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Beyond Tokyo MAR-APR 2021

Hirosaki Castle in Aomori Prefecture

The cherry blossoms of your dreams…a month after all the rest are history

🌸 Cherry blossom season is legendary for good reason—even I have to admit that the pinkness in all its glory WILL take your breath away—but the downside of that is that everybody in the world knows it too. From the middle of March to the middle of April, everything becomes much more crowded and much more expensive. And if you don’t guess the dates right—peak bloom can happen as much as ten days either side of the dates tradition suggests—you’re out of luck. But locals know how to avoid all that. Wait until the season is long gone in Tokyo and Kyoto, and go north!

If you travel to the small town of Hirosaki, in the very northiest part of Japan, you can experience cherry blossom season the way you always imagined it.

Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
See all the crowds? Me neither
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
Hirosaki is an ancient castle stronghold, but unlike so many smaller, far-flung castles, this one is so beautifully preserved…
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
…there’s still water in the moat.
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
The town has turned the grounds into a gorgeous FREE park…
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
…and during The Season, you truly feel as if you’ve stumbled into an enchanted forest
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
They’ve planted an orchard of rare cherry varieties on part of the grounds
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
But the most fabulous view is of the grand bridge that crosses the moat at its widest part
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
From every angle, it’s amazing
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
But it gets even better when dusk begins to fall…
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
…and the lights come on…
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
…and every path becomes a mysterious journey
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
…that you can enjoy as if it were your own private palace
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
And this photo of the famous moat will show you that actually, my trip to Hirosaki was a failure. What we really wanted to do was miss the trees in full bloom to see…
Cherry blossom season at Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture
THIS. When the cherry blossoms begin to fall, Hirosaki Castle’s pink moat is what it’s really famous for! This photo thanks to Nippon.com, since I didn’t <sob!> get to stay long enough to see it

Just to show you why you can see cherry blossoms in all their glory so long after they peak in Tokyo and Kyoto…

As we drove north from Akita to Aomori, it’s as though we were going back in time. The seasons seemed to be rewinding as we got farther north and climbed the mountains between those two prefectures. First, we were back in daffodil season…
And at the top of the pass, it wasn’t even spring yet!

The lesson being, if you do try to catch cherry blossom season in Kyoto or Tokyo and it comes too early for you to see it, you only have to travel north or to a higher elevation to catch up with it again. This website gives peak season predictions for all parts of Japan, and if you’re willing to be flexible in your pursuit of the pinkness, you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s where Hirosaki is:

Here’s how to get to Hirosaki from Tokyo:

Once you get there, it’s not a huge place and it’s easy to find the castle. Admission is free, and it’s lit up at night during the season until 21:00. More information about when cherry blossom season will reach its peak in each part of Japan is here.

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More Beyond Tokyo destinations are in the JAPANAGRAM ARCHIVE

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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