Moving on next on our journey in Summer, we continued our adventure and headed to Hirosaki the next day after a day exploring in Aomori using the ultimate Flexible 5 Day JR East Tohoku Area Pass (Japan Pick Up) from KLOOK. The journey took about 30 – 40 minutes from Shin-Aomori on local train to Hirosaki
READ: Things to do in Aomori
For full itinerary, check out Japan Trip 2018: 9N8N in Aomori, Sendai & Tokyo
Hirosaki is known as the Apple Kingdom as it produces about 20% of the apples in Japan. It is also famous for cherry blossom viewing activity in spring and neputa festival in the summer. There are a lot to see and do in Hirosaki but our time was pretty limited. We had only one day over here and these were what we did.
One of our transportation in Hirosaki is this Hirosaki City Loop Bus that is priced at ¥ 100 per ride, no matter where you get on or off. It is operating from 10am to 6pm from April to November and 10am to 5pm during December to March.
1. Breakfast in Starbucks Coffee Hirosaki Koen Mae
You may think, Starbucks only mah, so special meh?! Well, this Starbucks Café is set in a retro interior building which is the registered tangible cultural property in Hirosaki. This building is known as Daihachi Dancho Kansha (the official residence for the commander of the Japanese 8th division) and was built in 1918. It is a charming little cafe with wooden interior. The counter service area was originally the meeting room in the former building.
We sat by the window which allowed us to enjoy the drizzling form the rain and scenic garden view while having our peaceful breakfast. Our coffees were extremely fragrant and creamy and the sandwich and puff were delicious too.
Board the Dotemachi Loop Bus (¥ 100 per ride) from JR Hirosaki Station. Get off at Shiyakusho-mae bus stop. Starbucks Coffee Hirosaki Koen Mae is about 1 minutes’ walk from the bus station.
Starbucks Coffee Hirosaki Koen Mae
Aomori Hirosaki 1-1 Kamishiroganecho
Opens daily from 7am to 9pm
2. Zen in Fujita Memorial Garden
Or also known as Fujita Kinen Teien 藤田記念庭園 in Japanese, is located just a stone throw away from Starbucks Café Koen Mae. Built in 1919, this traditional style Japanese landscape garden is one of the largest Japanese gardens in Japan’s Tohoku region.
The garden is separated to Upper Garden and Lower Garden. The Upper Garden is where The Western-style building (Yokan), The Japanese-style building (Wakan) and the café situated. There is also the must see 170 years old weeping cheery tree (Shudare-zakura) during spring. You may also get the spectacular view of Mt. Iwaki from the Japanese-style building.
It will be extremely scenic during autumn when every leaf turns red
At the Lower Garden, you will be able to find The Tearoom (Shofu Pavilion) for tea ceremonies; The Water Koto Cave, and also a panorama view of the pond with small island in the pond. Also, you will be able to enjoy the cherry blossom, azalea, irises and momiji according to their seasons.
Board the Dotemachi Loop Bus (¥ 100 per ride) from JR Hirosaki Station. Get off at Shiyakusho-mae bus stop. The bus journey is about 15 minutes and the garden is reachable with 5minutes walk from the station.
Entrance fee: ¥ 310 (Fujita Garden Only); ¥ 510 (Fujita Garden, Hirosaki Castle and botanical garden)
Fujita Memorial Garden藤田記念庭園
8-1 Kamishirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi,Aomori
Opens from 9am to 5pm (admission until 4.30pm)
3. Visit to the Hirosaki Castle (弘前城, Hirosakijō)
Built in 1611 by the Tsugaru Clan, the impressive five-storey castle tower was burnt down after a lightning strike in 1627. Nowadays, this rebuilt magnificent three-story castle tower is easily observed at the Gejo-Bashi Bridge. This is one of the best cherry blossom spots during spring where the park is covered with numerous cherry blossom trees, cherry blossom tunnels and petals filled moats.
However, the major renovation work is now taking place to strengthen the foundation of the castle tower and surrounding stone wall. Hence, the castle tower was temporally moved 70 meter to inner of Honmaru (main building), northwest from its original place. So, you will have to pay for entrance to have an insight on the castle tower.
Board the Dotemachi Loop Bus (¥ 100 per ride) from JR Hirosaki Station. Get off at Shiyakusho-mae (City Hall) bus stop. The bus journey is about 15 minutes and the Hirosaki Park is reachable with 5minutes walk from the station.
Entrance fee: ¥ 310
Hirosaki Castle/ Hirosaki Castle Park
1 Shimoshirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori 036-8356
Opens daily from 1st April to 23rd November, from 9am to 5pm
4. Release the negative ions charges in the park
Take a nice stroll in the park and take up the positive ions charges from here after a visit to the castle!
5. Eat Apple French Course in Chez-Moi French Dining
As Hirosaki is the apple kingdom and also famous for French cuisines and apples, we must enjoy the apple French course here! We picked this casual French restaurant for our lunch (lunch course is always more affordable than dinner course. Hehe)
I had the Ringo Course priced at ¥ 3300 that comes with bread, apple cream soup, scallop with cider creamy sauce, grilled Aomori beef and apple jam wrapped by pie with red wine sauce, apple dessert, served with a cup of coffee or English tea. While WenChing had the Lunch Set as she doesn’t take beef.
Do note that the apple course is only available from November to May when that’s the season for apples!
