History
Sights to See
In the Castle
Event
Access
Nearby
Others

Hirosaki-jo Castle locates in Aomori prefecture’s city of Hirosaki. The castle is inside of Hirosaki Park, and makes up much of the park’s area.

The cherry blossoms in the castle and park grounds are one of Japan’s most beautiful, and match exceptionally well with the castle’s white exterior and the red bridges extending across the moats. Hirosaki-jo during the winter will leave you in awe as well, with snow covering the architecture and its surroundings.

Visit this Edo-style castle, as it awaits for you to discover its historical and natural treasures.

History of Hirosaki-jo Castle

In 1590, feudal lord Oura Tamenobu, based in the current Aomori area, received a large income after doing well in a battle and pledging loyalty to general Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Oura then broke independent from his former Nanbu clan, and began his own, the Tsugaru clan, and accordingly changed his last name to Tsugaru.

As Tokugawa Ieyasu came to power and began his government rule in the early 1600s, he appointed Tsugaru as the lord of the land and gave him some income. With his accumulated income, Tsugaru then began planning and building his castle, but passed away in 1607 before its completion.

Hirosaki-jo was complete in 1611, but was struck by lightning in 1627. The five-storey castle tower collapsed, and a three-storey tower was built in 1810. The castle was well guarded by the Tokugawa government, since its location in the northernmost coast of Japan made it a crucial fort for security.

Hirosaki-jo’s Cherry Blossoms


Cherry Blossom with Castle Tower

Hirosaki-jo is one of Japan’s favorite cherry blossom spots in the spring. The cherry blossoms were first planted on the castle grounds in 1715, when the Tsugaru clan had 15 cherry blossom trees shipped from Kyoto. Today, around 2,500 cherry blossoms grace the premise.


Cherry Blossom in moats
The cherry blossom trees planted in the castle area have an outstanding form, with each branch having a high density of flowers and the overall silhouette bearing a slight droop.

This shape is achieved by a unique style of pruning, inspired by the pruning techniques used for apple trees. The unique pruning technique allows branches to keep the perfect condition of droopiness and a high volume of flowers per branch.


The oldest someiyoshino tree in Japan
In the park grounds, you can find the oldest someiyoshino cherry blossom tree in Japan.

In the Castle

Castle Towers

There are five castle towers in the castle grounds: Tenshu Tower, Yatsumi Tower, Hitsuji-zaru Tower, Ushitora Tower and Yorikibansho Tower.


Tenshu, or the castle keep of Hirosak-jo
The Tenshu is the castle keep. It is the only tower in the Tohoku region that is remaining from the Edo period (1603 – 1867). This tower was built in 1810 after the original runt down in 1627. Technically, the tower was not officially designated as a castle keep by the Edo government, and was nicknamed the Gosangai Tower, instead of being called Tenshu, or keep.

【Hirosaki Castle Museum – 弘前城史料館】
The inside of the castle keep is used as a museum. The first floor has displays of weapons and armors used in ancient wars. On the second floor are everyday supplies used during the Edo period. You can find a miniature model of Hirosaki-jo on the third floor, along with photos of all 48 castles in Japan.

Gates

There are three gates guarding the outer tier of the castle. The Ote-mon serves as the main entrance, and the Higashi-mon serves as East entrance. The Kamenoko-mon sits in the Northern side of the park as an additional entrance.


Ote-mon Gate
The framework of Ote-mon gate retains the style of architecture commonly used during Japan’s Warring Period (1467 - 1603). This style of architecture is rarely found nationwide.


Higashi-uchi-mon Gate
After entering the castle grounds through one of the three gates above, you have entered the outer citadel. There are two gates connecting the outer citadel to the castle keep. The two are named the Higashi-uchi-mon (Eastern Inner Gate) and the Minami-uchi-mon (Southern Inner Gate).


Minami-uchi-mon during the fall

Entering from the Minami-uchi-mon during cherry blossom season is highly recommended. As you enter, you will be greeted to a phenomenal view of the bright red Gejo-bashi Bridge peeking out of the cherry blossoms. The view is also stunning during the fall, with maple leaves peeking out of the gate.

Bridges

There are 9 bridges stretching across the castle’s moats. Some bridges, like Shunyo-bashi, Kamenoko-bashi, and Ichiyo-bashi, connect the castle’s outermost area to the outside streets. The other bridges connect zones inside the castle grounds, like the Sugi-no-ohashi, Hane-bashi, Yoshita-bashi and Ishibashi. Gejo-bashi and Takaoka-bashi extend across the innermost moat to link the castle keep with the second most inner area of the castle grounds.


