Travelling in Japan: Hirosaki

Hirosaki is singularly the most Japanese city I know. Will Ferguson

We stayed in Hirosaki not because I can’t read Japanese train timetables at all well but because sometimes Hyperdia is wrong (said the JR ticket office assistant). However, it proved to be a most serendipitous visit.

The heavy snow that had descended on us at Hakodate and continued throughout our train journey ended and the sun shone. It is a miracle we made it all as some of the train connections were impossibly tight. We had literally minutes in one case but made it against the odds.

One consistent experience in Japan is that everything just works. I do not mean it just works but that the level of organisation and attention to detail is exceptional. One can feel confident that any issue of living has been thought through thoroughly by minds trained in ensuring the group* benefits and functions effectively.

The amount of snow that fell in the last few days was phenomenal. Watching a single worker ‘clearing’ the tracks of snow seemed a futile gesture in the face of the blizzard but it must have some impact along the platform’s length of track. Often in Japan there seems more employees or workers than needed for a task or position. Maybe I have just become, after years of efficiency reviews and public sector sackings in NSW, used to no employees visible at, for example, train stations. Really, there should have been one hundred guys with orange snow shovels.

*I will look at early years education in Japan in a later post.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We like train travel. One can look at the window or read a book. Our plan is to travel the length of Japan, from Sapporo to perhaps as far south as the coast below Kagoshima. We have the third week of our trip completely unbooked and with the freedom a JR Pass brings, can go anywhere. We are pleased to have started the journey in the far north of the country, it has provided a good contrast with our previous experiences of landscape, food and people.

I never knew this until commencing travel planning but there is a tunnel under the ocean floor between Hokkaido and the mainland. Miss 9 was nervous about “tsunamis” when we boarded the train and worried about being under the ocean but soon was lost in her book and hardly noted going undersea (and in indeed there was nothing really to note but the facts and figures guide on the train seat which detailed the engineering feat that is this tunnel).

The journey was exceptionally snowy but the trains are overly warm. One really needs to dress in layers.

Hirosaki

On arrival, the snow suddenly ceased and the skies cleared. We had blue skies to walk to the castle, hidden away in the most extraordinarily beautiful park. We caught the 100 yen bus from the station and enjoyed a stroll past frozen lakes and cherry blossoms trees with impossible amounts of snow in their branches. It was a fairytale walk and the kids did more snowballing on the way.

Hirosaki Castle is not looming over the city and one wonders if that it is the reason it survived and is one of the few remaining, authentic buildings of this type in Japan. There is little else like it all this far north. You can see from the photos below how stunning the castle is in winter.


flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

We departed Hirosaki station in heavy snow the next day but watched, as we headed south, the scenery green as the snows melted to memory.

Arriving at Tokyo station revealed how busy the pre-New Year travel time could be in Japan. We have been at this station quite a few times three years ago but never have experienced such large numbers of commuters with luggage in one place anywhere in the world.

We had a three hour wait but found a superb restaurant in Kitchen Street before catching our train to Osaka.

Featured image: flickr photo by Darcy Moore http://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/23913087292 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Share

12 Comments

  1. Tracey Leaf:

    Hi Darcy and Family,
    Looks like you guys are having a fabulous time! That initial b & w photo of Hirosaki Castle featured at the start of this post….Wow! glad you’re having a super time…thanks for sharing! (I’m heading out with my sons during the holidays to explore Polynesia….I noted the Winter gear you guys are sporting and realised how pleased I am that we’ll be packing swimmers and snorkelling gear this trip!)

    • Darcy Moore:

      Hi Tracey,

      Yes, it has been cold but that’s what we wanted. The Australian summer is no longer something I look forward to at all. It was great fun taking pics in the snow.

      Have fun in Polynesia!

      @Darcy1968

  2. Helen Rushton:

    Hi Darcy,
    I was in Japan, in November for the Autumn leaves looks so different now. Totally enjoyed the trip and definitely going to place a Winter tour on bucket list.

    Thank you

    • Darcy Moore:

      Hi Helen,

      My partner and I agreed that Hirosaki, although stunning in the winter must be phenomenally beautiful in spring with all hose cherry blossoms. Next trip maybe.

      @Darcy1968

  3. Anthony Catanzariti:

    Darcy, I’m off to Japan again over the holidays. This time I’ll be taking my wife. I’m hoping to show her how fantastic and beautiful the country is. At this stage, we have 5 days in Tokyo and thence to Kyoto. Other than those two places what do you think is the most picturesque place in the country? I want her to fall in love with Japan and the Japanese!

    Anthony

  4. Anthony Catanzariti:

    Thanks Darcy!
    Just wondering, is Hirosaki easy to get to?

  5. Anthony Catanzariti:

    And while we’re at it:
    Favourite movies this year?
    Favourite books?
    Favourite music?

    • Darcy Moore:

      I will do my best.

      • Anthony Catanzariti:

        Last year, I was blown away by A Little Life. I haven’t read anything that moved me as much this year although the five books in the Tales of the Otori series were good.
        Again, last year Sufjan Stevens released an album that quickly became one of my favourite CDs of all time. I’ll have to have a bit more of a think about favourite movies.

  6. Anthony Catanzariti:

    Hey Darcy,

    Welcome back to the new school year!
    So we spent four days in Tokyo – and my wife loved it. She especially liked Tokyu Hands – that massive department store in Shibuya.
    We went from there to Matsumoto – great castle town, and then to Kyoto for four days – including a side trip to Nara, and then an overnight trip to Kinosaki, an expensive but definite highlight of our trip and finally to Matsue, another castle city.
    She wants to return ASAP!

Post a Comment

*
* (will not be published)

Random Posts

LOAD MORE
UA-6171563-2