Hanami in Tohoku 東北の桜
Tunnel of cherry blossoms above the moat of Hirosaki castle
Hirosaki Castle Park by night
Hitome Senbon Zakura
Credit: Wikimedia commons
Where are the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tohoku?
It's when the cherry blossoms are coming to an end in Tokyo that the region of Tohoku awakens... From Sendai to Aomori, the cherry blossom front travels up north slowly, starting around the beginning of April to mid-May. Here are the most famous spots to admire the cherry blossoms in Tohoku.
1. Hirosaki Castle Park (Aomori)
Around 2,600 cherry trees surround Hirosaki Castle, a small town in the north covered by snow in winter. In spring, these historic trees come to life. In 1960, one of the trees was sick, and there were fears that it was dying. A gardener decided to prune it severely, like they do the local Aomori apple trees. The pruning was successful. From that day forth, all cherry trees were trimmed like the Aomori apple trees, giving them more volume and large, beautiful flowers. The reflection of the sakura on the castle moat is remarkable, and even more so when the petals have fallen on the water, forming a large pink petal carpet.
The Hirosaki cherry festival celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020, and the cherry blossom matsuri takes place from 23rd April to 6th May. A guaranteed festive atmosphere with illuminations in the evening, and boat trips on the moats under the sakura.
- Read also: Cherry Blossoms by Night
2. Kakunodate (Akita)
The culture of Kyoto influenced the city of Kakunodate, that's why in this old castle town, you can admire large cherry blossoms with long, hanging branches (shidare zakura) in May.
The legend is that three sakura trees were brought here from Kyoto by the future wife of a samurai, as a reminder of her hometown.
At the edge of the Hinokinaigawa river, a long tunnel of Somei Yoshino cherry trees stretches for more than 1.2 miles. They were planted in 1934 to celebrate the birth of Emperor Akihito.
At the beginning of May, the banks of the river come alive under the branches of cherry trees laden with pink blossoms.
- Read more: The symbolism of cherry blossoms in Japan
3. Kitakami (Iwate)
In Kitakami, you can appreciate the beauty of a huge, 1.2-mile long cherry blossom "tunnel", at the edge of the Kitakami River, which swells with fresh water coming from the surrounding mountains, which are often still snow-covered during this time of year.
10,000 cherry trees of 150 different varieties have constituted this incredible space of delight for the eyes and photography enthusiasts since the 1920s. In the heart of Tenshochi Park, rows of food stands offer local specialties during the sakura matsuri, held from mid-April to early May.
The best part of this festival is that the Koinobori festival occurs at the same time. The flying carp gently blowing in the breeze with the pink flower petals makes the riverbank a magical place to visit.
- Read more: Koinobori festival
4. Miharu Takizakura (Fukushima)
After the long sakura tunnels, here one single tree, one of a kind, not just a tree, but THE Tree! This tree has stood in the village of Miharu for over 1,000 years. Venerated as a god who satisfies the faithful every year with cascades of flowering branches of pink sakura, this impressive cherry tree is over 13 meters high and 11 meters in circumference.
Designated a historic natural monument in 1922, this is a true natural deity.
Under sakura trees in Kitakami
Credit: Jérôme Laborde
Credit: Wikimedia commons
Koinobori, carp shaped wind socks
Credit: Jérôme Laborde
5. Hitome Sendon Zakura (Miyagi)
The banks of the Shiroishi River, overlooked by the snow-capped Zao Mountains, is the backdrop for these 1,200 cherry blossoms. Hitome Senbon Zakura (view of 1,000 cherry trees) is the spot of the region between Sendai and Fukushima, very easily accessed via JR Funaoka station. In 1923, a businessman from Miyagi donated young plants that were planted along the river, so that it would become a beautiful place for walking. The project was definitely a success!
And that's not all, because not far from the river is Funaoka Joshi Park. Here you can discover its 1,000 cherry trees around the ruins of an old feudal castle. The top of the park offers breathtaking panoramic views of the area. You can get there easily by a funicular railway, which climbs slowly through the middle of a flowering forest - a must-visit for all travelers.
The Shibata Sakura Festival takes place in 2020 from 3-19 April.
- Read more: Cherry blossom season: when to go?
6. Eboshiyama Koen (Yamagata)
Developed during the Meiji period (1868-1903), Eboshiyama Park on Mount Eboshi is where you can see rare varieties such as Edohigan, in addition to the other 1,000 cherry trees that dot the hills. With bridges, stairs and winding paths with torii and small temples, this is an excellent place for a leisurely stroll. From the top, you will have a beautiful view of the Yonezawa basin. Accessible from JR Akayu station.
Recharge your batteries after all the walking by visiting one of the many historic onsen in the area.