Our plan at Hirosaki was to check out the Hirosaki Castle, one of the few original castle left in the whole Japan in the afternoon. We’ll stay one night at Ishiba Ryokan, a 1879 family-run traditional guesthouse located a few blocks away from the castle ground. So, it was going to be an old-skool-Japan day for us.
We arrived in Hirosaki at noon. To save time, we took the taxi instead of the bus from the station to the ryokan. Since the check-in time for Ishiba Ryokan was at 3PM, we decided to drop off our baggage at the Ryokan, skip the check in and went straight for the castle. At the ryokan, we were greeted by Mr. Soujiro Ishiba, who was very nice and told us that our bags would be brought up to our room when we come back from the castle later.
Originally, we were planning to rent a bicyle to explore around the castle ground. But then, we found out that bikes were not allowed inside the castle ground. And also, the bike rental place (which was located not too far from the castle’s entrance) didn’t have kiddy-size bikes. Oh well… we gotta explore by foot, then.
On our way to the castle, we also met a Galapagos Tortoise wearing a diaper. Yep, a pet giant tortoise. Except, according to the owner, this one was only a few years old, so he’s still a baby.
The tortoise named “Shoju” was so cute, walking casually along the sidewalk, followed by the owner. Cars that passed by stopped to watch the tortoise, people took pictures and videos using their mobile phones. We did too, of course. The owner, an older Japanese man, was very friendly. He didn’t mind a bit of a chit chat from us and our broken Japanese.
Noushka, Ditha and Ari bought some lunch from the bento shop when we were transiting at Shin-Aomori, and we planned to have a lunch picnic in the castle. When we entered the castle ground from the South Entrance, we were immediately greeted by a vast field of grass. Perfect for a picnic! We looked for a place under the pine tree shades, took out our bento and started to eat our lunch while watching a large group of (I think) college kids practicing a dance. There were a few other families having picnics there, too. Some with their babies and kids, some with their dogs… Many people were doing their afternoon runs around the park, too.
Hirosaki Castle is the prettiest during the sakura season. Unfortunately for us, we were about 3 months late, so no more sakura. Although mostly green and without much flowers, they still had an interesting park to walk around in… It was the typical Japanese garden, pretty and quite photogenic.
And there were plenty of old, old trees around. One of them was actually the oldest Somei-Yoshino sakura in the whole Aomori Perfecture, planted back in 1882. The 133-year-old tree looked like below on the left. If you catch it during the sakura season, it would look a million times prettier, like that on the right (photo taken from here).
When we got to the Castle Tower itself, we had to purchase a ticket to enter and view the tower up-close. We decided to buy a bundle of Hirosaki Castle Tower + Botanical Garden, because we like botanic gardens. It turned out that they were in the middle of a huge project: Moving the whole castle a few hundred yards away from where it currently stands. So the moat around the castle had been dried out and scaffoldings were put up.
Currently, the castle sat on the edge of the moat wall. It turned out that over time, the wall couldn’t support the weight of the castle gradually sinking it lower. Since Hirosaki Castle was one of the only 12 original surviving castles from the warring era of Japan (Sengoku Era), the government decided to take a quite drastic measure: To move the whole castle intact away from the moat and let it sit on more stable ground. This project just started this summer and will take 10 years to finish. Upon hearing that, Aina exclaimed, “Wow, I’ll be 18 by the time they’re done!”… Yes, to put it into perspective, yep.
We were strolling around the castle ground almost aimlessly, when we realized that the Botanical Garden was closing soon. So we dashed out to the northern part of the castle grounds, where the Botanical Garden was located. The lady in the ticket booth looked bored and it seemed that no one came to garden that day. We gave her our tickets, and went in. Aina, who carried a child ticket, got a small coloring pamphlet with the map of the garden.
The Botanical Garden was opened in 1988, so it’s pretty new. It has over 100 thousands trees and 1500 species of plants. Supposedly, it’s an all-season garden, where the flowers take turns to bloom. However, we couldn’t see anything blooming and most of the garden was just green. There were a few interesting trees that I have never seen before, though, like this fluffy one.
Then, halfway through the Botanical Garden, we realized that our legs were about to give out… and we still needed to walk back to the ryokan. So we decided to head out. We got some stuff at the Lawson’s across the street and went back to Ishiba Ryokan.
Other entries of this trip is at Hokkaido Trip Summer 2015.