Occupying the northeastern section of Japan’s main island Honshu, Tohoku region is without a doubt one of the most picturesque areas in the country. It is known for its remote landscapes, nostalgic castle towns, and rural way of living. Needless to say, all these are made more dreamy in spring when cherry blossoms bathe the sights with splashes of pink hues. Despite being out of the way, the trip to this countryside is worth all the trouble for the fleeting beauty that awaits you here. Here are its 15 best spots for picture perfect cherry blossom viewing:
Shiroishigawa Tsutsumi Senbon Sakura
With around 1200 sakura trees planted along an 8-kilometer stretch of riverbanks, it’s no wonder that this spot is the most popular place in Miyagi for hanami parties (cherry blossom viewing). Because of its generous space, the area is always overcrowded with cherry blossom trees, but never with people – that claiming your own piece of sakura ceiling is always an easy task. On clear days, the magnificent view is joined by an equally majestic snowcapped Zao Mountains, which you can thoroughly enjoy while riding a hanami boat. It’s a real life painting that will surely stay in your memory for a long, long time.
Address: Oya, Ogawara, Shibata-gun, Miyagi Prefecture
Website: http://oogawara.com/sakura.html (Japanese only)
This 1200-year old shrine complex at the center of Shiogama city is not only the region’s most important shrines, but it is also the city’s most beautiful cherry blossom site. The shrine grounds are home to over 300 sakura trees of over twenty varieties, including the Shiogama-zakura. It is a legendary tree used in the shrine’s crest and is also said to be the subject of songs since the ancient times.
Address: Ichimoriyama 1-1, Shiogama-shi, Miyagi Prefecture
Website: http://www.shiogamajinja.jp/ (Japanese only)
Funaoka Castle Ruin Park
Considered to be among the 100 best spots for cherry blossoms in Japan, Funaoka Castle Ruin Park is indeed a magical sight to behold come spring time. Aside from the sakura-clad castle ruins, the site boasts of stunning views of the Zao Mountain Range and even the Pacific Ocean. Its most popular attraction is the 305-meter slope car ride to reach the area’s highest peak.
Address: 95-1 Tateyama, Funaoka, Shibata-machi, Miyagi Prefecture
With accolades like “100 best spots for cherry blossoms in Japan”, “Japan’s 100 scenic spots where people and nature blend in harmony”, and “ Japan’s top 100 castles”, you know this is a place worth seeking out. The combination of a beautifully preserved historical landmark and nature’s most stunning flowers is a dream-like landscape you don’t want to miss out on. Just imagine an entire castle moat turned pink by these spring charmers. The castle grounds also has an amazing sakura tunnel walkway and a mesmerizing view of weeping cherry trees with Mt. Iwaki in the background. For activities, visitors can rent boats or stay until evening for night illumination views.
Address: 1 Shimoshirogane-cho, Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture
Price: Free (from November 24 – March 31); Rest of the year – ¥310 (Adult), ¥100 (Child)
Another address included in the 100 best cherry blossom spots in Japan, Ashino Park is every nature lover’s dream destination. Sprawled over a massive 80-hectare space, it is home to a lake, thousands of pine trees and cherry blossoms, and to adorable animals, too, such as deers, goats, and a variety of bird species. It is likewise the site of Dazai Osamu Literary monument and another one that marks the origin of Tsugaru Shamisen, a Japanese music instrument. The best way to get here is via Tsugaru Railway Line. A tunnel of cherry trees will be the ones to greet you as you approach the train station.
Address: Ashino 84-171 Kanagicho, Goshogawara-shi, Aomori Prefecture
Website: http://www.aomorishokoren.or.jp/shokokai/kanagi/cat482/ (Japanese only)
Morioka Castle Ruins Park
Also known as Iwate Park, Morioka Castle Ruins Park stuns with its granite stone walls and surrounding nature. It is one of the three great castle ruins in the Tohoku region and has also become the symbol of the locale. During sakura season, it is the site of a cherry blossoms festival, as well as night illumination events.
Address: Uchimaru 1-37, Morioka, Iwate Prefecture
Kitakami Tenshochi Sakura
This public park on the eastern banks of Iwate’s Kitakami River is another venue selected as one of the 100 best spots for cherry blossoms in Japan. It has over 10,000 sakura trees comprised of about 250 species, including 90-year old Somei Yoshino trees that form a canopy over a 2-kilometer path. It is an interesting place for sakura viewing as visitors can enjoy several activities here. You can ride a horse-drawn carriage under the foliage of sakura blooms or ride a boat to view the pink trees from the river. A cherry blossoms festival is also held every year, wherein you can expect several traditional events.
