Spring is one of the best seasons to visit Japan, when everything is highlighted by bright pink blossoms. The locals take advantage of this scenery that only comes around once a year by having a picnic under the trees in parks and around castles. Enjoying a fresh breath of Spring sitting under pink and white cherry trees next to Tsurugajo Castle in Aizuwakamatsu is one of my favorite spots in the area. Why? Every Spring, a traditional market is held over multiple weekends offering food, crafts, and history.
Visitors keen on getting the best spots at the castle have even slept overnight on the castle grounds with tents and their tarps already spread out, but there is plenty of room for everyone if you head out in the morning. Enjoy a beer or two with your friends,and when you are hungry or keen to explore, pop over to the market for some horse meat sausages, pounded rice cakes, and other traditional food.
Besides food vendors, the area is also dotted with stalls selling traditional crafts, particularly known in that region. Historic Aizuwakamatsu is famous for a variety of items such as hand-painted candles and lacquerware. All of these items are displayed in booths that have been built to look like traditional markets as they were hundreds of years ago. Stepping through these stalls where shop keepers wear traditional clothing is like a peek into how things were in the past.
Not sure what to look at? The information booth is hosted by the Aizuwakamatsu International Association with information and assistance in English. They even offer free guided tours of the castle grounds. You can also tour the inside of the castle for 410 yen. When you climb to the top, you can see a blanket of pink where hundreds of cherry trees shade their visitors on the castle grounds.
Make sure to climb up on the castle wall for a better view of the castle and city and explore the backside of the castle where a gorgeous red bridge is picturesque against a row of cherry trees that extend their branches down toward the moat.
Tsurugajo Castle in Aizuwakamatsu City is great to enjoy any time of year, but it is best to visit during the Spring where you can see cherry blossoms and experience an outdoor traditional market!