Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the start of springtime in Japan. Spring is the prettiest and most enjoyable season with radiant colours and pleasant weather. When the cherry blossoms are in bloom, Japan is buzzing with activity as locals and international visitors flock to the top sakura viewing spots and participate in spring festivals. 

Beyond the big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan is blessed with a rich variety of cherry blossom trees and the Tohoku region is a secret spring destination with spectacular cherry blossom attractions spread all over six prefectures — Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and Yamagata. Here’s an insider’s guide to the best cherry blossom viewing spots in Tohoku for an unforgettable Northeast Japan spring holiday. 

 

1. Kakunodate, Akita Prefecture

Yoshino cherry blossoms in KakunodateCherry blossom trees along Hinokinai River | Photo by Akita Prefecture

One of the best cherry blossom viewing attractions in Akita Prefecture (秋田県), Kakunodate (角館) is known as the “Little Kyoto of Michinoku”. Michinoku is the old name for the Tohoku Region. Nestled in Semboku City (仙北市), the ancient town has preserved many historical buildings and streets constructed during the Edo Period. 

Kakunodate Samurai Residence Street (角館武家屋敷通りKakunodate Bukeyashiki Dо̄ri) is the most beautiful part of the town with its splendid showcase of samurai architecture and culture. In springtime, the area is transformed into a sakura wonderland because of its remarkable display of over 100 weeping cherry blossom trees, shidarezakura (しだれ桜 ) lining both sides of the street. 

Just a short walk away, you can enjoy viewing more than 100 Yoshino cherry blossom trees along Hinokinai River (桧木内川). The riverbank bursts into mesmerising shades of light pink and white when the trees are in full bloom. The town is very lively during the annual Kakunodate Cherry Blossom Festival (角館桜まつり). 

 

Kakunodate Samurai Residence Street (角館武家屋敷通り)
Address: Higashi-Katsurakucho, Kakunodatemachi, Semboku-shi, Akita
Access: 20-minute walk from Kakunodate Station (角館駅)
Typical sakura blooming period: Late April

 

2. Hirosaki Castle, Aomori Prefecture

Weeping cherry blossoms in Hirosaki Castle ParkHirosaki Castle | Photo by Aomori Prefecture

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城) in Aomori Prefecture (青森県) is one of the top cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan. The castle is located in the sprawling Hirosaki Park (弘前公園)m famous for housing over 2,600 cherry trees. The scale of the sakura blooming in the park is astounding, as there are more than 50 varieties of trees, many of which are over 300 years old. 

The secret to the dense cherry blossoms blanketing the park lies in the pruning techniques that local farmers used to cultivate Aomori apple trees, which are acclaimed for its taste and quality. This unique Hirosaki-style of pruning is applied to the grooming of the cherry trees and the result is voluminous trees flowering with more buds than other cherry trees.

Popular photo-taking spots include the cherry blossoms decorating Hirosaki Castle, the scarlet Gejo Bridge flanked by cherry trees, and the picturesque castle moat. The Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival (弘前桜まつり) is an annual highlight not to be missed, and when it turns to night, the castle is illuminated for a different sakura viewing experience under the moonlight.   

 

Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)
Address: 1 Shimoshiroganecho, Hirosaki, Aomori 036-8356
Access: 15-minute bus ride from Hirosaki Station (弘前駅)
Typical sakura blooming period: Late April

 

3. Hanamiyama Park, Fukushima Prefecture

Blooming trees in Hanamiyama Park in FukushimaHanamiyama in full bloom | Photo by photoAC

Hanamiyama (花見山) is a privately-owned park in Fukushima Prefecture (福島県) that has become a magnet for cherry blossom hunters. The rolling fields and hillsides are covered by trees and plants cultivated by local farmers over the years. Because of the wide range of flowers blooming throughout the seasons, the park has gained a reputation for being the “Flower Paradise of Fukushima”.

In spring, Hanamiyama bursts into kaleidoscopic colours framing the majestic Mount Azuma. Soak in the beauty of the cherry blossom trees as you stroll through the park. The vast landscape boasts a network of walking trails that lead to viewpoints and lookouts where you can admire panoramic views of the flowers and mountains.  

