Built more than 400 years ago within today’s Hirosaki Park, Hirosaki Castle is a popular place for sakura blossom viewing. Every spring, the grandeur of the castle tower is accentuated by flurries of sakura petals blowing in the wind. From late April to early May, 2,600 sakura of different species, including Somei Yoshino and Shidarezakura, come into full bloom and the path from the moat to the castle tower is bathed in a gradient of pink
Sakura in Hirosaki Park lies in its gorgeous volume as well as fragile quality. Although most Somei Yoshino have a life span of less than 100 years, hundreds of sakura in Hirosaki Park have lived a lot longer than that, thanks to the sakuramori.
Sakuramori literally means "people who look after sakura" in Japanese. These gardeners are responsible for the wellbeing of sakura and they make a record of the blossom time every year. Although becoming a sakuramori doesn’t require a license, having an arborist certificate ensures that the trees can enjoy better care. Makiko Hashiba is one of the three sakuramoris in Hirosaki with an arborist certificate.
Hashiba was born and raised in Hirosaki and her special feelings for Hirosaki Castle motivated her to work as a sakuramori. When asked about the secret to growing sakura trees, the tree doctor said that Hirosaki style management is the key to the trees’ health and wellbeing.
Hirosaki Style Management was first introduced in the 1960s. Hashiba said that the way sakuramoris take care of sakura trees originated from the way apple trees are grown in Hirosaki, the top producer of apples in Japan. To facilitate harvest, local farmers had apples grown from lower part of the trees. The technique is used on managing sakura today. Sakuramoris would first thin the branches (cut off the core in the middle so that buds would sprout from two sides) to allow new branches to grow. After pruning and fertilization, sakura flowers can then blossom from the lower part of the tree. This is why, compared to the average Somei Yoshino, each bud in Hirosaki Park can develop one to two more flowers.
Hirosaki sakuramoris believe that cutting out the rotten part of a sakura trees can give it a new life and enable new branches to grow. In Hirosaki Park, you might come across sakura that blossom despite a rotten main branch.
Sakura in Hirosaki Park are known for their showy, vibrant blooms. Visitors can get close to these beautiful flowers because blossoms and twigs also grow from the lower part of the old branch. Although many say that Sakura lack fragrance, Hashiba said that you can smell a light aroma if you get your nose close enough to the petals.
The locals like to eat crabs while viewing sakura. This is because sakura blossom season overlaps with the beginning of the crabbing season. Not only are togekurigani crabs delicious and sweet, they also come with rich, creamy eggs. Having crabs at a flower viewing event is a tradition in this area of Aomori. Don’t be surprised if you see locals eating a crab under sukura—this is the best way to enjoy life after all!
Closed: (Winter Closing) November 24th-March 31st
Access: 30min walk from Hirosaki Station
Address: 1 Shimoshirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori
Known as the Little Kyoto of Michinoku, Kakunodate used to be a prosperous city ruled by the Satake-kita clan. The town, featuring well-preserved samurai housesand merchant mansions, always attracts a crowd in spring when the sakura trees come into full bloom. Weeping sakura trees with pink petals, along with black traditional houses in the background, is a beautiful sight to see.
Some of the oldest are over 300 years of age. These trees were originally imported from Kyoto. Three sakura tree saplings were included in the dowry of a princess from the imperial family.
Kabazaiku, a traditional Japanese handicraft of making accessories out of old sakura tree barks, also originated in Kakunodate. The 200-year-old tradition used to be a secondary vocation for lower rank samurais. Inro (a case for holding small objects, suspended from the sash worn around the waist) and cases for glasses and seal were made to out of barks to supplement income. Kabazaiku become Kakunodate’s representative handicraft after it was given as an imperial present from the late Meiji period to the early Showa period.
The handicraft stemming out of the sakura trees managed to give a new interpretation to the fleeting life of blossoms. Kabazaiku art is the perfect embodiment of sakura blossoms and samurai spirit.
Access: 20min walk from Kakunodate Station (JR Akita Shinkansen)
Address: Kakunodate-machi, Senboku-shi, Akita
The Kitakami River is home to quite a few hundred-year-old Somei Yoshino sakura trees. A small hill called Jin-gaoka commands the view of a two kilometer lineup of sakura trees and is the best location for flower viewing. Established in the 1920s, Tenshochi Park was meant to be a place for locals to relax and enjoy life. A total of 150 species of sakura trees, including Somei Yoshino and Edohiganzakura, were planted in the park.
Although the park is less than one hundred years old, it is loved by Japanese people for blooming sakura trees. Many come with their families every year for flower viewing and for the simple pleasure of being with their loved ones.
Besides walking under a tunnel of sakura trees, you can also cruise the river on a pleasure boat. Watch the carp-shaped steamers swim in the air as you listen to the boatman’s introduction of the place. Another option is the horse-driven carriage that stroll through the romantic avenue of sakura trees.
During the Kitakami Tenshochi Cherry Blossom Festival (mid April to early May), colorful carp-shaped streamers that pray for the health and future of children decorate the riverside, along with festive sakura blossoms.
Access: 15-20minute walk from Kitakami Station (JR Tohoku Shinkansen)
Address: 10 Jiwari, Tachibana, Kitakami-shi, Iwate
URL: http://sakura.kitakami-kanko.jp/index.html (Japanese)
30 minutes from Tohoku Shinkansen Shin-Aomori Station by Tsugaru Limited Express
Kakunodate / Lake Tazawa:
50 minutes from Tohoku Shinkansen Morrioka Station or Akita Shinkansen Akita Station
8 minutes from Tohoku Shinkansen Ichinoseki Station to Hiraizumi Station by Tohoku Main Line