Blooming cherry blossoms herald long-awaited spring

Long winter in Northern Tohoku finally comes to an end when cherry blossoms start to bloom. Pinkish cherry flowers charm most of Japanese, young and old alike. People take to the streets to celebrate arrival of long-awaited spring, enjoy “Hanami” drinking under the cherry flowers.
Northern Tohoku boasts some nationwide famous places for “Hanami” including Hirosaki Castle in Aomori and Kakunodate in Akita.
Enjoy short but vibrant spring in the region.

Iwate Prefecture

  • Morioka Castle Park, Morioka city
    Once there was Morioka Castle but it was demolished after the Meiji Restoration and became a park as we know it today. Being located in the city centre, the Park is one of the popular “Hanami” places around Morioka city.
    Best “Hanami” period: mid to late April.
    Access: Just over 1 hour drive from APPI via Route 282 or take a train to Morioka.
  • Koiwai Farm, Sizukuishi town
    Koiwai Farm is one of the largest tourist attractions in Northern Tohoku. Started as a dairy farm, the Farm still produces dairy products but expanded to cover tourism business. Its huge guest ranch boasts restaurants, shops, cowsheds, dairy product factory, playing ground and offers various walk-in programmes to visitors.
    The Farm is also well known for “Hanami” in pastoral landscape.
    Best “Hanami” period: mid to late April.
    Access: 35 minute bus ride from Morioka station bus stop #10.
  • Tenshochi, Kitakami city
    A path along with the Kitakami river is bordered with cherry trees more than 2 km long, forming natural breathtaking arcade with cherry blossoms. Riding the horse-drawn carriage under such arcade is a real fun. Walking through the illuminated cherry trees in the evening is also fun.
    Best “Hanami” period: mid to late April.
    Access: 2 hours drive from APPI via Route 282 or 75 minutes via Expressway
  • Motsuji Temple, Hiraizumi city
    Its scale and elegance were unrivalled in the 12th century. Some history books say that this grand temple overwhelmed even notable temples in Kyoto, indicating great wealth of the region governed by the Fujiwaras at that time.
    The temple pond and garden is an important element of World Heritage as they represented pure land of Buddha that people aspired to after death. The pond still retains original architectural beauty from the Heian period.
    Access: 1 hour 40 minutes drive from Appi via Expressway or 3 hours via Route 282 and 4.

Akita Prefecture

  • Aspite Line, Iwate-Akita border
    Driving through towering snow walls as high as 8 meters in early Spring can be an once-in-a-lifetime experience. The 27 km Aspite Line which runs through Hachimantai area on Iwate-Akita border opens around mid-April, coincides with blooming cherry blossoms in Tohoku.
    “Hanami” after seeing snow walls may be an ideal combination of amusement, and actually such half-day bus tour is popular among tourists.
  • Kakunodate
    400 weeping cherry trees in the historical Samurai residence area look fabulous. Cherry blossoms cascading against authentic black walls of Samurai residences make a very Japanese, beautiful contrast.
    10 minutes walk from the Samurai residence area is another “Hanami” spot in Kakunodate. On the bank of the Hinokinai river, 2 km line of cherry trees forms a magnificent cherry blossom tunnel. Cherry Blossom Festival held between Apr. 20 and May. 5 every year.
    Best “Hanami” period: late April to early May
    Access: 2 hours drive from APPI via Route 282 and 46.

Aomori Prefecture

  • Hirosaki Castle
    Undoubtedly most popular “Hanami” spot in Tohoku as more than 2 million visitors coming to its Cherry Blossom Festival every year. The Castle has also attracted attention from all over the world, and was chosen as one of the “places to see before you die” on Facebook with more than seven hundred thousand likes.
    Unlike cherry trees elsewhere, cherry trees in Hirosaki Castel stretch their branches lower and horizontally rather than vertically. The secret of this is pruning technique used by tree doctors who are responsible for maintaining cherry trees in good condition at the Castle. Utilising pruning technique originally developed for apple trees, tree doctors trim cherry trees to grow more in horizontal direction. By so doing, cherry blossoms bloom at much lower positions, almost at eye-level. This adds unique value to “Hanami” in the Castle.
    *Admission fee required to enter certain zones.
    *Finding vacant car parking space is very difficult during the Festival.
    Best “Hanami” period: late April to early May
    Access: 1 hour 40 minutes drive from APPI via Expressway.
  • Aomori city
    The capital city of most northern prefecture in Honshu island has a lot to offer, ranging from seafood such as scallop and tuna to Sannai-Maruyama site from the Jomon period (5,900 to 2,200 B.C.).
    Aomori Nebuta Festival is one of the three biggest summer festivals in Tohoku which is held for 6 days only between Aug. 2 and 7. If you cannot see the festival, no worries. At Nebuta Museum “Wa-Rasse”, four full-size floats that were actually used during the festival are on display. You can also experience “Haneto” dancing and “Taiko” drumming at the Museum.
    Locally popular Miso and curry and milk soup Ramen with butter topping is worth a try.