Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Hottest Hanami spots in Northern Tohoku, Japan

It's my 5th time visiting this amazing country, and I've decided to explore the "off beaten path", to Northern Honshu, the Tohoku region. I have selected the 3 northernmost prefectures (Iwate, Akita & Aomori) for a less touristy and more authentic travel experience. And since I'm visiting during spring time, I've done my homework and checked out the top hanami spots in the area. Scroll down to find out where they are.

Iwate Prefecture

Kitakami - Kitakami Tenshochi Park 北上市立公園展勝地

Location - 15mins walk from JR Kitakami station

We kinda missed the best viewing time for this location due to premature scattering of sakura petals after two days of continuous rain and strong winds. However, the late blooming weeping cherry trees were at their peak, so we at least saw some blooms before moving on to the next hanami spot.

View of the sakura trees along the Kitakami river (from Toyoko Inn hotel)

Kitakami river

A yearly affair, Koinobori (鯉のぼり) "Carp streamer" hanging across the river during sakura season

Almost bare trees from the bridge

Weeping cherry trees


The ground covered in pink

Morioka - Takamatsu Park 高松公園の池

Location - 15mins bus ride from Morioka Station (220 yen). From bus stop 11, take bus 307 heading towards Matsuzono Bus Terminal 松園バスターミナル. Get off at the Takamatsu-no-Ike-guchi (高松の池口).

This is a local park with a large pond, with sakura trees lining the banks. Luckily enough, the blooms were mostly intact despite losing petals rapidly in the strong wind, and rain.

Morioka - Morioka Castle Ruins Park 盛岡城跡公園(岩手公園)

Location - 20mins walk from JR Morioka station

Another local park with a small area around the castle's foundation decorated pink with cherry blossoms. They too suffered from the rain and wind, but we caught the blooms nonetheless.

Morioka - Ishiwarizakura 石割桜 (Rock breaking Cherry tree)

Location - In front of the district courthouse (10mins walk from Morioka Castle Ruins Park)

The legendary 400 year old tree that grows out of a granite rock, breaking it into half and yet holding it together with its roots. It's a sight to behold. The front part of the tree (wind facing) was already bare, but there were still some blooms left at the back!

Aomori Prefecture

Hirosaki - Hirosaki Park 弘前公園

Location - 15mins bus ride from JR Hirosaki station (100yen Dotemachi Loop Bus 土手町循環バス)

This is the most famous of all hanami spots in Aomori prefecture (and in Tohoku), it's a touristy park but worthy of a visit. We're blessed with good weather and were elated to find the sakura in full bloom when we're there. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Hirosaki castle

Mt. Iwaki in the distance

Flower boats in operation at outer moat where petals had fallen

Lots of street food stalls

Goshogawara - Ashino park 芦野公園

Location - Beside the Ashinokoen Station on Tsugaru Railway Line (non JR line)

This spot is famous for its iconic sakura lined train tracks and station. It has a pond and a tiny zoo inside the park. The location is a little hard to get to, and we didn't see much foreign tourists here.

Nobody wanna leave the station until the train is gone

The sakura tunnel

Cafe converted from former train station building

Akita Prefecture

Kakunodate - Kakunodate 角館 (武家屋敷 & 桧木内川)

Location - 15mins walk from JR Kakunodate station

This is the most famous hanami spot in Akita prefecture (and also Tohoku). It has two main hanami spots here, the Samurai district area, and along the Hinokinai river. The weeping cherry trees at the Samurai district is the signature landmark here.

Shades of pink


Hinokinai river

Sakura in the northern Tohoku region typically blooms from late April to early May. Due to global warming, they tend to bloom earlier instead of later. The best bet is to visit on 3rd/4th week of April instead of May. For more info on how to plan a sakura chase, please click here to find out more.

The oldest Somei Yoshino Cherry tree in Japan (Hirosaki park)

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