Spring’s Blossoms Arrive at Last in Japan’s Northeast
The Thousand Trees of Miyagi’s Shiroishi River
Best viewing: Early to mid-April
The Shiroishi is a river that runs from the town of Ōgawara to Shibata, where it flows into the Abukuma. In early April, 1,200 somei yoshino cherry trees come into bloom along an 8.5-kilometer stretch of the river bank, making for a majestic sight against the snow-capped Zaō range. Named the hitome senbon-zakura, a place to “view a thousand trees at a time,” this beautiful vista was selected for inclusion as one of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom spots. One of Miyagi’s top hanami spots, it is popular with sightseers.
During cherry blossom season, the town of Ōgawara puts on the Ōgawara Sakura Festival, in which sightseeing barges travel up and down the 2.3-kilometer stretch of river between Shiroishigawa Park and Niragamizeki. There is nothing like viewing the blossoms from a boat while enjoying the spring breeze.
Along the river bank, the narcissus are also in bloom, their fresh, yellow flowers adding an extra spark to the tunnel of cherry blossoms.
Hilltop Blossoms in Yamagata’s Eboshiyama Park
Best viewing: Mid- to late-April
In Akayu Onsen, a hot-spring resort with a nine-century history, Eboshiyama Park is popular with blossom lovers. After the town was plagued by fires and pestilence in the early part of the Meiji period (1868–1912), some of its residents decided to plant cherry trees in the park to pray for the town’s recovery. The park now boasts 1,000 trees from 25 different species. Selected for inclusion as one of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom spots, Eboshiyama Park attracts sightseers from near and far during the season.
Located in the city of Nan’yō, Yamagata Prefecture, Eboshiyama Park is one of the few spots in Japan where the edohigan variety of cherry tree can be found, and also contains many of the shidare-zakura and somei yoshino varieties. The sight of the entire hillside covered in pink is breathtaking. The Akayu Onsen Sakura Festival, held during the viewing season, features traditional musical performances. During the festival, the blossoms are lit up at night, creating a dreamlike environment.
Beauty on the Banks of Fukushima’s Kannonji River
Best viewing: Late April to early May
Some 200 somei yoshino cherry trees line the banks of the gently flowing Kannonji River. This spot, where visitors can stroll along lush, untended banks while listening to the quiet bubbling of the river and the chirping of the birds, is one of the top places in Fukushima Prefecture to enjoy the blossoms.
The annual Kannonjigawa Sakura Matsuri is held during cherry season. Under floodlights, the blossoms take on a dreamlike appearance that contrasts with their daytime tranquility. Part of the river is lit up in all the colors of the rainbow, to the delight of Instagrammers, and there is also a selection of stalls selling local cuisine. What better way to spend an evening than enjoying the blossoms with a beer and a snack?
(Originally published in Japanese. Reporting and text by Shoepress. Banner photo: The trees along the Shiroishi River with the Zao peaks in the distance. Photo courtesy of Ōgawara Town Commerce and Tourism Division.)