Travel

Top 9 Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

It’s cherry blossom season in Japan right now.
But don’t panic if you missed it. You’ve still got a chance to catch the cherry blossoms in the colder regions of Japan where they naturally bloom later (= late April / early May).

I’ve spent my Golden Week vacation in Tohoku and Hokkaido in 2012 and was able to enjoy the cherry blossoms there to the fullest.
Today I want to introduce you to some of the top cherry blossom spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido and I hope it will help you when planning your own trip.

 

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku

Tohoku (東北) is the region between Kanto (incl. Tokyo) and Hokkaido. The further up northeast you go, the colder it usually gets and the later the cherry blossoms bloom. All the following photos were taken in late April and early May, so you get a good picture of the “blooming levels”.

1. Akita’s Senshu Park

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

Senshu Park (千秋公園) in Akita Prefecture is only a 10 mins walk from JR Akita Station.

The park features a nice garden as well as a castle and some shrines.

There are a lot of cherry blossom trees almost everywhere in the park. I went there on May 2nd and as you can see most petals have fallen down already, creating a really beautiful scenery.

 

2. Hirosaki Castle Park

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

Hirosaki Castle Park (Aomori Prefecture) is probably one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Tohoku.

The petals that have fallen into the castle moat offer the most beautiful sight. It’s a bit tricky to catch the right timing for this scenery, though.

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

I went there after a typhoon hit, so most petals had fallen into the moat already, leaving almost no cherry blossoms on the trees.

But it’s absolutely worth visiting. If you’re lucky, then you can see a scenery like that.

 

3. Kakunodate

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

Kakunodate (Akita Prefecture) is mostly famous for its samurai houses along the Bukeyashiki Dori as well as the beautiful weeping sakura trees (shidarezakura, 枝垂桜).
These bloom earlier than the most common cherry blossom types (e.g. Somei Yoshino), so I couldn’t enjoy it to the fullest when I visited in early May.

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

But as you can see there were still plenty of cherry blossoms I could enjoy. Kakunodate is definitely worth a visit in spring.

 

4. Kaminoyama Castle

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

Kaminoyama Castle (Yamagata Prefecture) can be done as a short trip from Yamagata City. You’ll only need a few hours and the cherry blossoms in the castle park are too lovely to miss!

It only takes about 10 mins by train from Yamagata City.

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

Kaminoyama offers not only a beautiful landscape, but also several onsen.

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

The park that is surrounding the castle has a huge variety of cherry blossom trees for visitors to enjoy.

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

The castle itself is just a short walk from the train station. It’s really easy to get there from Yamagata, so don’t be intimidated and pay Kaminoyama Castle a visit. ;)

 

5. Morioka Castle Site Park

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

Another lovely cherry blossom viewing spot that is less known and thus not crowded is the Morioka Castle Site Park (盛岡城跡公園) in Iwate Prefecture.

It’s a 20 mins walk from the busy Morioka train station – which means you could just stop by on your way from one destination in Tohoku to another (which is exactly what I did).

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

Although it was Golden Week and the sakura were in full bloom, there were almost no people in the park.

It’s a great spot to enjoy cherry blossoms when you need a break from the crowds. You’re likely to see a lot of people at other tourist attractions (especially at Hirosaki Castle).

 

6. Yamadera

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

Yamadera (山寺) means ‘mountain temple’ and that’s also what it’s famous for. People visit all year round, so you should, too!

That being said it’s also a great spot for cherry blossom viewing.

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

On the opposite hill of the mountain temple you’ll find the “Yamadera Basho Memorial Hall” which you should check out if you like haiku poems.

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

From there you also get a great view of the ‘mountain temple’.

The best time to visit Yamadera is during cherry blossom season or in autumn with the great fall foliage.

 

7. Yamagata Castle (Kajou Park)

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

Easily accessible is Yamagata City’s Kajou Park (霞城公園) . It’s a short walk (~ 15 mins) from JR Yamagata Station.

The park is spacious and features Yamagata Castle.

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

It’s probably the best cherry blossom viewing spot in Yamagata Prefecture and it was also one of the highlights during my trip.

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

The surrounding castle moat is usually filled with sakura petals and they light it up at night. A great shutter opportunity, guys!

 

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Hokkaido

Hokkaido is huge. It’s the largest prefecture in Japan. Thus there are also a lot of great cherry blossom spots.

However, if you’re short on time, you should just visit the “tip” of Hokkaido that is very close to Tohoku (e.g. Hakodate). That’s why I decided to choose some great cherry blossom viewing spots from that region only.

 

8. Hakodate’s Goryokaku (Star-shaped Fort)

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

The Goryokaku Tower in the center of Hakodate City (Hokkaido) offers a lovely view onto Goryokaku (五稜郭) which is a star-shaped fort.

The best time to visit is spring. The whole fort is surrounded by cherry blossom trees and it features a unique scenery that you cannot see anywhere else!

