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People and places charmed by the beauty of Sakura

Samurai and Sakura
Tsuruga-jo Castle (Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima)

The beauty of sakura is only for a fleeting moment. That beauty quickly withers away, and the blossoms flutter gracefully down from above to scatter on the ground below. This “gracefulness” is also one reason why Japanese are so moved by sakura.

Aizu-Wakamatsu is a historical castle town known as “the place where the last of the samurai stood their ground.” At Tsuruga-jo Castle in 1868 the final battle between the Tokugawa Shogunate’s army and the Meiji Restoration government forces was fought. This fight proved to be a major turning point in Japanese history. Aizu’s samurai fought gallantly, but they were unable to the equal the strength of the Meiji government’s forces. The time of the samurai came to an end. Tsuruga-jo Castle has been restored to look as it did many years ago, and became one of the most well known spots to view sakura in the Tohoku region. The “graceful fall of the sakura” is a part of the spirit of bushido (the way of the warrior). Japanese warriors, or bushi, regarded living one’s life like the fleeting sakura was the most beautiful.

On the grounds of the Tsuruga-jo Castle, the warriors lived their lives just like sakura as they fell gracefully one by one. Sakura at the Tsuruga-jo Castle offer such splendour as the rare “red tiled-roof” made of sakura that can be enjoyed during the afternoons, and the magical yozakura (nighttime cherry blossoms). As you find yourself surrounded by the beauty of sakura, try to imagine the feelings of the samurai.

Hours: Open throughout the year (Castle tower: 8:30am - 5pm/last entry 4:30pm)
Admission: Free (Castle tower: 410yen/Adults, 150yen/Junior High & Elementary School Students)
Access: 15min from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station (JR Banetsu West Line) by bus.
Address: 1-1 Ote-machi, Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima
URL: https://aizuwakamatsu.mylocal.jp/en_US/trip/spot-list/-/spotdetail/spotinfo/1000000003/3999496

The Hanami Onsen
Higashiyama Onsen Mukaitaki
(Aizuwakamastu, Fukushima)

On the outskirts of the town of Aizuwakamatsu lies the hot springs of the Higashiyama Onsen village. These historically famous hot springs date back to the 8th century. During the Edo Period the village was lively with the warriors of the Aizu clan. With its elegant red tiled-roof Japanese-styled inns, even now traces of the area’s past are still alive and well. Built during the 6th year of the Meiji Period, the Mukaitaki Inn has a long history. It has even been recognised by the Japanese government for national historic and cultural significance due to the breathtaking view of sakura that can be enjoyed from its elaborately designed wooden Japanese-style guest rooms. The inn’s inclined courtyard with its gorgeous blooming sakura trees sits on the face of the mountain slope that the inn was built on The inn’s creative U-shaped design allows for the building and the garden to be enjoyed from many angles. When you walk along the corridors viewing the sakura you feel as if you have been magically carried away from the real world.

Access: 20min from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station (JR Banetsu West Line) by bus
Address: 200 Kawamukai, Higashiyama-machi, Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima
URL: http://www.mukaitaki.jp/

Magnificent Rock-breaking Cherry Tree
(Morioka, Iwate)

Picture an Edohiganzakura sakura tree in full bloom growing out of the cracks of a 420-ton gigantic rock you'll have some idea of the this amazing sight is called “rock-breaking sakura.” The 360-year-old sakura is located at the site of Morioka District Court, which used to be the garden of the Kita family, one of the three families that ruled the Nanbu clan in the Edo period (around 1700s). Without the help of heavy machinery, it remains a mystery as to how people moved the 420-ton rock in the past.

Rumors has it that a flash of lightning hit the rock one day, creating a crack. A bird flew by, dropping sakura bud it was eating into the crack and the rest is history. Since Japanese people believe that lightning strikes are a sign of God's presence sakura is also a symbol of holiness and possibly because of this, never lost its life to a fire. Thanks to the care of gardeners, the sakura tree is now as healthy as ever and into petals of white and pink every spring.

The “rock breaking sakura tree” is a harmony of hardness and softness. The crack where the sakura tree grows spreads 0.08 mm each year, showing its vitality and energy. Though the sakura tree may seem fragile, it certainly is strong enough to break a stone.

Access: 5min from Morioka Station (JR Tohoku Shinkansen) by bus to Chuodori Ichome stop
Address: 9-1 Uchimaru, Morioka-shi, Iwate
URL: http://www.japan-iwate.info/app/location_detail.php?lid=121


60 minutes from Tohoku Shinkansen Morioka Station to Appi-Kogen Station, 1 hour 10 minutes from Tohoku Shinkansen Morioka Station to the top of Hachimantai by bus

Aizu / Kitakata / Bandai / Ouchi-juku:
65 minutes from Tohoku Shinkansen Koriyama Station to Aizu-Wakamatsu Station by Local Line

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