Top Three Cherry Blossom Destinations in Northern Japan
February 2, 2017
Cherry blossom season is one of the most beautiful times for a visit to Japan, tourists and locals alike flock to popular cherry blossom viewing spots for picnics and drinks under the pale pink canopy. The short-lived blossoms draw crowds from the end of March until early April to popular destinations in Tokyo, and Osaka. But if you’re willing to travel a bit farther north, the cherry blossom season is extended until the middle of May. Whether you are arriving in Japan too late to catch the main blooming season in Tokyo, or if you are interested in following the blossoms as they move north, here are our three best cherry blossom destinations in Northern Japan.
The cherry blossom season here on the Northern island of Japan starts from early May and lasts around two weeks. Goryokaku Park is arguably one of Hokkaido’s most famous cherry blossom viewing spots because of the trees that are planted around its star shaped moat. Originally built during the end of the Edo Period, this star shaped piece of land was used as a military fort. After Fort Goryokaku lost its military importance it was turned into a public park, and over one thousand cherry trees were planted along the moat. This view is especially beautiful when seen from above, and this is possible by visiting Goryokaku Tower, a 107-meter observation tower, located just beside the main entrance to the park.
If you make a trip to Hakodate to see the cherry blossoms, don’t leave too early! The blossoms are illuminated at night with lanterns hanging from the sturdy branches so the beauty of this limited season can be savored well into the night.
One of the most famous spots to enjoy the cherry blossoms is Hirosaki Castle Park, in Aomori. The park is massive, and surrounded by moats of water that are blanketed with pale petals during cherry blossom season.
The park boasts over 2,500 trees in 50 different varieties, and lays claim to the best blossoms due to a special pruning technique.
Originally developed in apple cultivation, this technique focuses on pruning branches that may not receive enough sunlight in order to promote new growth in a sunlight abundant area. In addition it focuses on cutting off buds toward the base of the tree in order to focus energy on the buds towards the end of the branches, which results in large colorful blossoms. Before this technique was commonly used, cutting cherry trees was widely discouraged, even if the tree was sick, or diseased. But through using this technique, Aomori managed to cultivate stronger, healthier trees, and the practice has been adopted all over Japan.
This pruning technique was originally developed in Aomori, which is renowned for its apples, so be sure to buy some apple products when you visit Hirosaki Castle.
There is plenty more to see at Hirosaki Castle Park, so make sure to check out the cherry blossom tunnel, and rent a canoe to paddle along the stretch of water surrounding the park.
You can also pay a visit to the castle keep itself, which has been temporarily moved for renovation, but the interior is still open to the public.
The castle was originally five stories high and built in 1611, but it had to be rebuilt in 1810 after the old keep burned down. The new castle is three stories high, and is the only castle in Tohoku that was not built in the modern era.
Again don’t leave too early, at night lanterns are lit among the blossoms, and the park begins to lose its crowds. The festive atmosphere becomes peaceful and otherworldly; you don’t want to miss it. The season runs roughly from the middle of April until sometimes the beginning of May, depending on the year.
Kakunodate Samurai Village
Kakunodate is home to dozens of traditional samurai houses, and is one of the best places to see the traditional samurai architecture in Japan. Most of the residences are still privately owned by the descendants of the samurai families, however some are open to the public such as the Ishiguro, Aoyagi and Nishinomiya residences. So while you are visiting make sure to stop by one of these public samurai residences to get a glimpse of traditional Japanese life.
Kakunodate has a large selection of weeping cherry trees, and when in full bloom they look quite impressive with the historic homes as their backdrop.
As the story goes, the samurai families in Kakunodate imported the cherry trees from Kyoto during the Edo period in an attempt to outdo the other families. This makes the trees almost as old as the houses themselves.
If you have time, why not also take a stroll along the Hinokinai River to enjoy the tunnel of cherry blossoms in full bloom along the riverbank. The 2 km tunnel has been designated as a Place of Scenic Beauty by the National Government, so you are sure to see many families enjoying their Hanami picnics here. The trees are usually in bloom from the middle of April until the beginning of May, depending on the year.
Wherever you decide to enjoy your cherry blossom season it is sure to be an experience to remember. Northern Japan hosts some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable, and during Hanami season this is coupled with the short-lived beauty of the cherry trees, an unforgettable combination. We hope you enjoy your Hanami experience in Japan.
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