Beauty becomes it.
- The Sakura Autumn Festival is October 12 to 14!
Sakura Castle Ruins Park
The landmark of the city is Sakura Castle ruins and its surrounding forested grounds. Back in the day, the area was the largest castle town in the region, under the command of daimyo (feudal lord) Doi Toshikatsu.
Nowadays, what is left from the castle are just scant ruins and the expansive Sakura Castle Park, which is an excellent venue for hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties) without all the crowds usually associated with it. Inside the park, you can find the Sankeitei, a tea ceremony house. It’s a pleasant oasis to relax with a cup of matcha tea with traditional sweets.
National Museum of Japanese History
On the same grounds is the National Museum of Japanese History (Map), which is the dedicated to the research and display of Japanese history and culture. It’s one of the best museums in Japan for a look and understanding of its history.
The museum features six galleries and a special exhibition that allow visitors to understand how Japanese lived from primitive times through to modern days. See the cultures of the Heian era, the lives of the samurai, the birth and development of overseas trading and the Ryukan and Ainu ways of life.
A short walk from the museum that’s plotted on a hill, take a stroll around the three buke-yashiki, the famed samurai houses of Sakura. The 3 houses are bordered by bamboo groves, citrus, loquat and persimmon trees. If you take the Hidoyorizaka Slope from the Samurai Houses (also known as the Old Samurai Road (Map)) you will eventually end up in a small bamboo forest.
For nature lovers who want more than the bamboo forest, water features and lush gardens are to be found on the 10 hectares of land that make up the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art. This place perfectly blends together nature with art. The museum displays 19th and 20th-century artists such as Picasso, Monet and Renoir. American artists also get a look in, with Warhol and Pollock featuring.
Seasonal events and other features
All the above can be squeezed into a day, but Sakura has a few seasonal highlights. In October, check out the Sakura Autumn Festival that celebrates harvest time. It has a procession of floats and centers around Shinmachi-dori Street. If you are in Sakura in spring (which is recommended), don’t miss the tulip festival and picturesque Dutch windmill at Furusato Square (Map). In summer, there are also thousands of sunflowers in full bloom here.
Other points of interest
- Tsukamoto Samurai Sword Museum
- The house and garden of the last feudal lord Count Hotta
- An old steam locomotive (sadly out of service), just five minutes from the station.
Sakura is serviced by the Keisei and JR lines. However, these train stations are on opposite sides of the city — a 30-minute walk or 10 minutes by bus from one to the other. You can rent bicycles from three locations: In front of JR Sakura station by the tourist center (JR Sakura Ekimae Kankojoho Center (Map)), also near the Keisei Sakura station (Sakura City Sight Seeing Information Center (Map)) and from Furusato Square. While there are some English pamphlets, staff has very limited English.
Discovering so much in a day may make you even want to spend the night. In that case, the city even has a youth hostel called Omotenahsi Lab, with at least one English-speaking staff.