki is no.1 throughout Japan!
There are about a dozen restaurants serving French cuisines, and among them, I visited CHEZ-MOI to try their “Apple Lunch Course” (provided limitedly during winter, must ask to the restaurant for the availability after May).
CHEZ-MOI was only about 8 minutes walk from JR Hirosaki Station. I had booked a table just in case, but I was right; the tables are full in spite of a weekday!
They provided me four dishes: Apple cream cold soup, poiret of scallop and greenling in cidre cream sauce, grilled Aomori beef and apple jam wrapped by pie with red wine sauce, and apple pudding for dessert. Bread and a cup of drink (coffee or tea) with dessert came with the course also. My stomach was more than full, and all the dishes were amazingly delicious, creative, and beautiful. I had never imagined that apples could change into such multiple forms.
The details of plates may differ depending on the day’s market.
Address: 53-2 Daikancho Hirosaki-shi, Aomori Prefecture
5. Hirosaki apple pies
Apple pie is an important part of sightseeing in Hirosaki, and about 50 shops and cafes produce their own style of apple pie. There is even a guide map dedicated for apple pie!
- Hirosaki Apple Pie Guide Map (Japanese Only)
Unfortunately, my stomach had a limit so I could try only three kinds of apple pies. My recommendation is the apple pie from Angelique.
Angelique is a local cake shop, but there is a cafe on the second floor where you can enjoy the cakes you purchased with a cup of coffee or tea. Their coffee was pretty nice, too. (Actually, Hirosaki is also called “the city of coffee” and has many great coffee shops, too!)
The apple pie was so crunchy, and the apple left the texture of a raw apple. I could feel the taste of caramel on the top, which gave some bitter taste to the pie. It was not too sweet and perfect for a tea time break from sightseeing.
Address: 1 Chome-3-16 Noda Hirosaki-shi, Aomori Prefecture
Website: https://ja-jp.facebook.com/angelique.hirosaki (Japanese Only)
6. End the day at an Izakaya with local food
I happened to visit this nice cozy Izakaya (Japanese pub) with local food in the district called Kajicho (鍛冶町) near Chuo-Hirosaki Station. Kajicho has been the center of nightlife in Hirosaki City traditionally, and there are numerous Izakayas, bars, pubs in the district.
This Izakaya, called Shimaya, was located a bit apart from the center of Kajicho. The Izakaya was run by a Hirosaki mother, who was very kind, warm and talkative. The food here is mainly home cooking local food of Hirosaki and Aomori, prepared by her. Some of the menus were displayed on large plates on the counter, so it was easy to choose without looking at the menu. I enjoyed few dishes which I had never seen in Tokyo with Hirosaki’s local Japanese sake “Hohai” (豊盃).
Address: 31-1 Motodaikumachi Hirosaki-shi, Aomori Prefecture
7. In summer: Participate in Hirosaki Neputa Festival
I visited Hirosaki in March, so I did not get to see, but Hirosaki Neputa Festival in August is the biggest festival in Hirosaki. About 80 Neputa floats parade in Hirosaki City, and it is very beautiful, and floats are amazingly neat. If you happen to be in Hirosaki in summer, you cannot miss this festival!