Hirosaki’s Moving Castle

Greg Lane

Hirosaki Castle is renowned for being one of the most picturesque castles in Japan. What it lacks in scale and grandeur, it makes up for in authenticity (it’s a real Edo era castle—not a reproduction) and its beautiful setting at the center of a tree-filled park with stark seasonal changes.

The castle in its usual position in spring
The castle in its usual position in spring | Photo by Angaurits

The most famous view of Hirosaki Castle is the one shown above—the diminutive castle perched on the corner of its motte overlooking the thousands of mature cherry blossom trees which surround it. However, if you visit between now and 2021, you may have to look a little harder to spot the castle. Due to the first strengthening work to be conducted on the supporting wall beneath the castle in over a hundred years, the entire castle has been moved approximately 100 meters to the northeast.

Hirosaki Castle in its temporary position.
Hirosaki Castle in its temporary position. | Photo by Gregory Lane

To move the 14.4-meter-high, 400-metric-ton structure, the castle was placed on a wheeled sled and moved very slowly over a three-month period in autumn 2015.

Visiting the castle

The park surrounding the castle is open 365 days a year, but the castle itself is closed over the winter period from October 24th until the end of March. From April 1st until October 23rd, the castle is open daily from 9am until 5pm. The most convenient way to reach the castle is via the Otemon Gate located near the Hirosaki City Hall and across from the Hirosaki Municipal Tourist Center. From the gate, it’s a 10-minute walk (or perhaps slightly longer in the snow) to the castle.

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The Otemon Gate (note the frozen solid moat)
The Otemon Gate (note the frozen solid moat) | Photo by Greg Lane

Events at and around the castle

The castle and surrounding park are host to two major events each year—the Hirosaki Snow Lantern Festival in February and the Cherry Blossom Festival in April. The annual Hirosaki Neputa Festival also begins just outside the southeast corner of Hirosaki Park.

 Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival

Dates:23rd Apr–6th May, 2020

 Hirosaki Castle Snow Lantern Festival

Hirosaki Lantern Festival
Mid Feb, 2020

 Hirosaki Neputa Festival

Dates:1st Aug–7th Aug, 2020

Other activities and nearby attractions

Hirosaki is a small compact city so pretty much everything is nearby. For more on all that Hirosaki has to offer, check out our Hirosaki Visitor’s Guide. However, adjacent to the castle is the aforementioned Hirosaki Municipal Tourist Center with the interesting Former Hirosaki Municipal Library next door as well as Neputa Mura which is a 15-minute walk from the Otemon Gate.

Written by:
Greg's Japan favorites are: omizutori
Filed under: Things to Do
Tags: Aomori, Castle, Edo, Featured
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Name: Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)
Location(s): Aomori,
Access: JR Hirosaki Station
Business hours: Castle open daily 9am - 5pm from April 1st to October 23rd, castle park open 365 days/year.
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One Response to “Hirosaki’s Moving Castle”

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    During my time at Misawa, AFB from 1966 to 1970 the Hirosaki Park also hosted the “Chrysanthemum Festival”. Lots of chrysanthemums on display, but also “reproductions” of famous samurai battles, etc., with mannequins dressed as samurai and most of their “clothes” were made of chrysanthemums and other flowers. Do they still have the “kiku matsuri” in Hirosaki?

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