 

Hanamiyama (花見山)
Address: 1-1 Sakae-machi, Fukushima City, Fukushima 960-8031
Access: 15-minute bus from Fukushima Station (福島駅)
Typical sakura blooming period: Mid to late April

 

 

4. Koiwai Farm, Iwate Prefecture 

The famous lone sakura tree in Koiwai Farm, Iwate PrefectureThe iconic Koiwai Farm Ipponzakura | Photo by photoAC

For a unique cherry blossom viewing experience, head to Koiwai Farm (小岩井農場) in Iwate Prefecture (岩手県) for this postcard-like scenery – the solitary cherry tree. The iconic Koiwai Farm Ipponzakura (小岩井農場一本桜) stands strikingly on the green meadow with the snow-capped Mount Iwate in the backdrop. 

The lonesome cherry blossom tree was planted over 100 years ago to provide shade for the cattle grazing the farmlands. If you’re lucky to visit the farm when the cherry tree is in full bloom, you will be treated to this picture-perfect view. Other parts of the Koiwai Farm like the open pastoral grounds in Makiba Park are surrounded by cherry blossom trees, too. 

One of Japan’s oldest dairy farms, Koiwai Farm is famous for its high quality dairy products. Join a guided tour to see the historical farm buildings, which are designated as Important Cultural Properties. Before leaving the farm, indulge in their rich offerings of dairy delicacies like their soft serve ice cream, cheese, pudding, and more. 

Interested to see other famous solitary cherry blossom trees in Tohoku? Check out this guide to more lone cherry blossom trees.

 

Koiwai Farm (小岩井農場)
Address: 36-1 Maruyachi, Shizukuishi, Iwate District, Iwate 020-0507
Access: 10-minute bus ride from Koiwai Station (小岩井駅)
Typical sakura blooming period: Late April

 

5. Funaoka Castle Park and Hitome Senbon, Miyagi Prefecture

Funaoka Castle ParkFunaoka Castle Park | Photo by Miyagi Prefecture

One of Japan’s top 100 places to see cherry blossoms is Funaoka Castle Park (船岡城址公園) in Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県). A fun way to get to the summit of the park is to ride the rustic slope car, an automatic mini monorail, that chugs through a stunning “sakura tunnel”.

When you’re at the summit of the park, feast your eyes on the famous view of Hitome Senbonzakura (一目千本桜), which means “a thousand cherry blossom trees in a glance.” Over 1,200 cherry trees bloom along the Shiroishi River (白石川), between Ogawara and Shibata town. 

Join the locals and participate in festivals like the Shibata Sakura Festival (しばた桜まつり) that’s held at Funaoka Castle Park and the riverside Ogawara Sakura Festival (おおがわら桜まつり). Read more about the best ways to enjoy Hitome Senbonzakura here

 

Funaoka Castle Park (船岡城址公園)
Address: Tateyama-95-1 Funaoka, Shibata, Shibata District, Miyagi 989-1606
Access: 15-minute walk from Funaoka Station (船岡駅)
Typical sakura blooming period: Mid April

 

6. Tsuruoka Park, Yamagata Prefecture

Cherry blossoms in Tsuruoka ParkTsuruoka Park | Photo by Yamagata Prefecture

Another top 100 cherry blossom spots in Japan, Tsuruoka Park is a popular attraction in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture (山形県). The park is built on the ruins of the Tsurugaoka Castle (鶴ヶ岡城). The historical castle was the residence for the feudal lords of the Shonai Domain; Shonai (庄内) refers to the north-western coastal region of Yamagata.

The atmospheric castle grounds are packed with over 700 cherry blossom trees that blend with the castle’s moat and stone walls. The castle park is the perfect place to enjoy ohanami (花見) or cherry blossoms viewing and locals enjoy having picnics with families and friends under the cherry trees. The park attracts crowds during its Tsuruoka Cherry Blossom Festival (鶴岡桜祭り) with food stalls and lively festival activities.   

 

Tsuruoka Park (鶴岡公園)
Address: 4 Babacho, Tsuruoka City, Yamagata 997-0035
Access: 10-minute bus from Tsuruoka Station (鶴岡駅)
Typical sakura blooming period: Mid April

 

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Teaser: Spring Beginnings Omiyage Snack Box by JAPAN RAIL CLUB (Available April 2024)

Just as a reward for reading this article so far, here’s an exclusive preview to our upcoming Omiyage Snack Box this April 2024! Titled “Spring Beginnings”, indulge in a box full of spring-themed snacks from Japan in anticipation of this beautiful and transient season!

 

Craving for more Japanese food? Check out our tasty guides to must-try food and must-buy souvenirs from Tohoku!