Hirosaki Castle 弘前城
Founder Tsugaru Nobuhira
Tsugaru
Year 1611
Type Hilltop
Condition Original
Alternate Name Takaoka-jo
Structure 3 levels, 3 stories
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Historical Site National Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles, Important Cultural Properties
Historical Artifacts Important Cultural Properties:
Otemon Gate, Higashimon Gate, Tatsumi Yagura, Hitsujisaru Yagura, Ushitora Yagura, Minamiuchimon Gate, Higashiuchimon Gate, Kitamon Gate, tenshu
Location Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture
Map Google Map
Access Hirosaki Station, 25 minute walk, or short bus ride
Website Hirosaki Castle 400th Anniversary
Visited May 21, 2010
Notes Hirosaki is on of my favorite castles. Even though the main keep is not very spectacular ad there is less stonework than comparable castles, the buildings and walls are more unique than most other castles. There are five large, original yaguramon gates, the likes of which you won't see anywhere else, and 3 three story yagura. The layout of the castle grounds and moats are nearly perfectly preserved which makes a vast peaceful and relaxing park without too many people. Aomori is also famous for apples so you'll see apple treats, apple juice and more everywhere. They're the best you'll find in Japan so enjoy some while you're there.
History

Ooura Tamenobu was awarded the area around Hirosaki for his loyalty to Hideyoshi during the Battle of Odawara. He changed his name to to Tsugaru and started work on Hirosaki Castle in 1603. He died in 1607 and work on the castle was put on hold until his son Tsugaru Nobuhira restarted it in 1610. He finished the castle in just one year by cannibalizing materials from Horikoshi Castle and Daikoji Castle. The 3 level main keep of Hirosaki Castle seems disproportionately small when compared to the huge estate encompassed by the castle today. Hirosaki Castle was originally built with a 5 level keep which was struck by lightning and burned to the ground in 1627. The new 3 level keep is actually just the renovated Ninomaru tasumi yagura watchtower. The Tsugaru clan held the castle until the Meiji Restoration when it was taken over by the government.

Hirosaki Castle has the only extant main keep to the east of Matsumoto Castle (Nagano Pref.) making it a historical treasure of the Tohoku region. Hirosaki Castle is also famous throughout Japan for the more than 2600 cherry trees that fill its grounds today. Every spring when the trees are in bloom thousands of visitors flock to the grounds for one of Japan's finest Cherry Blossom Festivals.

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  • RonS    May 10, 2014 at 01:02 AM
    I just learned about the restoration work on TV and felt great disappointment because my wife and I were planning to visit there this summer. Going there would mean that I had finally, after 32 years, visited all of the "sacred 12" original keeps. So I was ENORMOUSLY relieved to learn that work won't start on the emptying of the moat until October. The work to move the keep will begin next year. So it is now imperative than that we go this summer. You too, if you've been planning to go. Here is the official website with some more details, graphics and a video to compliment the info phibbyfan provides below: http://www.hirosakipark.jp/ishigaki.html
  • phibbyfan    April 29, 2014 at 03:46 PM
    Bad news for those hoping to visit this castle. Starting this fall the walls will undergo rennovation which will require them to remove the keep and cover the moat. The keep will be gone for 5 years and the rennovations will not be fully complete for 10 years. If you want to visit, you'd better go soon: http://www.kahoku.co.jp/tohokunews/201404/20140424_25012.html
  • sameema    March 02, 2014 at 04:21 PM
    wow this is a most beautiful place in the world
  • Kris on My Page    February 13, 2012 at 10:36 PM
    Hirosaki castle is one of those castles that will look great any time of year; even in the frozen depths of winter. Those cherry trees all throughout the park turn into cotton wool trees – it look absolutely otherworldly and nothing like the photos displayed here. There are icicles hanging off all the yagura, the moats are all frozen and the only relief from whiteness everywhere is bright red of the bridges. Full points for keeping the grounds fully accessible - even in deep snow they had a path up to every single signpost and every single sign-post was clear of snow. The museum in the keep is closed in winter so we couldn't see inside. Still, there was enough historical information in the city museum near the southern gate, I could still buy Takamaru-kun goods at the information centre opposite the east gate and I got the 100meijo stamp at the park office, so going in winter didn't hamper any secondary castle-viewing objectives either. We went right before the snow lantern festival so there were snowploughs and work crews on the grounds - I have an awesome shot of a snowplough driving through a gate like some kind of rival daimyo mounting a modern winter assault – and some of the gates and trees were a bit dangerous to be near when a breeze was blowing, but other than that. Hirosaki in winter – amazing! Fantastic castle.
  • Frank T. on My Page    October 03, 2011 at 10:32 PM
    Not only is this one of the 12 original keeps still intact, but like other locations that are sufficiently far from a major metropolitan area, it was largely empty both times I visited. In fact, the first time I visited, I was able to ride my motorcycle onto the grounds, take photos and park near the keep, then explore on foot. The grounds and gardens here are among the best.
  • Eric    February 09, 2011 at 10:41 PM
    I know sections of the castle were unavailable last year. I had the same problem when I was there in May. I thought all the construction was supposed to be finished by the end of 2010 for the big 400th anniversary bash in 2011. If you see something to the contrary please let me know. I also updated the link above to link to the 400th anniversary website.
  • Kris    February 04, 2011 at 10:51 PM
    My brother really wants to see this one when he comes to Japan. I'm not so keen about the cold or the distance but for him the more snow the better. (I'd rather see Hirosaki in Spring or Summer). I read it was closed from 24th Nov to 31st March - does anyone know if that is just the keep or if it means large parts of the park ground are inaccessible due to snow? BTW, above link won't load on my computer.
  • Alamo6400    January 08, 2011 at 04:36 PM
    the trip to this castle was amazing I LOVED THE BEATIFUL SCENE UP THERE IN THE TOWERS
  • Learoy on My Page    July 25, 2010 at 06:16 PM
    The castle is not there anymore, just one guard tower remains. However if you get the chance to visit during their Sakura season, which is about two weeks later then Tokyo, you will see an amazing display with 5000 Sakura on the grounds.
  • Eric on Tohoku Castle Trip 2010    June 21, 2010 at 07:57 PM
    Splendid castle with many original buildings
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Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture
Hirosaki Castle views
main keep Main keep from the inside
Otemon Gate Higashimon Gate of the sannomaru.
Kitamon Gate Kitamon Gate seen from inside the castle.
Higashiuchimon Gate Minamiuchimon Gate
Minamiuchimon Gate Hitsujisaru Yagura
Tatsumi Yagura Ushitora Yagura
main keep and moat Yoriki Guardhouse
The stone walls and moat of the honmaru north entrance. honmaru moat and Takaoka Bridge.
Mt. Iwaki and the western moat from the honmaru. moat around the ninomaru bailey
stone bridge and moat Second floor of the main keep
interior of the 3rd floor map of the castle grounds