Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tohoku 2015 東北の旅 - Hirosaki JR Station 弘前駅, Whole Hirosaki Apple Pie Coupon まるごとひろさきアップルパイクーポン

Hirosaki JR Station, on Ou main line (奥羽本線).

The Ou main line is close to 500 km long and passes through four prefectures in Tohoku region - from Fukushima, Yamagata, Akita to Aomori. Adjacent to the JR Station is Konan Railway, which operates Konan line (弘南線) connecting Hirosaki to Kuroishi (黒石).
Do note that Chuo Hirosaki station (中央弘前駅), which is also operated by Konan Railway, is located much further away from this JR Station but closer to Hirosaki Castle. The presence of Chuo Hirosaki station provides an alternative route that can be considered to visit Owani Onsen (大鰐温泉).
- From Chuo Hirosaki station via Owani line to the terminus station, Owani station.
- From Hirosaki JR Station via Ou main line to Owani Onsen JR Station, which is adjacent to Owani station.

Some limited express and special themed trains that serve Hirosaki JR Station:
(1) Limited Express Tsugaru, commutes between Aomori and Akita via Ou main line.
(2) Resort Shirakami (リゾートしらかみ), commutes between Aomori and Akita via Gono line and Ou main line.


What's nearby?

(1) Tourist Information Center, located in front of Chuo exit of train station. For those planning to visit the main attractions in Hirosaki, I will highly recommend getting this "Whole Hirosaki Apple Pie Coupon" which can be purchased from here.

Whole Hirosaki Apple Pie Coupon (まるごとひろさきアップルパイクーポン), is a set of seven coupons equivalent to 700 yen (used to exchange for apple pies in participating cafes/restaurants), entrance tickets to attractions such as Tsugaru-han Nebuta Village, Hirosaki Castle, Botanical Garden and Fujita Memorial Garden, 5% discount vouchers for souvenirs purchased at participating shops and a 300 yen equivalent souvenir (choose either postcards or guidebook). Each coupon is reasonably priced at 1,500 yen and can be used over a period of 30 days. During my visit in Oct 2015, the same apple pie coupon was sold at a discounted price of 1,000 yen, in conjunction with the annual autumn festival, therefore making this coupon even more worthwhile! Received two sets of postcards which showcased the beauty of Hirosaki Castle during the cherry blossom season and many unique European style buildings which were constructed close to a century ago - a perfect souvenir especially when I am a postcard lover. 

Whole Hirosaki Apple Pie Coupon (in Japanese):

Top left: Both apple pie and juice should not be missed out from any visit to Aomori Prefecture; Bottom right: Eau Clair's version of apple pie. 
(2) Hotels. There are a couple of accommodation options near the train station - business budget hotel chains such as Toyoko Inn and Route Inn, and the higher end Hotel Naqua City. For my trip, I spent the night in Toyoko Inn, which is located a stone throw away from the train station.

A city of apple pies! Eau clair, located in Hotel Naqua City, is one of the many cafes/restaurants that serve apple pies in Hirosaki - a sweet delicacy that this city is well known for because it is the top producer for apples in Japan. Took advantage of the 100 yen coupons which were part of Whole Hirosaki Apple Pie Coupon, to enjoy a delicious piece of apple pastry and a cup of coffee here. What impressed me most is this Apple Pie Guide Map created by the tourism board here. The handy brochure contains a detailed write up on the taste and numerous tantalising pictures of the various kinds of apple pies available in this apple kingdom. There are close to 50 shops here serving their very own apple pie creation and will truly make one spoilt for choice. Only managed to eat one during my short one day stay and I told myself to try a couple more on my next visit!

Apple Pie Guide Map (in Japanese):   

Appliese can be accessed as soon as you step out from the gates. 
(3) Appliese (アプリース), a small scale shopping mall connected seamlessly to the train station. If you decide to head out for breakfast in the morning, there are several cafes to choose from - Mister Donut, Doutor and Vie De France, and all open for business at 0700 hrs. There is also a 100 yen shop located on Level 3 of the shopping complex.


Bus boarding platforms in front of Hirosaki JR Station.
(4) Bus boarding platforms, located in front of Chuo exit of train station. 

- Dotemachi loop 土手町循環バス: board this bus at Platform #2 and alight at Shiyakusho mae (市役所前) to visit Hirosaki Castle Park, Otemon Square, Former Hirosaki City Library and Former To-o Gijuku Missionary Residence. The bus operates from 1000 to 1800 hrs, at regular 10 minutes intervals. Each trip cost 100 yen regardless of the distance travelled. If you plan to make at least five trips on buses, a one day pass, priced at 500 yen each, can be purchased instead. 

- Tamenobu line ためのぶバス: this bus service can be utilised to visit Hirosaki Apple Park, located further away from the city center. Bus also stops at Shiyakusho mae and Tsugaru-han Nebuta Village. Do note that the frequency is much lower as compared to Dotemachi loop bus, with only four round trips per day. A bus trip from Hirosaki JR Station to Hirosaki Apple Park cost 200 yen.


Commemorative stamp: 

Hirosaki City Tourist Information Center

Friday, April 29, 2016

Tohoku 2015 東北の旅 - Toyoko Inn Hirosaki Ekimae 東横イン弘前駅前

Hirosaki JR Station on the right. 
Stayed 15.10.2015 (1 night)
- Single room = 5,184 yen
- Twin room = 7,884 yen

Overall, another pleasant experience with Toyoko Inn. Toyoko Inn Hirosaki Ekimae is the nearest budget hotel to the train station, in fact literally a stone throw away. Other accommodation options such as Route Inn is located opposite while the higher end Hotel Naqua City is found on the other side of the train station. A sense of familiarity to Toyoko Inn has gradually grown over the last few trips to Japan. Helpful front desk service, similar room layout equipped with basic necessities - these are just some of common features that I have already taken granted for whenever I stay in Toyoko Inn hotels. Enjoyed the simple fare they had to offer for breakfast as I was delighted to see my favourite onigiri available on the menu for the day. Due to its strategic location and affordable price, I will highly recommend this hotel for travellers who intend to stay overnight in Hirosaki city. 

What's nearby?

(1) Hirosaki JR Station and Appliese (アプリース), a small scale shopping mall connected seamlessly to the train station. If you decide to head out for breakfast in the morning, there are several cafes to choose from - Mister Donut, Doutor and Vie De France, and all open for business at 0700 hrs. There is also a 100 yen shop located on Level 3 of Appliese. 
(2) Ito Yotocho (イトーヨーカドー), a departmental store about 5 minutes walk away. A 100 yen shop (Can Do) is located on the fifth floor. 


Toyoko Inn Hirosaki Ekimae 東横イン弘前駅前
036-8002  青森県弘前市駅前1-1-1