The City of Hirosaki

General overview of the city

Hirosaki is in the northern part of the Honshu Island approximately 680km from Tokyo, close to the UNESCO heritage site “Shirakawa-go” village.  The city sprawl is approximately 527 km2 but the residential areas and essential functions are located in a radius of 2.5 km from the JR station, making Hirosaki a compact city.

The urban landscape is a beautiful mixture of traditional as well as western architecture which have been renovated from their original structure to adapt to the cold and harsh climate. The unique landscape attracts domestic and overseas tourists. So does the well-known Nebuta summer festival, and the cherry blossom festivals. Hirosaki has offered technical assistance in cultivating cherry blossoms that has attracted a larger number of tourists to Wuchang city’s East Lake Cherry Blossom Park in China.

Sustainability policies

The city was awarded first prize in 2016 for its innovative efforts as a model city for the Ministry of Land Infrastructure Transport and Tourism (MLIT)’s “compact city plus network” . Among them were Hirosaki’s ways to utilize public assets that were otherwise left idle; and to open large infrastructure projects to tourists (instead of closing it off) to collect admission fees during the construction.  In the pipelines is a plan to convert industrial heritages as an art and culture complex with a museum at the center by 2019.  It is the first of its kind in Japan.  Such initiatives allows Hirosaki, which is a rural city with a population less than 200,000 and a fragile financial base, to design and implement plans that effectively and efficiently utilize its limited resources.

Meanwhile, there are efforts to reconstruct the local railways on the verge of being stopped due to a rapid drop in passengers.  The city worked with universities and high schools to reconstruct the local station and promoted infrastructure development along the railways.  The project was awarded the MLIT’s Minister Award in 2016.
Creating a smart city is also a focus. Hirosaki, for example, uses renewable and unused heat to melt the heavy snow that accumulates to walls of up to a meter during the wintertime. This reduces the fiscal burden of operating snow-removing cars.

Related policies

Under the “compact city plus network” strategy, MLIT offers grants and guidelines for renovating historical buildings that are usually public real assets (PRE)  such as schools, public offices and others.  Utilizing these PREs which account for one fourth of the building in Japanese cities since the rural cities will now have to turn into compact cities where most of the essential functions are concentrated. Steps shown in the guidelines use GIS mapping, identification of location and number of PREs and lastly tagging possible use of the PREs.

The  “compact city plus network” consists of a diverse set of case studies that enhance the effective and efficient use of infrastructure by; better public transportation design; incorporating health care and child care; applying measures for empty housing; renovating schools for multiple use; local disaster reduction measures.


  • CO2 is reduced by 11.5 percent from 2015 levels in 2020.
  • Renewables account for 12.2 percent of the energy mix in 2020.
  • Energy consumption is reduced by 3.2 percent from 2015 levels in 2020.

Basic Data

Growth-2.9 % (2005 - 2010)
Certified for nurse care (Aomori Pref)4.5% / 1.6% (2000 /2014)
Area524.2 km2
Nominal GDP77.8 billion yen (US$ 0.68 billion)
Hirosaki Castle

SDG 11 indicators found in Hirosaki’s policies

Adequate housing policiesPublic transport promotionCivil society participation in urban planningPolicies to reduce solid wasteBetter air quality policiesDisaster risk  reduction policies

Note: 〇 policies exist, N/A policies do not exist 

written by the IUC-J Secretariat