Matsushima Bay, one of three great views of Japan, hosts 260 large and small islets, and the area’s beauty influenced many great pieces of art and poetry through the years. In fact, inspired by his love for cherry blossoms, the renowned 12th century Japanese poet, Saigyo Hoshi, penned the poem, “Let Me Die Under the Blossoms in Spring”. From this garden named after a leg of Saigyo’s journey, the bursting blossoms of the Somei Yoshino cherry trees mingle with the green pine trees and the blue waters of Matsushima bay.
The Kitakami River is home to quite a few hundred-year-old somei yoshino cherry blossoms. Nearby, the hill known as Jingaoka is the perfect vantage point for the famous two-kilometer-long tunnel of ten thousand-odd sakura trees of Tenshochi Park. Established in the 1920s, the park was meant as a sanctuary for the locals to rest and relax. As a result, a total of 150 species of sakura trees, including somei yoshino and Edohiganzakura (the oldest type of sakura), have been planted there.
During the annual Kitakami Tenshochi Cherry Blossom Festival (mid April to early May), colourful carp-shaped streamers that embody the hopes for the health and futures of young boys flutter in the wind above the river, performing a duet with the sakura in full bloom to decorate the riverside.
A two-kilometer-long stretch of around 400 sakura trees lines the bank of the Hinokinai River which runs through Kakunodate. Every year, this samurai town plays host to a cherry blossom festival.
Blossoms cascade like a waterfall from the top of a large Beni-shidare tree (red weeping cherry blossom), leaving a stream of petals on the ground. Illuminated by the evening light-up, the sight of this gorgeous sakura leaves no heart unmoved.
Once small and wiry, the edohiganzakura tree stands today in its full glory through the cracks of a gigantic rock. The 360-year-old spectacle of nature known as the “rock breaking sakura” is located at the site of Morioka District Court. In fact, the place was formerly the garden of the Kita family, one of the three families that ruled the Nanbu han in the Edo period (around 1700s). To this day, how people of the time moved the rock without the kind of heavy machinery remains a mystery.
Tohoku’s highlight; Edohiganzakura with Mt. Iwate as backdrop. This sakura is a symbol of spring in Iwate.
One of Japan’s three major sakura spots, the area offers the chance to savor the quintessential Japanese sights of sakura trees, castles, and stonewalls. Certainly, not to miss during full bloom are the flower petals that carpet the castle’s outer moat. The ishigaki, or stonewalls, is currently undergoing renovation, but the splendor of the view remains untouched.
Built more than 400 years ago within today’s Hirosaki Park, Hirosaki Castle is a popular place for sakura viewing. As proof, every spring, the grandeur of the castle tower is accentuated by flurries of sakura petals blowing in the wind. From late April to early May, around 2,600 sakura trees of 50 different species, including somei yoshino and shidarezakura, come into full bloom, bathing the path from the moat to the castle tower in a medley of pink.
To the locals, eating crabs comes hand in hand with hanami (viewing sakura) because of the overlap of the cherry blossom and crabbing seasons. Don’t be surprised if you see locals eating a crab under sakura—this is the best way to enjoy life after all!
Known as the Little Kyoto of Michinoku, Kakunodate used to be a prosperous city ruled by the Satake-kita clan. Now, the town, featuring well-preserved samurai houses and merchant mansions, always attracts a crowd in spring when the sakura trees come into full bloom. Blossoming against black traditional houses, the sight of the pink flowers of these weeping sakura trees kindles a yearning for the past. In fact, some of the sakura are said to have come to Kakunodate as the dowry of a princess.