Address: Tachibana, Kitakami-shi, Iwate Prefecture
Website: http://sakura.kitakami-kanko.jp/ (Japanese only)
This lone sakura tree is pretty unique and special. Estimated to be about 360 years old, it grew from a crack in a huge boulder and has been stubbornly splitting the rock as it grows. It is located nearby the Morioka Castle Ruins Park and is definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.
Address: 9-1 Uchimaru, Morioka, Iwate Prefecture (in front of Morioka District Court Building)
Kakunodate Samurai District
For an extra dose of nostalgia, come to Kakunodate Samurai District. Its streets are lined with beautifully preserved samurai residences, shrines, temples, and merchant storehouses. There are six houses open to the public offering a glimpse into a bygone era of old Japan. Come spring, the atmosphere in this old town is all the more romantic with weeping cherry blossoms whose pinkish branches almost touch the ground. Planted during the Edo Period, these trees are as aged as the village.
Address: Kamisugasawa Kakunodatemachi, Senboku, Akita Prefecture
Price: Free (separate admission fees apply for samurai houses and museums)
Honjo Park in Yorihonjo City is another site of a castle ruin made beautiful by its surrounding nature. It is adorned with a dense cover of trees, at least a thousand of which are pale pink cherry blossoms. It also boasts of a lake, a sloping terrain that offers fantastic views of the city, and the Maizuru Onsen located within the park’s premises.
Address: Ozaki, Yurihonjo-shi, Akita Prefecture
Website: http://www.yurihonjo-kanko.jp/ (Japanese only)
Tsuruoka Park sure does pack crowds when cherry blossoms come into bloom. It is the city’s most popular spot for hanami parties, where locals gather together for fun picnics under the gorgeous branches of around 730 sakura trees. The atmosphere is very festive as the park is also dotted with Yatai food stalls and shopping stands. If you want to enjoy sakura with a taste of local culture, this park should make it to your itinerary.
Address: 4 Babacho, Tsuruoka-shi, Yamagata Prefecture
Yamagata’s entry to the 100 best spots for cherry blossoms in Japan, Eboshiyama Park is indeed a springtime stunner with its mountainside terrain enveloped in at least a thousand Somei Yoshino and Shidarezakura trees. Because of its elevation, it also offers amazing views of the Yonezawa basin. Consider this spot if you’re keen on having a date with nature.
Address: 1415 Akayu, Nanyo-shi, Yamagata Prefecture
Website: http://yamagatakanko.com/spotdetail/?data_id=7511 (Japanese only)
Tsurugajo Castle Park
If you prefer a standing castle instead of ruins, there’s Tsurugajo Castle Park in Fukushima. Albeit a reconstructed one, this historical landmark was at least able to preserve its original stone walls, while inside, there are numerous exhibits that tell of the castle’s and of Aizu’s great history. The top floor has a viewing platform that gives visitors a feeling of a feudal lord looking over his domain, whereas the castle grounds are planted with approximately 1,000 cherry blossom trees of different varieties. As they bloom, the entire area becomes so beautiful that it literally looks like a scene lifted from a fairy tale storybook.
Address: 1-1 Otemachi, Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima Prefecture
Price: Free (separate admission fees apply for the castle tower and the Rinkaku tea cottage)
Kasumigajo Park or the site of the Nihonmatsujo Castle grounds is in many ways like Tsurugajo Castle Park. Both castles were destroyed in the Boshin War towards the end of the Edo Period, and both were reconstructed in recent times, with the stone walls being the only remaining original structures. There are about 1,700 sakura trees scattered all over its grounds. It’s a different castle in a different city in Fukushima, but do expect the same dreamy castle atmosphere.
Address: 232 3-Chome Kakunai, Nihonmitsu-shi, Fukushima Prefecture
Website: http://www.nihonmatsu-kanko.jp/ (Japanese only)
Held as a national treasure, the Miharu Takisakura is a thousand-year-old cherry blossom tree that is worth the pilgrimage, especially if you’re already traveling around the Fukushima area. It is one of the only three giant sakura trees in all of Japan. Standing at 13.5 meters tall, its flowering branches spread in all directions, cascading like a waterfall. It’s nature’s rare masterpiece that you surely don’t want to miss.
Address: Sakurakubo Taki, Miharu-machi, Tamura-gun, Fukushima Prefecture
Website: https://www.takizakura.com/ (Japanese only)
All price information in this article is as of May 2017.
Thumbnail is from Flickr.