Tohoku Cherry Blossom Bucketlist

It’s no secret (or surprise) that tourists from all over the world are flocking to Japan. Annual numbers of tourists are BOOMING, and you can be sure that a huge number of these will be timing their trips to experience the romantic beauty of cherry blossom season in the land of the rising sun. And who could blame them?

But before you go planning your spring adventure around Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, you might want to consider that whilst you are bound to see some beautiful sights, you will without a doubt be jostling for space among crowds and crowds of local and international tourists alike, selfie-sticks in hand (not to mention shortage of accommodation and packed transport). Good luck getting a spot in the park for your hanami party, too!

What most of tourists are yet to realise is that just a short trip on the shinkansen from Tokyo lies an entire region of epically beautiful cherry blossoms that you can enjoy at your own pace, and without having to fight for a photo or a patch of grass for your picnic mat. Better still, as Tohoku is much cooler than Tokyo or the Kansai region, blossoms tend to bloom a good week or two later, meaning that if your trip doesn’t manage to align with peak bloom in Tokyo, all you need to do is jump on a train and chase the flowers north!

There are a plethora of amazing destinations for cherry blossoms across Tohoku’s six prefectures (Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata and Fukushima). We’ve created a bucketlist of our favourites below for your inspiration! Let’s start from the north and make our way down.



Photo Credit: flickr 

Not only the biggest display of sakura in Tohoku, Hirosaki Castle Park’s Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the biggest in Japan!! It is a mystery as to why it is still relatively unknown among international tourists. With around 2600 cherry trees throughout the park, every turn is a glorious picture of pink and white. The castle wall is currently under construction but access to the castle itself is still open, providing a stunning view of cherry blossoms, castle and a snow-capped Mt. Iwaki towering in the background. Time your trip just after peak bloom (predicted to be late April this year) and see the castle moat transform into a floating carpet of pink petals. There is plenty of entertainment around the park including boat rides, live performances and one of the BEST collection of festival food stalls and rides that I have ever seen at a festival in Japan.

But the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down! Hang around for nightfall and be treated to a completely different, magical view of the blossoms reflected in the castle moat. Romantic to say the least!


Movie & Photo Credit: Bigpacker

Predicted bloom 2018: late April

Festival dates:  Saturday, April 21 ~ Sunday, May 06

Access: JR Hirosaki Station. Transfer from the Tohoku Shinkansen at Shin-Aomori.

Hint: The Hirosaki Castle Park and downtown area does get very crowded during the festival period and parking can be competitive! We advise use of public transport where possible.

Google Maps:


Whilst not well known specifically for its cherry blossoms, if you’re in the Hirosaki area for the festival it is also worth a trip to nearby Tsurunomai Bridge for some gorgeous views! Tsuronomai Bridge is the longest wooden arched bridge in Japan (300m to be exact) made from Aomori Hiba timber. The elegant shape of the bridge is said to resemble the graceful flight of a crane (in Japanese ‘tsuru’ – hence the name). A stroll across the beautiful bridge is said to bring you long life.

More info here.

Predicted bloom 2018: late April

Access: Located about a 50 min drive from Hirosaki City (access by car recommended – beautiful views of countryside + Mt. Iwaki on the way)

If taking public transport: take the JR Ou line from Shin-Aomori to Kawabe station (40mins) and change to the JR Gono line to Mutsu-Tsuruda station (25 mins). Take a taxi for 10 mins to Tsugaru-Fujimiko Park.


Google Maps:


Photo credit: Aptinet Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Photo credit: Aptinet Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Photo credit: Aptinet Aomori Sightseeing Guide



Photo Credit: Kakunodate Tourist Association

Streets of Edo-period samurai residences lined with huge weeping cherry trees…it doesn’t get much more ‘Japanese’ than this! A beautiful place to enjoy a wander back in time during any season, Kakunodate in spring is definitely the highlight! If you don’t feel up to wandering, you can opt for a ride on a ‘Jinrikisha’ (Japanese style rickshaw) to add to the nostalgia of the experience. It is said that the weeping cherry trees themselves were imported from Kyoto by the samurai families as part of a softer kind warrior warfare, as each family tried to out-do each other with the most beautifully cultivated trees.