Gejo-bashi during the spring
Gejo-bashi is often captured in photographs and is easy to find, as it is bright red and in front of the castle keep. The stunning vermillion was actually painted in recent years, and the bridge used to be a dull color with a simple build. The bridge was built with the intention of easy demolition, to prevent enemy forces from entering the castle keep.

Moats

As a castle, Hirosaki-jo has moats to protect itself from intruders. The outer moat (soto-bori) and Nikai-zeki moat lies in between the outermost citadel and the second most outer citadel. The central moat (naka-bori), inner moat (uchi-bori) and the lotus moat (hasu-bori) all rest around the castle keep. The western moat (nishi-bori) extends along the western side of the castle.


The outer moat reflecting the cherry blossoms

Those who enter the castle park premise will all enter by crossing the outer moat. Along the moat are many cherry blossom trees on both sides.


The west moat during the spring

The western moat guards the western end of the castle. During the spring, you can witness the “cherry blossom tunnel”, where cherry blossom trees on both sides fully blossom and droop just enough to create a tunnel-like visual.

Events

Hirosaki Sakura Festival – 弘前さくらまつり (Apr. – May)


Hirosaki Sakura Festival's light-up event at night

From late April to early May, the cherry blossoms in the Hirosaki Castle grounds are in full bloom. Sit under the cherry blossom flowers and enjoy every moment of spring in Hirosaki! After sunset, the castle and cherry blossoms are lit up, creating an ethereal ambience in the park. During the cherry blossom festivities, the park is open from 7:00a.m. to 9:00p.m.

Chrysanthemum and Fall Foliage Festival – 菊と紅葉まつり (Oct. – Nov.)


The fall foliage at Hirosaki-jo
Hirosaki-jo isn’t just about cherry blossoms – over 1000 maple trees are planted throughout the premise, and is a striking sight in the autumn! Along with the maple trees, you can also find gingko trees throughout the park. Chrysanthemums are on display as well, in unique forms such as dolls.

Snow Lantern Festival – 雪灯籠まつり (Feb.)


Mini-igloos
During the Snow Lantern Festival, paper lanterns with drawing of warriors inside are displayed throughout the Hirosaki-jo park grounds. During the days of the festivities, mini-igloos are built near the Lotus moat area.

Access

Nearest Station:
・Hirosaki Station 弘前駅 (JR Lines)
・Shiyakusho-mae (City Hall) Bus Stop

From Aomori Station 青森駅

【Aomori Sta.】JR Ou Main Line / for Hirosaki
→【Hirosaki Sta.】Konan Bus Dote-machi Loop 100yen Bus
→【Shiyakusho-mae (City Hall) Bus Stop】about a 5-minute walk

From Hachinohe Station 八戸駅

【Hachinohe Sta.】Aoimori Railway / for Aomori
→【Aomori Sta.】JR Ou Main Line / for Hirosaki
→【Hirosaki Sta.】Konan Bus Dote-machi Loop 100yen Bus
→【Shiyakusho-mae (City Hall) Bus Stop】about a 5-minute walk

From Aomori Airport 青森空港

【Aomori Airport Sta.】(Bus) Aomori Airport Line / for Hirosaki Bus Terminal
→【Hirosaki Sta.】Konan Bus Dote-machi Loop 100yen Bus
→【Shiyakusho-mae (City Hall) Bus Stop】about a 5-minute walk

Information

Address
1 Shimoshirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori
Phone
0172-33 -8733
Hours
Apr. 1 to Nov. 23: 9:00a.m. -5:00p.m.
*opening hours extended during the Cherry Blossom Festival
Closed
Nov. 24 to Mar. 31
Fee
【Honmaru/Castle Keep Area】
General: ¥310
Children: ¥100

*Free between Nov. 24 and Mar. 31

Nearby Destinations

Former Hirosaki City Library – 旧弘前市立図書館

The Former Hirosaki City Library was built in 1903, and was used as a library until 1931. The building today is a tourist attraction, exhibiting library-related paperwork from the early 1900s and publications from local writers. The architecture of the building is quite unique, bearing a mostly Renaissance-style build with some hints of Japanese influence.

Fujita Memorial Garden – 藤田記念庭園

The Fujita Memorial Garden used to be the garden of entrepreneur Fujita Kenichi’s villa in Hirosaki, and is the second largest garden in the Tohoku region. Within the garden are a western-style building and a Japanese-style building, and you can enter both. The traditional Japanese garden in the premise is a must-see, and provides a picture-perfect view.