Home to one of the five greatest cherry blossom trees in all of Japan.
Although today Kitamoto is an unassuming commuter city, signs of its history as a post station on the old Nakasendo, a route from the Edo period connecting Tokyo to Kyoto can be spotted if you look close enough.
You’ll find one rather spectacular relic just a bus ride away from the station. The Ishito Kabazakura is 14 meters tall with a circumference of 6.6 meters. This 800-year-old cherry blossom tree has been admired since the Edo period and is one of the Five Great Cherry Blossom Trees in Japan.
The only one of its kind, the tree was designated in 1922 as a natural monument of Japan.
It’s hard to describe just how huge it is – pictures don’t do this giant justice.
You have to stand underneath the dark, gnarled branches to really appreciate that this tree has lived about ten human life times – through imperial reign, warring states, the shogunate, a return to imperial reign and two world wars.
At the beginning of April every year, its beautiful white blossoms come to full bloom. You’ll find food stalls selling Kitamoto souvenirs and a special illumination at night. Why not try the B-class gourmet Kitamoto tomato curry and just enjoy the view? The nearby Takao Sakura Park boasts 30 kinds of different cherry blossoms and has a cherry blossom festival every spring.
You can still appreciate the tree in its majesty if not in bloom, exploring the grounds of Toko-ji Temple where the tree stands.