Nearby the samurai residence area, hundreds of beautiful cherry blossom trees line the banks of the Hinokinai River, providing the perfect place for a stroll or a hanami picnic.

We visited last year in the rain, and it did nothing to take away from the beauty:

Predicted bloom 2018: late April, Golden Week Holiday Period

Access: The closest train station to the area is Kakunodate Station on the Akita Shinkansen Line.  The Kakunodate Tourism Association is located just in front of the station. The samurai residence area is about a 10~15 min walk from the station.


Google Maps:




Photo Credit: Kitakami Convention & Visitor Bureau

Stretching along the east banks of the Kitakami River, some 10,000 cherry blossoms trees create one of Tohoku’s best spots for hanami! Take a walk or a horse-drawn carriage ride along the 2km path, or just sit back and relax on a sightseeing boat cruise! Check out Japan Guide for more info and pics!

Movie Credit: Japan Geographic

Predicted bloom 2018: mid-late April

Access: From JR Kitakami Station, it is a 20 minute walk to Tenshochi Park. There are usually shuttle buses running during the festival period but these can get stuck in congested traffic at peak season, so you may just be better off walking!

Google Maps:


Check out the Iwate Prefecture Tourism Portal Site for an extensive list of other cherry blossom destinations, including Morioka Castle Park and Genbikei Gorge!




Hitome-Senbonzakura, or ‘1000 trees in one glance’,  is a stretch of around 1200 cherry blossom trees running along both sides of the Shiroishi River just south of Sendai City in Ogawara. Featuring a gorgeous backdrop of a snow-capped Mt. Zao, the views will take your breath away. During the festival period there is plenty of festival food, entertainment and look-out points to be found as you walk along the lines of trees.  The trees can also be viewed from the JR Tohoku Line between Ogawara and Funaoka stations, and the trains will slow down to allow passengers time to take in the view along the way. At night, the trees are illuminated to create a whole new atmosphere and photogenic scenery!

Predicted bloom 2018: early-mid April

Access: about a 5 minute walk from either JR Funaoka Station or JR Ogawara Station on the JR Tohoku line.

Google Maps:


Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin Flickr

Tsutsujigaoka Park is one of the favoured hanami locations of Sendai City. Boasting a variety of different kinds of cherry blossoms, it is also know for its beautiful weeping cherries that tend to bloom a little later than others (which is great news if you’ve missed out on the peak everywhere else!).

Predicted bloom 2018: early-late April

Access: about a one minute walk from Tsutsujigaoka Station on the JR Senseki line.

Google Maps:


Photo Credit: City of Sendai, ‘Discover Sendai’

Photo Credit: かがみ~ flickr




Photo Credit: hatake_s flickr

Kajo Koen, or Yamagata Castle Park, in Yamagata City is one of Yamagata’s prime choices for sakura viewing. Over 1500 trees bloom in the grounds of the castle and along the castle moat, making for some truly breathtaking scenery in peak bloom. During the festival period, the cherry blossoms are illuminated, creating the chance for some fantastic photography. The castle park is located right in the centre of Yamagata City it is easy to access and the perfect day trip.

Predicted bloom 2018: mid-April

Access: About 10 minutes from Yamagata Station JR East Japan Railway. You can also opt to jump on the 100 yen loop bus from Yamagata Station.

