Intoxicating Sakura at Hirosaki
Most of the snow in Aomori has melted away, which means that spring is just around the corner. Like everywhere else in Japan, spring in Aomori means the season for sakura, the famous Japanese cherry blossoms.
Without a doubt, Hirosaki is the most famous spot for enjoying sakura in Aomori Prefecture. At the center of the city lies Hirosaki Park and Hirosaki Castle, which are home to approximately 2600 sakura trees of 50 different varieties! It just so happens that Hirosaki Park is said to be one of the premier sakura viewing areas in Japan! Each year from April 23rd to May 5th, the Hirosaki Sakura Festival attracts enormous crowds from all over Japan. In 2006 the festival attracted over 2.5 million people alone! Unlike places in southern Japan where the sakura bloom slightly earlier in late March and early April, Hirosaki’s sakura bloom at just about the same time as the “Golden Week” holiday- a week of national holidays in Japan which also helps to attract large crowds.
Crowds surrounded by the bright blossoms in the “sakura tunnel” on a warm sunny spring day. Sakura trees generally do not live too long, but Hirosaki’s Sakura Festival also has some of the oldest sakura trees in Japan due to the advanced apple tree pruning techniques of the area that were used to keep the sakura alive.
These intoxicating sakura are of the “yae-zakura” variety, and have large puffy blooms and a deep rich pink color.
The keep of Hirosaki Castle framed beautifully with sakura. The inner bailey of the castle is filled with families and groups of friends enjoying “hanami” or sakura viewing parties, complete with delicious food in boxed lunches and drink.
Boat rentals available along the castle moats are a popular and romantic way to enjoy the blossoms.
This carpet of pink is actually the edge of the outer moat filled with fallen sakura petals.
The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Lanterns illuminate the entire park until 11pm each night during the duration of the festival. If you plan to come to Hirosaki during the sakura season, I definitely recommend picking a nice sunny day to really enjoy the beauty of the sakura. Avoid going on a holiday or weekend as it tends to get very crowded, and of course, don’t forget to bring your camera!