The blooming of the beautiful cherry blossoms symbolises the beginning of spring. During this time of the year, cherry blossoms in varying hues of pink transform Japan into an ethereal fairyland.
Most people flock to the famed tourist sites to appreciate the beauty of these transient flowers. If you are looking to escape the crowds, the region of Tohoku is perfect. Its remote location makes this area one of the most underrated yet most attractive cherry blossom spots in Japan!
Besides soaking in the resplendent views, you can also follow the locals and hold a merrymaking hanami party. For that to happen, here is a guide to the Best Cherry Blossom Spots To Welcome Spring In Tohoku.
When Do The Cherry Blossoms Bloom In Tohoku?
Tohoku region has always been known for their cold harsh winter. With temperatures only warming up in February, the sakura season here starts later. For those who missed out the blooming season in other parts of Japan, you can catch a glimpse of it in Tohoku, which usually starts early April until the end of April as you travel further up north.
But, this year in 2021, Tohoku’s cherry blossoms are forecasted to bloom significantly earlier than normal because of warmer temperatures.
|Est. Flowering Date||Est. Full Bloom|
|Fukushima||26 March||30 March|
|Miyagi / Sendai||27 March||1 April|
|Niigata||29 March||3 April|
|Yamagata||5 April||9 April|
|Akita||11 April||15 April|
|Iwate||9 April||15 April|
|Aomori||14 April||19 April|
Forecast dates updated as of 25 March 2021. Information source: https://tenki.jp/sakura
Generally, the cherry blossom trees will bloom in order geographically, making its way up from Fukushima to Aomori. Let’s follow the cherry blossom trail according to the above table and check out each prefecture’s best spots!
Best Spots To See The Cherry Blossoms
Fukushima: Miharu Takizakura
There are about 10,000 cherry trees in Miharu Town, a small charming town in central Fukushima. The whole town is famed for flowers but, the true gem that lies here is what many Japanese consider as one of the most beautiful cherry tree in Japan.
This famous Benishidare Sakura (or the weeping cherry breed) is locally known as the “Miharu Takizakura” (meaning waterfall cherry blossom) because of the abundance of small dark-pink petals that hangs down. Bending downwards on long, slender branches, this gorgeous cherry blossom tree looks just like a cascading waterfall.
Standing majestically at a height of 12 metres and with a trunk girth of 9.5 meters, this single tree attracts throngs of people every sakura season to get upclose and admire its incredible beauty. Estimated to be over a thousand years old, do you wonder what stories will this ancient tree tell?
If your time permits, come visit the Miharu Takizakura in the evening, where you will get treated to a hauntingly beautiful sight of the flower blooms being aglow with lights.
Miyagi: Hitome Senbon Zakura
Stretching 8 kilometers along the Shiroishi river bank, all the way from the town of Ogawara to Shibata in southern Miyagi Prefecture, are endless rows of the most sublime cherry blossoms. Known affectionately as “Hitome Senbon Zakura”, it translates to mean “a thousand cherry blossom trees in one view”.
This magnificent scene of around 1200 pale-pink cherry blossom trees lining the peacefully meandering river is a sight to behold. At certain angles, you can also see the spectacular snow-capped Zao Mountain Range looming in the background. Almost like a postcard, but even prettier.
As you walk down the Shiroishi river, the cherry blossom enchantment continues at Funaoka Castle Ruins Park. Go on a magical ride in the retro slope car where it will take you through layers of 2,500 pink sakura trees to reach the breathtaking scene at the castle’s summit. The panoramic view and the extraordinary beautiful surroundings have earned it a place in Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots!
Note: The Hitome Senbon Zakura Festival 2021 will be canceled to prevent the transmission of the new coronavirus.There will be no Matsuri this year, but you can still stroll this scenic area and admire the sakura blossoms along the Shiroishi Riverside and at Funaoka Castle Ruins Park.
Sendai: Sendai (Aoba) Castle Ruins
Sendai Castle, once known as Aoba Castle, was built in 1601 by the powerful feudal lord Date Masamune. Since the establishment of this military fort, Miyagi Prefecture has flourished as the castle town of the influential Date clan. There are many sites to catch a glimpse of the cherry blossoms in Sendai, but what better way than to do it on the grounds of this once-resplendent castle.
Built 100 meters above the town for strategic defense purposes, all that is left now are remnants of the outer stone walls and a statue of Date Masamune. Today, the castle ruins have become a scenic park called Aobayama Park for locals and tourists instead. And, it is a famous cherry blossom viewing spot as well!
As an important historical landmark of Sendai, you can view the pretty-in-pink cherry blossoms and ponder upon the city’s tumultuous history with stoicism. The impressive bronze statue of Date Masamune, armor-clad and on horseback, also creates a stunning contrast to the soft petals of the surrounding sakuras.
Note: Cherry Blossom chasers can follow Sendai City on Instagram for regular updates of the cherry blossoms in Sendai and its surrounding areas.
Niigata: Takada Castle Site Park
If you have never seen cherry blossoms at night before, Takada Castle Site Park in Joetsu city has to be on your travel checklist.
