Hanami (花見), literally meaning flower (花 ‘hana’) viewing (見 ‘mi’ from 見る ‘miru’ – to look), is a part of Japanese culture with a long history. Practiced since the 7th century, people first enjoyed ‘hanami’ by viewing the blossoms of Japanese plum (梅 ‘ume’). It was in the Heian Period in the early 8th century when Hanami become analogous to cherry blossom (桜, ‘sakura’) viewing. It was originally practiced as a form of religious ritual, as it was believed that God (神様, ‘Kami-sama’) dwelled within the sakura trees. Offerings (including Japanese ‘sake’) were made along with eating food under the trees to pray for a bountiful harvest for the coming year. For many centuries now, ‘Hanami’ has been enjoyed by Japanese people from all walks of life: men, women, seniors, youngsters, friends, families, etc. and the tradition has been well preserved until today. For many, the highlight of Hanami is when a gentle wind blows the sakura petals off their flowers, creating a shower of pink known as ‘Sakura-fubuki’ (桜吹雪 ) or ‘Sakura-ame’ (桜雨 Sakura rain).
Here are some of the best places around Miyagi Prefecture to enjoy this Hanami culture 😉
- Funaoka-joshi park and Shiroishi river
(Score: ♥♥♥; Best time: mid-April)
Funaoka-joshi park is located in Shibata City. It is the only place in Miyagi that has been selected as one of the “Top 100 Sakura Spots” throughout the whole of Japan. Just 15 minutes walk from JR Funaoka Station you will find a slope to take you up to the top of the park. If you don’t feel like climbing up, there is also a cute slope train that runs through the Sakura tunnel (250 JPY for one way ride). When you reach the summit, you will find a 1000 square meters hill of beautiful flowers and a 24-meter-high Kannon peace statue. You can see the whole of Shibata City and a snow-capped Zao mountain from the summit. It is better to walk down the hill after enjoying the top view, as the walking path itself has gorgeous surroundings. There is also a bridge connecting the park to the riverbanks of the Shiroishi river from which you can see a beautiful horizon with a rail track, snow-capped Zao mountain, and long-pink-tapestry of 1000 Sakura trees (Hitome Senbonzakura). During the peak of the Sakura season they will hold a festival along the banks where you can enjoy lots of food, drinks, and live music performances.
Free entrance; 250 JPY for slope train ride
Funaokajoshi park; 〒989-1606 Miyagi-ken, Shibata-gun, Shibata-machi, Funaoka, Tateyama−95−1
- Sendai Nishi Park (Nishi Koen)
(Score: ♥; best time: mid-April)
Nishi-park (西公園 ‘Nishi-koen’) is located right in front of the Omachi-Nishi-Koen Subway station in the heart of Sendai City. Opened in 1875, the park is the oldest park in Sendai. It is famous for its hanami festival in spring, when groups of friends and family gather to enjoy the light-up illumination event and the festival food stalls opened from midday to midnight! If you don’t want to just sit-down and relax, a stroll through the park grounds will uncover many other attractions, including a well-preserved steam locomotive train, Kokeshi doll statues, a monument of famous haiku-poet Matsuo Basho’s poem, and dozens of beautiful sakura and plum trees.
Nishikoen 西公園; 〒980-0823 Miyagi-ken, Sendai-shi, Aoba-ku, Sakuragaokakōen, 1−3
- Tsutsujigaoka Park
(Score: ♥; Best time: Mid to late April)
The origin of Tsutsujigaoka park is said to be when over 1000 Shidarezakura (weeping cherry trees) were planted by the feudal lord of Sendai, Date Tsunamura, some 300 years ago. Nowadays there are only around 300 sakura trees left, mostly due to the aging of the trees and damage caused to the area during World War II (the area was heavily bombarded by air-strikes). As the Shidarezakura trees bloom quite late compared to other sakura species, this park is one of the best spots in Miyagi to enjoy sakura season in late April. The Shidarezakura have elegant hanging branches so you can enjoy walking through beautiful pink curtains of sakura blossom. During the peak of the sakura season there will be also be foodstalls set up in the area for you to enjoy from midday to midnight.
Tsutsujigaoka Park 榴岡公園; 1 Chome-3 Gorin, Miyagino-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi-ken 983-0842
- Lake Izunuma
(Score: ♥; Best time: Early to mid-April)
Lake Izunuma is a birdlife conservation area, also located in Shibata City, Miyagi prefecture. This place is famous to visit during Summer and Autumn, when the lake is full of birds and beautiful lotus flowers. You can even enjoy feeding the birds by hand as you stroll along the banks of the lake. It is also a captivating place to visit during early Spring – there is a small, beautiful shrine next to the lake surrounded by dozens of blooming sakura trees. The lake and shrine can be accessed by foot just a 5 minute walk from JR Nitta Station.
Lake Izunuma; 1 Chome-3 Gorin, Miyagino-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi-ken 983-0842