It wasn’t quite all local trains on this trip up north to the Tohoku area as I had to take a bus from Morioka Station to Hirosaki (3000 yen). The journey took about two hours and was the best way of getting between the two places as the train would’ve meant going on a huge detour heading eastwards, up round the coast to Aomori and then back down to Hirsosaki. Typically, the bus passed the same watermelon gas tank I’d just walked to on a two hour return trip. The fruit theme was to continue though as Hiroskai is Japan’s largest producer of apples and it’s certainly not shy about showing it!
There were a few things I wanted to do in Hirosaki but eating apple curry was my priority. This wasn’t an ordinary high street restaurant though as it’s located in a European style house within the grounds of Fujita Memorial Garden (8-1 Shimoshirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi) which is located over the road from the castle. Entry was 310 yen but I don’t think it was actually necessary to get a ticket if you just want to use the restaurant. I was starving so had lunch straight away.
I had a special lunch deal of apple curry and and fresh apple juice for just over 1000 yen. I forget the exact cost but it was certainly more than I’d usually pay for such a dish. This was very much a one-off special occasion and I even managed to get a seat with a view overlooking the garden through the large windows. The curry was really nice with the apple a fairly subtle addition that blends well with it but it wasn’t anything too revolutionary for me as my wife tends to add apple to a fair few dishes. Recommended though I could have done with a much bigger serving as is often the case in this country.
It didn’t take me long to polish it off and following that I wandered round the lower gardens which have a large pond in the middle. They were nice enough and a pleasant place to stroll.
It wasn’t the end of apple stuff though because as I walked round Hirosaki I saw these unintentionally comical posters for a local idol group. For those who don’t know, ringo is the Japanese word for apple and in the land of the apple the name of the girl group just had to be Ringo Stars!! As far as wordplay goes, this is up there with some of the best puns I’ve seen.
Just down the road from the garden was one of the fanciest-looking Starbucks coffee shops (below) I’ve ever seen. If I hadn’t mentioned that then I’m guessing very few people reading this would have in any way thought it belonged to the Seattle-founded coffeehouse chain! I’m not a coffee drinker so only admired it from outside.
Hirosaki Castle is the symbol of the town and that was next. I was unaware of a special discount ticket allowing entry to both the castle and the aforementioned garden so ended up spending a few extra yen. My first impression of the castle (below) wasn’t particularly good as there was a big digger and about a dozen construction workers blocking the usual view of it. There was a slightly raised viewing platform nearby and with a bit of camera trickery (if zooming in should be considered such a thing!) I could cut the workers and equipment out of the picture.
It is possible to dress up as a Japanese Feudal Lord/Princess inside the castle for 1000 yen which was tempting and something I guess I’ll do one day but I wasn’t really in the mood on this occasion. As ever, I didn’t spend too long inside the castle before strolling round the castle grounds towards the north gate
Soon after leaving the castle grounds the heavens opened up and it began to pour with rain. I continued to walk in it (with my umbrella) for a bit but eventually conceded defeat and so I decided to get the 100 yen tourist circuit bus back to the station where the apple takes centre stage!
One of the highlights in Hirosaki each year is the Neputa Festival taking place between August 1st and 7th. This colourful festival features amazing displays of lights and sound and for the spiritual it helps to ward off sleep demons and celebrate victory. Sadly, I was just a couple of days too late to witness it but there was still a few traces of the festival around the town.
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