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

The fort grounds offer a lot of ‘hanami’ opportunities and there are also other facilities worth checking out such as the Hakodate Magistrate’s Office.

 

9. Matsumae Castle

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

Matsumae Castle is the only Japanese-style castle you can find in Hokkaido. That alone justifies a visit.

But it’s also a great spot for cherry blossom viewing.

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

As you can see there are different types of sakura trees.

The castle is close to the ocean and there’s also a shrine on the castle grounds.

It’s a bit outside of Hakodate. It can be reached by public transportation (train, bus) or by rental car. If you’re interested in castles during cherry blossom season, you shouldn’t miss out on that one!

 

Late Spring Trip Planning

I hope that these suggestions will help you when you’re planning a spring trip to Tohoku or Hokkaido.

As far as cherry blossom viewing goes, I enjoyed Yamagata Castle and Goryokaku the most.

There’s a lot more to see than I could show you in this short blog post. If you’re still overwhelmed or unsure how to plan your trip, I highly recommend having a look at the huge spring feature that the JNTO has put together. They have a mountain of tours, rail plans and places to stay listed on the site – great if you’re living in Japan, the US or wherever. Book and you don’t have to worry about a thing. Just enjoy your trip!

Top Cherry Blossom Spots in Tohoku and Hokkaido

Do you have any favorite cherry blossom spots in Tohoku or Hokkaido that you would recommend? Please share them in the comments below.

15 Comments

  • You covered so much! Wow :) The castle in Yamagata looks nice with the sakura, especially with the pond in front like you said. I am going to Yamagata this week-end, not really for sightseeing but maybe I should find some time and check the castle. Sakura might be there too right now… :)

  • Wow, Japan looks so compact, picturesque and just different from Western countries. I should do something about my salary, because currently it doesn’t let me travel too far :disappointed: Oh well, unless I die an accidental death at young age, I am definitely going visit Japan someday. It really looks worth to spend those hard earned monies on it

  • 僕東北って行ったことないんです!凄い沢山見てますね!
    山寺って凄い気になりました…w 知らなかったです!秘境みたいな感じで凄い良さそうですねここ!

    • そうですか。
      機会があったら、ぜひ行ってみてくださいね!♪
      特に山寺はどんな季節でもいいと思います。

  • I visited Sapporo in early May before and Sakura was in full bloom over there. That was a lucky chance, because I came for work and didn’t have an opportunity to plan the timing of my trip. It truly is a breathtaking view. I’m planning to return to Hokkaido for a vacation and do a road trip around it, so I think I will choose early May again.

    • That’s a great idea although you might want to avoid “Golden Week” (end of April – beginning of May) as everything will be more expensive than usually and also very crowded. :)

      • That’s a very good point. Last time I didn’t have to worry about hotels and things like that, so Golden Week didn’t really affect me. I’ll keep that in mind. :peace:

  • Hi, I’m going to Hokkaido in mid of May 2015, should I focus more on eastern Hokkaido to see the shibazakura and tulip? Any chance I still can see cherry blossom in Hokkaido?
    Thanks.

    • Hello Nicole.
      It’s still a month from now, so it’s extremely hard to tell what the flowers will do.
      It’s impossible to predict. I would have a close look at the sights I want to see and check regularly for updates. Most popular flower parks etc. have a website where they update with photos on a regular basis, so you can see if cherry blossoms, tulips or shibazakura are in full bloom and adjust your trip accordingly. That’s what I usually do as things never go as planned and flowers NEVER bloom when they are expected to! ;)

      Hokkaido’s northern parts (especially Wakkanai and the little islands Rebun and Rishiri) might have cherry blossoms at full bloom around that time.
      But like I said always make sure to check the official websites. ;)

      • Thanks so much for your reply.
        May I ask your opinion on this?
        I have 8 days in Hokkaido and for the last 2/3 days I’m thinking to spend it in Kushiro/Lake Akan, do you think is worth going in May or I better spend my time in Sapporo?
        Thanks.

        • I don’t know about Lake Kushiro. Did you maybe mean Lake Kusharo? :)
          Lake Akan is nice, but I especially recommend Lake Mashu. I’ve written about all of these lakes previously, so you might want to check that out if you haven’t yet. :)

          If you haven’t been in Sapporo yet, then that’s also a great idea, though.
          There are also several nice spots to check out as a day trip, e.g. the Shiraoi Ainu Museum or Otaru.

          I don’t know what you’ve planned and where you’ve already been, but you might want to consider Lake Toya as well! :D

          • Yes, I read after I posted my question : )
            I guess is better to leave all these (Lake Akan, Mashu etc) for the next visit with family.
            This is my 1st trip to Hokkaido and doing it solo.
            And yes, Otaru & Lake Tayo already marked in my itinerary as must go places, will do that on the 1st few days after fly in from Osaka.
            Thanks so much for your advice. I’ll check out your other post for places to visit in Tokyo too. ;P