The Tohoku region definitely takes the crown in the ranking of the most underrated areas of Japan. What many people don’t know is that it also deserves a special prize for having the most incredible cherry blossom spots! The sakura season starts there a little bit later, the best time to visit is from mid-April to early May which is a secret ace up your sleeve. We have all heard that the cherry blossom season can be a bit pricey and more difficult to book after all. Choosing Tohoku as your main destination can help you change that and enjoy magnificent blossoms without counting every penny.
We do recommend checking the cherry blossom forecast before setting your itinerary in stone. In general we can say that places closer to Tokyo will experience full blossoms earlier so it would be best to slowly make your way up north.
In the new normal we will still need to think about safety, and Tohoku is your place for that! Hanami flower viewings in Tohoku mean less crowds and you get to be closer to nature. Moreover, driving around this area is a pleasure with natural landscapes at your fingertips. We have ventured to every corner of Tohoku to find the best cherry blossoms and we have found something for everyone: samurai castles, magnificent mountains, cherry blossom tunnels...
Hirosaki Park, Aomori
Kicking off our list in the most northern prefecture of the Tohoku region, we head to Aomori’s Hirosaki famous all over Japan for housing one of the top three cherry blossom viewing spots in Tohoku! The whole of Hirosaki Park is a calming tapestry of pink hues creating a soothing spring panorama where you'll find the old Somei-Yoshino tree planted here in 1882. Fun fact for all the gardeners out there: the Yoshino variety of cherry trees is the most popular in Japan! You can join the local festivities during the cherry blossom festival from late April to early May. Don’t miss out on the evening illuminations; the gentle pinks transform at night and the castle becomes a mesmerising focal point of the arrangement.
The park is easily accessible from Hirosaki station, you can either take a 15-minute bus ride or a 30-minute walk.
Shiroishi River, Miyagi
Surrounded by 1,200 cherry blossom trees with a gorgeous backdrop of imposing mountains clinging to the last memories of winter, the Shiroishi River is a sight for sore eyes. It's known under the name of Hitome Senbonzakura which means “1000 Cherry Blossoms at a Glance” and it really does give the illusion of endless blossom. They are located in Ogawara Town between the Funaoka and Ogawara stations, and spread over a length of 8 kilometres by the river bank. Our top recommendation for everyone who wants to join the festivities like a local is to bring lunch or grab a takeaway and enjoy it by the river. If you're worried about sitting on the ground, during the cherry blossoms season most Japanese covenience stores sell plastic sheets that don't take too much space (they're called 'leisure sheets' in Japanese).
Getting here is simple, just take a 30-minute train ride from Sendai Station!
Kitakami Tenshochi Park, Iwate
Another member of the exclusive top 3 cherry blossom sights in Tohoku club is Kitakami Tenshochi Park, home to over 10,000 cherry trees and 150 varieties! It’s revered for its Sakura tunnel - imagine walking down a path surrounded by century old cherry trees extending their branches creating a canopy of tiny pink flowers above your head. The local cherry blossom festival starts in early April and continues to May. Viewing Sakura trees always equals eating so don’t be shy and try one of the local specialties! Over the river you will find 300 koinobori carp streamers praying for children’s health, connected to Children's Day, which in Japan is celebrated on the 5th of May. If you have some more time, take a riverboat cruise, join the celebrations and admire the fluttering carps.
The festivities are only a short 20 minute walk away from Kitakami Station which is on the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen line.
Takada Park, Niigata
Get captivated by the warm lantern light illuminating cherry blossoms and the local castle - all of this goodness only amplified by its mirror image glittering in the moat. With 4,000 cherry trees and 3,000 lanterns, Joetsu City’s Takada Park is a heavy weight contender to take the top spot on our Tohoku ranking. Don’t miss out on the ‘Sakura Road’ which is lit up every night during the viewing period and will transport you to a cotton candy fairytale land. Still, the key element of this park is the turreted castle which you will find at its heart. The park is slightly smaller than the previous locations so it's a perfect evening destination. To access this stunning park take the Hokuriku Shinkansen line to Joetsumyoko station and change to a local train to Takada Station ( 2 stations away!), and then take a bus or a walk for 15 minutes to get to the park.
Akita’s ‘Little Kyoto’ is where the samurai spirit and cherry blossoms come together every year. It’s the last spot considered to be one of Tohoku’s top 3 cherry blossom locales. Walk down the historical streets of this samurai town and admire the spring miracle that are the weeping cherry trees. Visiting Kakunodate means enjoying springtime splendorur with a dose of history, the Shidare-zakura trees hailing from approx. the year 1656! With a long history of local cherry trees, many unique crafts involve cherry bark and are a must-see in Kakunodate. Along the banks of the Hinokinai river you will find over 400 cherry trees creating a completely different mood with their flamboyant branches. The samurai district is only 5 minutes away from the river which means that after exploring the town you can take a break under your personal blossoming parasol! The local cherry blossom festival runs from the 20th of April until the 5th of May and you can take a direct bullet train from Tokyo to reach Kakunodate.
The final place on our list has a very enticing name ‘Hanamiyama’ which roughly translates as ‘the mountain for flower viewings’ but is known under the name of ‘Flower Mountain’ in English. With this introduction you won’t be surprised by the variety of flowers you can find here besides lavish cherry trees. Nevertheless, the surprising part is that this park belongs to a family that after years of running a flower farm, decided to open it to the public in 1959! It’s just a 15-minute bus ride away from Fukushima Station so you have no excuses not to visit!
If you need some more inspiration to plan your dream spring adventure, check out our article about best spots to dodge the spring crowds. For other Japan-facts and updates follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!