Find all the best spots to view sakura in Tohoku and around Sendai.
Sendai is the capital of Miyagi Prefecture and the largest city in the western Tohoku region which is known for its untouched nature and poetic landscapes. Sendai itself is called Mori no Miyako, or the city of trees. It’s no wonder that Miyagi and its sister prefectures—Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate and Yamagata—have some of the best rural sakura (cherry blossom) viewing spots in Japan.
Tohoku’s most picture-perfect sakura viewing spot, Hitome Senbon Zakura, or (1,000 sakura trees at a glance) is an eight-kilometer-long tunnel of cherry blossom trees lining the bank of the Shiroishi River. Some 1,200 trees are planted here, one-third of which are nearly a century old. The majestic Mount Zao lies behind the blossom tunnel creating a classic Japanese scene.
Considered one of the most popular cherry blossom spots in the Tohoku region, Funaoka Joshi Park attracts over 200,000 visitors each year for its Shibata Sakura Festival. The park becomes a sea of pink and white every spring when some 1,000 sakura bloom. Locals and tourists alike flock to the park in droves to view the cherry blossoms on a slope car, and to pray at the impressive Funaoka Peace Bodhisattva Statue.
One of Miyagi’s hidden treasures, Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park is just 25 minutes away from Sendai. The park has fantastic views of Matsushima Bay and the surrounding islands. Around 260 cherry blossoms bloom here in spring which looks completely breathtaking next to the sea.
Besides having the highest density of sushi restaurants in Japan, Shiogama City is home to one of the country’s most important shrines. Shiogama Shrine appears in historical records as early as 820 AD, but legends say it was founded long before when Amaterasu commanded the gods to create the Tohoku region. Today, people visit the shrine to pay homage to the guardian deities of seafarers and pregnant women. It’s also the de facto sakura viewing spot for the city, as nearly 300 cherry blossom trees are planted on the grounds of the shrine, in more than 20 varieties.
Fukushima’s cherry blossom season lasts longer than other prefectures due to its sheer size. Hanamiyama Park is the prefecture’s most celebrated sakura viewing spot. Better still, the cherry blossoms aren’t even the only reason to visit. This enormous park is home to more than 70 different types of flowers. The colors are beautiful in contrast to one another, and the gorgeous mountains surrounding the park are just icing on the cake.
Around 1,700 cherry blossoms flourish on the grounds of Kasumiga Castle in spring. Also known as Nohonmatsu Castle and nicknamed “the castle in the mist,” Kasumiga Castle is one of the region’s most popular sakura viewing spots. It’s also considered one of the 100 Fine Castles in Japan.
Kitakami Tenshochi Park is simply awe-inspiring. There are more than 10,000 cherry blossom trees planted in the park and over 150 different species. The banks of the Kitakami River, in particular, draw huge crowds every year, especially at night when the trees are illuminated. Carp flags are hung up above the river during the park’s sakura festival adding even more Japanese aesthetic to the beautiful scenery.
Some 2,600 cherry blossom trees bloom around the picturesque surroundings of Hirosaki Castle, one of the oldest castles in the Tohoku region. The fallen petals turn the castle’s moat into a delightful shade of bubblegum pink. Visitors can view the cherry blossoms while sampling local delicacies like miso oden (stew) and black konjac. At nighttime, the trees are illuminated.
Kakunodate’s cherry blossom trees are over 300 years old! The story goes that a woman from a noble samurai family came to Akita from Kyoto and planted three saplings along the Hinokinai River. This beautifully preserved historic district has around 150 sakura trees. The locals honor the town’s samurai heritage with an annual sakura festival right on the waterfront.
Located at the center of Tsuruoka City, Tsuruoka Park is built on the ruins of Tsurugaoka Castle. Constructed in the 16th century, Tsurugaoka Castle changed hands with various warlords until being demolished during the Meiji Restoration. Today, more than 700 cherry blossom trees spring from the remains of the castle walls—scenery that has appeared in Japanese films such as the 2010 Hana no Ato (After the Flowers).