3 Best Sights in Hirosaki, Tohoku

Chosho-ji Temple

Thirty-three of the Soto Sect's Zen temples line up along Zenrin-gai (Zen Forest Street), at the end of which Chosho-ji temple stands with great dignity. The Tsugaru clan's family temple was originally built in Ajigasawa in 1528 but was moved here in 1610 to protect Hirosaki Castle. You'll see an elaborate gate meant to shake off greediness and complaining and 500 statues depicting Buddha's disciples.

Hirosaki Castle

Guarded by deep moats, over which a red wooden bridge crosses in a picturesque curve, Hirosaki-jo is atop a high stone base. The original castle, completed in 1611, was set ablaze 16 years later by a lightning bolt. The present one, of a smaller scale, dates back to 1810. In spring the more than 5,000 somei-yoshino cherry trees blossom, while in fall the changing maples are also gorgeous. A snow-lantern festival with illuminated ice sculptures is held in early February. The castle is a 30-minute walk from JR Hirosaki Station. Take the ¥100 bus from the bus pool and get off at the Shiyakusho-mae stop.

Tsugaru Neputa Village

On the northeast corner of the castle grounds, this museum exhibits the giant drums and floats used in the annual Neputa Festival. If you miss the real thing, come here to see the 40-foot fan-shaped floats as they sleep off their hangovers from the mad midsummer revelry. In the workshop you can paint your own traditional kingyo-neputa (bamboo-framed paper goldfish) or kokeshi (traditional wooden dolls) to take home as souvenirs. There is a cute Japanese garden within the complex where you can appreciate a few different architectural styles among the garden's scenery. Craftspeople are working inside one of the larger structures where you can see their wares and how they're made as well as take part. A food court on the premises providing inexpensive hearty Japanese meals.

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