About 10 minutes’ walk from JR Hirosaki Station.
Chez-Moi French Dining
53-2 Daikancho Hirosaki-shi, Aomori Prefecture
6. Pluck apples in Hirosaki Apple Park
The must do activity if you are here in the apple kingdom during the apple harvesting time. This apple park has over 1300 apples trees with 65 varieties of apples. You can get the hands-on experience of plucking apples. You will be guided by the apple farmer and each visitor is only allowed to pluck a maximum of 5 apples in this park. You will be able to bring home your apples after paying the apple according to their weight and variety (according to red and green apple).
There is restaurant and café over here, do check out their apple curry, apple pies or apple soft serve. Wish we had more time for them. Also, there are many apples-related souvenirs in this premise, don’t forget to pack yourself some souvenirs and share with friends and family back home.
Do take note when spending your time time in the apple park as there is very limited bus to and fro the station. We got over here by taxi after lunch as we couldn’t meet the time for bus ride from the station.
Board the Tamenobu-go bus at JR Hirosaki Station, No. 4 Bus Stop (¥ 200 per ride) and get off at the last stop Ringo Kouen. The journey takes about 40 minutes from JR station. This bus route is only available from April to November.
Alternatively, board the Konan Bus bound for Kawaharadaira/Tashiro/Daishu/Soma at JR Hirosaki Station Central Exit , No. 6 bus stop (¥ 290) and Get off at Tokiwazaka Iriguchi Bus Stop, and then walk for about 5 minutes to Hirosaki Apple Park.
7. Walk through the district packed with fascinating temples – Zen Temple Area
This area is packed with a large number of Shinto shrine structures and you can view them all in this area. These Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples date from the time of construction of Hirosaki Castle, and their required orientation and topography were very well planned.
Not a usual place for tourist to visit, but we decided to drop by after hearing the taxi driver who sent us to Apple Park, told us Hirosaki is the place that has most shrines and temple in one area.
Board the bus Shigemori Line (Yonchu-ko Line) and get off at Shigemori-machi Choshoji Iriguchi. Zen Temple Area is about 5 minutes’ walk from bus stop
Zen Temple Area
Nishishigemori, HIrosaki City
8. Check out Chosho-ji that situated inner most in Zen Temple Area
“Chosho-ji (temple) was the family temple of Tsugaru family, rulers of the Tsugaru Domain during the Edo Period. Nobuhira, the second lord of Tsugaru, built the 16.2 meter-high Sanmon Gate (main gate) in 1629. Sanmon refers to the three gates that lead to salvation from the bondage of this world.”
Board the bus Shigemori Line (Yonchu-ko Line) and get off at Shigemori-machi Choshoji Iriguchi, Chosho-ji is about 10 minutes’ walk from the bus stop.
Entrance fee: FOC
9. Photo with the Former Hirosaki City Library
Built in 1906 as war commemoration. The renaissance style western building that has twin octagonal towers; it worked as library till year 1931 and it is currently open for viewing to visitors.
Board the Dotemachi Loop Bus (¥ 100 per ride) from JR Hirosaki Station. Get off at Shiyakusho-mae (City Hall) bus stop. Former Hirosaki City Library is located nearby Hirosaki Municipal Tourist Center
Entrance fee: FOC
Former Hirosaki City Library
2-1 Shimo-shirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori
Opens daily from 9am to 4.30pm
Closed from 28th December to 3rd January.
10. Eat apple pie in Salon de Café Ange
As Hirosaki city is the home for apple, there are many shops selling apple pie in the town. There is even a published copy of “Hirosaki Apple Pie Guide Map”, with 50 café/ restaurants for you to go for apple pie hunting. Japanese is very serious about it because each apple pie has description and reviews in terms of sourish-ness, sweetness and cinnamon level in their apple pies. Check out the Hirosaki Apple Pie Guide Map , you may find your favourite apple pie here.
We settled ourselves in Salon de Café Ange for a slice of apple pie after checking out the Former Hirosaki City Library. This café is situated inside the Former To-o Gijuku Missionary Residence, founded in 1873, was the first private high school opened in Aomori Prefecture. This house was built as a residence for missionaries who came to teach at the school.
We enjoyed the ambience overlooking the beautiful garden. We had tea while nibbled on the apple pie (this café is listed in the Apple Pie Guide). The apple pie was moist and crispy with almond, raisin and nuts.
Board the Dotemachi Loop Bus (¥ 100 per ride) from JR Hirosaki Station. Get off at Shiyakusho-mae (City Hall) bus stop. Salon de Café Ange is located behind the Former Hirosaki City Library, inside Former To-o Gijuku Missionary Residence.
Salon de Café Ange
Aomori Prefecture, Hirosaki, Shimoshiroganecho, ２−１ 旧東奥義塾外人教師館1階
11. Send off the greetings though this cute apple post-box!
Isn’t it cute??? In apple kingdom you will find apples everywhere, on the post-box, at the street, up the lamppost and even on the manhole. I had my greetings sent through this apple post-box at the station.
12. Souvenirs shopping in APPLIESE
We did our last minute shopping in APPLIESE. Located just next to the station, a one stop shopping area for souvenir, food, drug store, department store and more!
Must buy this apple pie. Bring them home and reheat it in the oven before enjoying. Best to go with a cup of apple tea too!