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An evening in Hirosaki
After a lovely time at the Tambo Art fields, we set off for one of the most beautiful castles in Tohoku region. Hirosaki Castle (弘前城) is a hirayama-style Japanese castle constructed in 1611. The present tower however was rebuilt in 1810 in the late Edo period (1603-1867) after a fire destroyed the original in 1627. It was the seat of the Tsugaru clan, who ruled over Hirosaki domain in the Mutsu Province, now known as central Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture.
Tambo Art Fields to Hirosaki
From Tamboato Station, we took the local to Onoekoko-Mae Station and from there another train on the Konan Line all the way to Hirosaki Station. It doesn’t take long to cover the distance, but the trains are scheduled at wide intervals and it was almost 5 pm by the time we reached Hirosaki Station. Originally opened in 1894, the present-day facilities at Hirosaki Station were completed in 2004. A bus terminal lies just outside of the train station.
Hirosaki is reknowned for its agricultural produce. Besides rice, the Hirosaki region accounts for nearly a fifth of Japan’s apple production. They’re the best you’ll find in Japan so enjoy some while you’re there. This area has been populated since the Heian Period (794 – 1185), and Hirosaki has been renamed several times over the course of history. Its current name was adapted in 1808 from its former name, Takaoka. With its humid continental climate, summers in Hirosaki are hot, reaching a daily average of 23°C in August, while winters are mild in comparison.
We love to walk, so from the station we walked down all the way to the Castle. If you are not in the mood for a walk, one can also take the 100-yen Dotemachi Loop Bus and get off at Shiyakusho-mae stop to reach the castle. That is the most convenient way to reach the castle, via the Otemon Gate located near the Hirosaki City Hall.
History of Hirosaki Castle
Hirosaki Castle is a symbol of the city, and has a truly long history. During the late Sengoku period, Ōura Tamenobu was awarded 45,000 koku by Toyotomi Hideyoshi for his role in the Battle of Odawara in 1590. At the Battle of Sekigahara, he fought alongside Tokugawa Ieyasu, who subsequently rewarded him by making him lord of Hirosaki Domain increasing his revenues to 47,000 koku. In 1603, Ōura Tamenobu changed his name to Tsugaru and started work on Hirosaki Castle. He was the first of the Tsugaru feudal lords who established his rule over the Tsugaru area in the early 17th century. He died in 1607 and work on the castle was put on hold until his son Tsugaru Nobuhira restarted it in 1610.
The second lord, Tsugaru Nobuhira, completed the Hirosaki Castle in 1611. However, in 1627, the 5-story tenshu, was struck by lightning and destroyed by fire. They tried to rebuild the castle but were prohibited by the then prevailing law that forbid more than one Castle per Province. It was not until 1810, when the present 3-story structure was erected, but at the southeast corner, rather than the original southwest location. The new 3 level keep is actually just the renovated Ninomaru tasumi yagura watchtower.
Hirosaki’s Moving Castle
After walking across the vast Hirosaki Park, we finally reached a small red bridge across a moat.
We were finally in front of the petite castle. A wooden structure lies in front of the castle that provided me with a good viewpoint to capture the antique castle with the beautiful Iwate mountain in the background.
In 1937, the remaining eight structures of the castle received protection from the government as “national treasures”. However, in 1944, during the height of World War II, all of the bronze in the castle, including roof tiles and decorations, were stripped away for use in the war.
In 1950, under the new cultural properties protection system, all surviving structures in the castle (with the exception of the East Gate of the 3rd Bailey) were named National Important Cultural Properties. In 1952, the grounds received further protection with their nomination as a National Historic Site. In 1953, after reconstruction, the East Gate of the 3rd Bailey also gained ICP status, giving a total of nine structures within the castle with such protection.
It was late, so we went back the same way passing the illuminated Kitanokuruwa North Gate.
Hirosaki to Aomori
After a wonderful evening in Hirosaki, we walked back to the station to catch the train to Aomori Station.
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