The highlight of Hirosaki’s short summer is the “Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri”, held every year from August 1st-August 7th. A neputa is a large float constructed out of bamboo and paper. At this matsuri, around 80 different neputa floats fashioned after characters from the Chinese stories of “Shui Hu Zhuan” and “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” are paraded through the streets of Hirosaki City. This festival is so important that in 1980 it was designated as a national important intangible folk culture asset. If you can’t join the festival, you can enjoy the charms of neputa floats at the Tsugaru Neputa Village, which exhibit neputa floats throughout the year.
If you’ve come to Hirosaki, one item you’ll want to buy before you leave is “koginsashi.” It’s a traditional craft from the Tsugaru region, consisting of cloth dyed with indigo and then embroidered using white cotton thread. It’s said that this style of embroidery originated as embroidery for reinforcing the work clothes of farmers, but now it is commonly utilized for small items such as business card holders and wallets. Located in Hirosaki City is the “Hirosaki Kogin Research Institute” where you can buy koginsashi handicrafts and participate in workshops. This place is highly recommended for people who want to experience the traditional crafts of Hirosaki up close and personal.
Aomori Prefecture is famous for its apples: Hirosaki’s cities, towns, and villages produce the highest quantity of apples in all of Japan. The temperature does get above 30℃ on some summer days but in general the temperature is a chilly 10℃ throughout the year which makes it perfect for apples, which cannot withstand heat. Note that it can also drop below -5℃ in winter.
To get to Hirosaki from within Japan you can use an airplane or the Shinkansen. From the nearby Aomori Airport it’s a 55 minute bus ride to Hirosaki Station. If you’re taking the Shinkansen you get off at Shin-Aomori Station and then take a train to Hirosaki Station. Shin-Aomori Station is 3 hours from Tokyo, and about 1 hour from Hokkaido’s Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station.