Despite going to bed late, I was up at 04:30 and decided to go back to the castle to get sunrise photos; I got cleaned up and was at the park by 0520, where I was thrilled to see the most beautiful sunrise light on the blossoms and a perfect reflection on the moat. At first, as I started my walk towards the park, the streets were completely deserted, which was kind of an eerie feeling. However, when I arrived at the park, there were many (Japanese) photographers already snapping, early morning joggers, etc.
I spent about three hours exploring the park in the early morning light, which let me capture a different side of the blossoms from the late afternoon and evening before. Several of my 男子新体操 friends live in Hirosaki, and I even walked by the high school that one of them goes to on my more detailed exploration of the castle and park. I passed a large group of Japanese doing radio taisou, ラジオ体操, a very old form of calisthenics that is broadcast over the radio. It is commonplace in Japanese elementary schools and corporations as a warm-up before the work and school day. Everyone was facing Mt. Iwaki with the stunning weeping cherries on all sides.
By 830, I was completely exhausted, so stopped into Starbucks to get coffee, went back to the hotel for a late breakfast, and went back to sleep for a couple of hours.
After my nap, I decided to head out to visit Hirosaki‘s Zen temple area (for those who don’t know me, I am a follower of Japanese Zen Buddhism). I wanted to visit some of the most famous temples as well as get 御朱印 for my collection (I always carry my temple seal books with me whenever I travel).
The first temple, Saishoin, was only about a seven minute walk from my hotel. It is considered to have the most beautiful pagoda in Tōhoku. The temple complex was absolutely stunning as the weeping cherries were in full bloom. I got my first 御朱印 and headed to my next temple, 長勝寺, where I got my second and final temple seal.
Next, I walked through the Zen temple district on my way to my next destination, Fujita Memorial Garden (藤田記念庭園). Created in 1919 by a gardener from Tokyo, the garden consists of upper and lower parts as well as several western style and Japanese style buildings, including a Japanese teahouse and a western tearoom. I waited for about 40 minutes for the chance to have dessert and coffee in the beautiful Victorian-style tea room overlooking the garden.
After my leisurely stroll through the garden, I headed back to the park to snap a few more afternoon photos before returning to the hotel to relax until after sunset. As today was very overcast and hazy, I decided not to attempt sunset photos the second night and instead headed out again about 7:30 PM
One of the things I wanted to photograph is something that @Tokisatoko, one of my 男子新体操 friends, had posted on Instagram; a Western style building, formerly the city library, that is now used for tourism and various campaigns.
I re-created my same route from the previous evening, snapping pics of beautifully reflected blossoms and the castle from various angles. This night, I ventured farther around the grounds and found the carnival-style area, but I felt the ambience clashed with the more classic feel of the main part of the park and didn’t snap many photos here pier I also didn’t go down to the sakura tunnel; although I had explored that area earlier in the morning, I actually preferred the area I photographed the previous night.
I was one of the last ones out of the park at 9:30 PM when they shut off the lights and shooed us out. I took the long way back to my hotel, walking about 25 minutes around the outside of the castle grounds and past Neputa Mura, which I didn’t have a chance to visit this trip, but most definitely will on my return trip next summer as I want to do the 津軽三味線 lesson and hands on crafts!!