Hirosaki’s Chrysanthemum Festival

After several false starts caused by dreary rain and general laziness, I finally made it out to Hirosaki last weekend to catch the tail end of the annual Chrysanthemum Festival (菊 まつり) at the castle park. I don’t make it to Hirosaki nearly as often as I’d like to, as it’s about forty-five minutes away by train, so I was happy to have an excuse to trek down.

Hirosaki’s a pretty, pretty place.

As with any time I go to Hirosaki, I first made a stop at a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop to indulge in some white bean paste pastries. “Bean paste” might not sound all that appetizing, but it’s a regular ingredient in Japanese sweets and surprisingly pretty delicious once you get used to it. Though red bean paste, or “anko,” is much more popular, I prefer the creamier, subtler white bean counterpart. Plus, these guys are only 50円, or about $0.60 cents, apiece, so there’s no reason not to enjoy them!

A perfect, creamy treat for a chilly autumn afternoon.

Sometimes it feels like Japan will take absolutely any excuse to have a festival, but I really can’t find fault in that. Though I’d caught glimpses of the autumn foliage in my excursions of the last month, the colors have really only fully emerged in the last two weeks or so. And what colors they are! I know I’ve made it quite clear that I love fall in Aomori, but it just bears being said again: glowing oranges, fulvous golds, and fiery reds really can’t be beat.

Vibrant autumn colors.

Chrysanthemums (or “kiku” in Japanese), though, were the main focus of the event. And it’s easy to see why. I don’t normally think of flowers as coming out in full bloom during fall, but there was so absolutely no shortage of them. And because this is Japan, land of the “Can we do it? Sure, no reason not to!” philosophy, there were mini pagodas, a working clock, and even kimono fashioned from the flowers. My favorite installment, though, would have to be the animals at the entrance of the botanical gardens. They’re not made of chrysanthemums entirely, but really, how could you not love pandas, giraffes, and elephants made with stereotypical Japanese cuteness?


Normally my posts tend to push into novel-length territory, but for this, I think it’s better to let the pictures speak for themselves.

かわいい elephants
Of course, apples had to make an appearance somehow.
Below the castle
Chrysanthemums galore!
No, it’s not a swastika. It’s the traditional symbol for a shrine.
The view of Mt. Iwaki

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