Within the park stands the impressive ruins of the Takada Castle, built in 1614 by Matsudaira Tadateru (the sixth son of powerful feudal lord Tokugawa Ieyasu). In 1909, local troops planted over 2000 sakura trees surrounding the castle to celebrate a victorious battle. It is believed that this event became the start of Takada Parks’ famed Cherry Blossom Festival. Today, one can find some 4,000 Somei Yoshino cherry trees around the park!
When dusk falls, the castle lights up in a greenish glow and the pink clouds of cherry blossoms get illuminated by Japanese paper lanterns. Take a romantic stroll along “Sakura Road”, a 300metre walkway lined with more sakura trees. Or, join in the bustle of the countless festival stalls selling food and drinks.
The magical atmosphere is reflected upon the calm waters of the castle’s moat, earning it its well-deserved reputation as one of Japan’s top three cherry blossom night views!
Note: The 96th Takada Castle Ruins Park Cherry Blossom Party is happening from 1st April to 15th April 2021. Social distancing rules apply.
Yamagata: Tendo Cherry Blossom Festival
Held at the summit of Mt. Maizuru where approximately 2,000 cherry blossoms bloom in April every year, the Tendo Cherry Blossom Festival is a truly unique event that is worth a visit. Besides flower viewing and hanami parties, a game of human chess takes place as well!
The city of Tendo in Yamagata is not a popular attraction among international tourists, but it attracts a drove of local tourists during cherry blossom season. Tendo is Japan’s largest producer of Shogi (Japanese chess) pieces and they are mighty proud of it. Every year, the people celebrate the arrival of spring by combining the Cherry Blossom festivities together with one of Japan’s weirdest events, which is Ningen Shogi.
In this human shogi game, the shogi pieces are volunteers dressed up as armoured warriors and kimono-clad chamber maids. Their moves are controlled by professional shogi players on the side, battling it out to win the game. Set against the backdrop of pastel pink sakura trees, this is a remarkable spectacle that will leave wonderful memories.
Note: As of the published article date, some parts of the 2021 Tendo Cherry Blossom Festival will be cancelled and the Human Shogi event is under review. More details can be found here.
Akita: Kakunodate Historical Town
Emanating nostalgic vibes with a scenery that has remained largely unchanged for a few centuries, Kakunodate’s nickname as the “Little Kyoto of Michinoku” is well-deserved. This famed destination in Akita Prefecture is one of the Tohoku region’s top cherry blossom spots as well!
Over at Bukeyashiki Street, a designated traditional preservation district, you can find well-preserved samurai residences and black wooden samurai gates surrounded by stunning weeping cherry trees. 162 of these historical trees have survived for centuries and have been selected as a National Natural Monument of Japan. As you stroll along the charming streets, rosy-hued cherry blooms arches gracefully over the sloping tiled roofs of age-old residences, making you feel as if you have just time-travelled to the Edo period.
Another marvellous sight is the tunnel of soft-pink cherry blossom trees planted along the tranquil Uchikawa River. These trees were planted in 1934 to commemorate the birth of Emperor Emeritus Akihito and they now provide much joy to the people. One of the best things to do is to have a cosy hanami picnic on the river bank and enjoy the views of nature’s finest.
Iwate: Kitakami Tenshochi Park
At Kitakami Tenshochi Park in Iwate Prefecture, a 2km-long tunnel of breathtaking cherry blossoms welcomes visitors in the prettiest hues of light blush pink. From afar, the never-ending row of cherry blossom trees lining the idyllic Kitakami River is a majestic sight. On top of that, strung across the river are 300 carp streamers that flutter gaily against the blue sky.
Not only is this magnificent site one of the Top 100 cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan, it also made its way into the top three most famous cherry blossom viewing spots in Michinoku (ancient name of Tohoku area)!
The planting of cherry trees in this park began in 1920, with 2021 being its 100th anniversary. Today, an astounding 10,000 sakura trees of 150 different species bloom in full glory, which can be appreciated from a nostalgic horse carriage or from the vantage point of a sightseeing boat. After the daytime activities, stay back to enjoy the sakura blossoms as dusk approaches.
The gorgeously-lit cherry blossom trees take on a different type of beauty and exude a romantic vibe.
Aomori: Hirosaki Park
For something on a sensational level, head over to Hirosaki Park where it is recognised as one of Japan’s top three cherry blossom viewing locations. The Hirosaki Sakura Festival is also one of the largest sakura matsuri in Japan and attracts over 2 million visitors every year!
This massive park (about the size of 10 Tokyo Domes) is home to 2600 trees of over 50 different varieties. It all started in 1715, when the Tsugaru clan planted 25 Kasumizakura cherry trees within the grounds of Hirosaki Castle. The castle you see now in Hirosaki Park used to be a splendid five-story tower, which unfortunately got destroyed by lightning. Restored in 1810, it is the only castle in the Tohoku region that was rebuilt during the Edo period.
You can spend an entire day in this pink cotton candy wonderland. Experiencing a park of cherry trees in full bloom is remarkable but have you seen a “Sakura Carpet” before? Delicate pink petals fall from hanging sakura branches onto the moat, creating the most enchanting river of pink.