Wandering through a blanket of pink-and-white fluffy cherry blossoms is on everyone’s Japan bucket list. And why shouldn’t it be? Cherry blossoms are synonymous with Japan and the iconic blossoms are a sublime sight that kicks off spring. From early April to mid May, the Tohoku area becomes a sakura wonderland for would-be flower watchers. In Tohoku, you can visit one of the “Three Great Sakura Trees” of Japan, Miharu Takizakura in Fukushima. There is no end to the number of famous cherry blossom spots in Tohoku, but among them, Aomori’s Hirosaki Park, Akita’s Kakunodate and Kitakami Tenshochi park in Iwate are popular. They are the three most famous cherry blossom viewing spots, known as Michinoku’s Top 3 Cherry Blossom.
If the biting cold of Tohoku has you hesitant to visit, look no further than a springtime trip to this paradise of flowers. And due to Tohoku being cooler than the rest of the country, if you miss Tokyo blooms, Tohoku blossoms two-to-three weeks later!
R Pass to see sakura
Thanks to passes like the JR East Pass, you can conveniently visit every part of Tohoku and follow the trail of flowers. Get around the Tohoku area and get easy access to other great Tohoku destinations while only paying 20,000 yen (adults). The pass grants passage to each of Tohoku’s six prefectures, as well as Niigata.
Where to go:
Visit this ancient castle ruin site in Aomori Prefecture at the end of April for luxurious white cherry blossoms that hang on thick branches like cotton candy. As one of the Top 100 of People and Nature, Hirosaki Park is abuzz with people clamoring for these sweet blooms. The park itself is home to more than 2500 cherry blossom trees of more than fifty varieties.
The park’s cherry blossom tree collection began in 1715 when the Tsugaru clan moved 25 trees from Kyoto to the castle. In the modern day, wander under the sakura tunnel on the west side of the castle park and feel swept away in the nostalgic atmosphere of thousands of scattered petals falling like snow. Don’t miss the evening illumination, known as yo-zakura or “night cherry blossoms”—the time of day makes all the difference in creating a new landscape.
This former castle town in Akita prefecture is renowned for its annual cherry blossoms. The long-ago samurai stronghold comes alive with delicate blossoms in spring and is especially popular for its weeping cherry trees. Spend hours walking through preserved examples of samurai architecture—some of the best in Japan—but be sure to linger beneath the cherry blossom boughs that decorate the area.
Late April to early May is the best time to visit this venue of breathtaking flowers. During the Kakunodate Sakura Festival, the 2km-long rows of cherry trees, which are designated as a national scenic beauty, are lit up to allow visitors to enjoy the cherry blossoms at night.
Heading over to Iwate Prefecture, it’s time to see one of the three most famous cherry blossom spots in Tohoku. Kitakami Tenshochi Park lies along the Kitakami River and, every spring, it is a stunning display of the beloved trees. Overhead, vivid carp streamers flap in the wind; on the water, pleasure boats sail lazily by; and all around you is the beauty of the cherry blossoms.
The park also hosts a cherry blossom festival from mid April to early May. Expect bustling crowds and even horse-drawn carriages. When you need a short break from the flowers, visit the Michinoku Folklore Village with its expansive collection of restored buildings. It is a delight to be enjoyed any time of the year.
Visit Miyagi for a splendid vista of more than 1200 cherry blossom trees lined up on the Shiroishi Riverside. Only 30 minutes from Sendai Station, this amazing view of cherry blossoms with the snowy peak of Mount Zao in the background is a photographer’s paradise. At night the cherry blossoms are illuminated, which creates an ethereal atmosphere of the ghostly trees. During the cherry blossom season, trains running along the JR Tohoku Main Line slow down when reaching the rows of cherry trees, so passengers can enjoy viewing the flowers from the train windows.
The best time to see the Hitome Senbonzakura is from early to mid April. The local cherry blossom festival is also held during this period and lets visitors enjoy the trees and atmosphere of an energetic Japanese festival with food stalls, sights, smells, and sounds. Nearby, you can also visit the cherry blossom trees at the Funaoka Castle Ruins Park. You can take a ‘slope car’ (monorail) that goes through the cherry trees to the observation deck where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the rows of cherry trees.
The famed waterfall cherry tree of Miharu in Fukushima Prefecture stands proud at 13.5 meters (44 feet) tall, with an east to west spread of 25 meters (82 feet) and a north to south spread of 20 meters(65 feet). It is truly a breathtaking sight to see the lone cherry tree still standing after its millenia-long life.
So majestic is the Miharu Takizakura, that it has been classified as one of the three great cherry trees of all Japan and in 1922, it was even designated as a national natural monument. Even after suffering damage in 2005, the tree was saved thanks to caring residents of the area. Today, still, the Miharu Takizakura is a beacon of spring and a testament to nature.
One of Yamagata’s most beloved cherry blossom viewing spots in Tsuruoka Park. This landscape of more than 700 cherry trees creates a picture-perfect backdrop to spring every year. In mid-April, people flock to the venue and many vendors set up stalls for games and food. The soft pink blossoms are especially lovely at night when they become illuminated.
Once you get off the bus for Yunohama Onsen and alight at Shiyakusho-mae stop, the park will appear before you like a fairytale picture. Built on the ruins of Tsurugaoka Castle, the park was voted as one of Japan’s 100 top cherry blossom spots, and it’s easy to see why. Mixed in with the springtime scenery, enjoy the majestic moat, cedar trees, and ancient stone walls of the ruins.
Takada Park is the historic site of the Takada Castle ruins and the gorgeous cherry blossoms that grace the grounds each spring. Sakura Road is a highlight of the area; this illuminated tunnel of cherry blossoms lights up every night and makes the world into a magical place. While you’re there, take in the sight of the three-storied pagoda surrounded by cherry blossom trees. No matter where you turn at the Takada Castle Site Park, you’ll be mesmerized by the ephemeral beauty of cherry blossoms in a soulful Japanese setting.
Journey up the yagura for a panoramic view of the entire castle ruins dotted by clouds of fluffy pink and white cherry blossoms. The illuminated night view has even been selected as one of Japan’s top three sakura night viewing spots; it’s definitely worth the visit on your trail of cherry blossoms across Tohoku!
All photo provided by: Tohoku Tourism Promotion Organization