Google Maps:


This is cherry blossom viewing with a twist! Held along side the annual Tendo Cherry Blossom Festival, a life-size game of ‘Shogi’ (Japanese Chess) is the main attraction for many. Tendo City prides itself on being the major producer of Shogi chess-pieces (called ‘koma’) in Japan. As soon as you arrive, you will spot koma and koma shaped objects all around town. Human Shogi is exactly what the name suggests – a huge game of Shogi using humans, dressed as samurai, as the chess pieces. More info here

Predicted bloom 2018: mid-late April

Festival dates: Cherry Blossom Festival: Sunday, April 8 ~ Sunday, May 6. Human Shogi Festival: Saturday, April 21 ~ Sunday, April 22

Access: About 3 hours from Tokyo to JR Tendo Station by Yamagata Shinkansen. Festival venue is about about a 20 min walk from JR Tendo Station.

Google Maps:





Photo Credit: Clint & Anna flickr

Fast becoming one of Tohoku’s top spots for cherry blossom viewing, Hanamiyama Park is a gorgeous privately owned garden just outside of central Fukushima City. In mid to late April, the entire park bursts with colour from not only various kinds of cherry blossom, but many other flowering trees and bushes. Coupled with stunning views of the snow-capped Azuma mountains, it is the perfect oasis to escape to for an afternoon of walking or just finding a spot in the sun to take in the views. There are several suggested walking routes that wind their way in and around the flowers to some of the main viewpoints. Shuttle buses run between Fukushima Station and Hanamiyama during the cherry blossom season. Fukushima Station is located on the Tohoku Shinkansen, making it very easily accessible from Tokyo or Sendai. More info here

Predicted bloom 2018: mid-late April

Access: Shuttle buses run between Fukushima Station and Hanamiyama during the cherry blossom season (mid to late April). The bus takes about 15 minutes one way and costs 250 yen, departing every 15-30 minutes from bus stop 6 (Fukushima Station, East Exit). More info here

Google Maps:


Photo Credit: 京浜にけ at Wikimedia Commons

This giant, stand-alone cherry tree is said to be over 1000 years old and one of the most beautiful blossom trees in Japan (even claiming status as a national treasure). The tree itself is about 12 metres high and with branches that span around 20 metres, its cascading blossoms resemble a pink waterfall; hence the name taki (waterfall) zakura (cherry blossom).

Predicted bloom 2018: mid-late April

Access: The only downside to Takizakura is that its rural and rather remote location is not the most convenient to access without a car! There are (somewhat infrequent) buses connecting it to JR Miharu Station on the JR Banetsu-to Line.

Google Maps:



Photo Credit: かがみ~ flickr

Tsuruga-jo or Aizu Wakamatsu Castle has a captivating history as one of the last strongholds of samurai loyal to the Shogunate in the Boshin War 1868. The castle building, reconstructed in the 1960s is incredibly beautiful in itself featuring unique red roof tiling, but it is the castle grounds which draw the crowds in spring. In late April, hundreds of cherry trees bring the park to life with their soft pink and white blooms. Locals and visitors stretch out their mats for a picnic or enjoy free guided tours of the castle (English guides available, too!). Be sure to make the trip up to the top floor of the castle to enjoy the panoramic views, or drop in to Rinkaku Tea House for some matcha and Japanese sweets!

Come back at night to enjoy a different view as the blossom trees are illuminated!

Predicted bloom 2018: mid-late April

Access: Whilst technically possible to walk to the castle from Aizu Wakamatsu Station, it is a fair hike! It is recommended to catch the tourist loop bus to ‘Tsurugajo Kitaguchi’ and walk from there (about five minutes).

Google Maps:




24-hour Trip: In Persuit of Spring Sakura in Hirosaki

Flight of the Crane: Tsurunomai Bridge

Capture the Spring Paradise of Fukushima in One Day

Miyagi Secrets: Where to ‘Hanami’

Battle Under the Cherry Blossoms: Human Shogi Festival

Spring Rain of Sakura and Samurai in Kakunodate

Enlightened Mountain Goats in Mountain Temples

Tohoku’s Sakurabito

Hana-yori-Dango: Savoury Style [Recipe]



Tohoku Ambassador Club

About Tohoku Ambassador Club