Spring in Fukushima

Spring is undoubtedly one of the most exciting times to visit Fukushima. Take Aizu’s Tsurugajo Castle, which reaches a higher level of beauty when surrounded by cherry blossoms. Fukushima City’s Hanamiyama Area comes alive with over 60 different kinds of flowers, with Soma’s Baryo Park being another popular destination. In the central Miharu area, the Miharu Takizakura weeping cherry blossom tree can be found—over 1,000 years old, it is considered one of the most beautiful cherry trees in Japan.

Learn more about cherry blossom in Fukushima

Average temperature

  • Mar 11° / 0°
  • Apr 18° / 6°
  • May 23° / 11°
  • Cherry Blossom 2020 Late March to early May

Hanami spots

Kannonji-gawa River Cherry Trees
Nature & Scenery

Kannonji-gawa River Cherry Trees

Only a one-minute walk north of Kawageta Station (JR Ban-etsu West Line) is this beautiful 1 km-path along the banks of the Kannonji-gawa River. In the spring the path transforms into a spectacular tunnel of Yoshino cherry trees and weeping cherry trees. Kannonji-gawa River is perhaps the most fantastic place to see cherry blossoms in Fukushima Prefecture; the calming river and the lovely petals falling like snow are a sight that can’t be beat. The lush green bank contrasting with the pale pink blossoms creates an unforgettable scene. Altogether there are about 200 trees growing along the Kannonji-gawa River on both banks. Additionally, the river maintains its natural curves and bends as it hasn’t undergone any work to adapt its shape to the city surrounding it. It’s one of Fukushima’s most splendid and respected natural landscapes. Currently, the Kannonji-gawa River cherry trees rank number 11 of the best places to see cherry blossoms in the entire Tohoku region! While enjoying the delicate blossoms and the sweet, fresh air, visitors to Kannonji-gawa River can also enjoy some of the tasty food from street vendors available only during the cherry blossom season. We’d really recommend a springtime picnic right on the river bank with various yatai (food stand) delicacies. Be sure to come back during the evening when the trees are illuminated, and the river transforms into a magical dreamscape.

Miharu Takizakura
Nature & Scenery

Miharu Takizakura

Miharu is a small town in central Fukushima Prefecture. The town’s name means “three springs” and it is easy to see how it got such a name. With cherry, plum, and peach trees blossoming in spectacular displays every spring, it is almost as if spring has tripled! But the most famous of the trees in Miharu is the Miharu Takizakura tree, which is a nationally recognized Natural Monument. Over ten centuries old, the beautiful Miharu Takizakura is a flowering cherry tree that spreads out in all directions and makes for a breathtaking vista. The cascading blankets of blossoms are how this tree got the name takizakura, or “waterfall cherry tree.” It is even one of the “three great cherry trees” of Japan (along with Usuzumizakura in Gifu and the Jindaizakura in Yamanashi Prefecture). Miharu Takizakura sits in a sakura hollow in order to protect it from the elements while providing excellent drainage. The heavy boughs of the tree are supported by wooden beams and lend to its elegant form. The Miharu Takizakura begins blooming from mid-April. During the day the sight is whimsical, but visit in the evening and you’ll be treated to an almost haunting beauty as the tree is illuminated. Aside from this huge cherry tree (over 12 meters tall and 18 to 22 meters in spread), the area is also blessed with various wildflowers, including cherry and rapeseed flowers. But, of course, the Miharu Takizakura is what the annual 200,000 visitors are there to see. The view from the base of the sakura is considered to be the most beautiful and the Miharu Takizakura often ranks as the best sakura tree in all of Japan.

Tsurugajo Castle
Historical Sites

Tsurugajo Castle

Tsurugajo Castle allows visitors the opportunity to experience history, nature, and tradition with all five senses. Despite being mostly reconstructed, the surrounding park's stone walls remain in their original state. In 2010, for the first time since it was refurbished in 1965, the castle underwent a cosmetic restoration. Following completion in 2011, the same red-tile roofs seen by the Byakkotai (during the Boshin War and finals days of the Tokugawa shogunate) are now displayed for all to see. This castle is one of the final strongholds of samurai that remained loyal to the shogunate and today stands as a symbol of courage and faithfulness. Within the castle tower's museum, the swords and armor of the castle’s successive lords are on display. Visitors can watch a CG-enhanced theatrical video reflecting on the great history of Aizu. In addition to the historical atmosphere surrounding Tsurugajo, visitors can sense the changes that have occurred throughout history, thanks to the engaging and informative museum within the castle walls. It’s fun to gaze across Aizu from the fifth floor, like a feudal lord admiring his domain—the viewing platform up here provides panoramic views taking in Mt. Bandai and Mt. Iimoriyama. The castle is also a must-see in the springtime when approximately 1,000 cherry trees offer a magnificent display within the castle's grounds. When you’re in the mood for a rest, visit the Rinkaku Tea Rooms for some freshly-prepared matcha green tea. This tea house on the grounds of Tsurugajo was vital in the spread of this traditional art—and had it been destroyed during the Meiji Restoration, tea ceremony as it is known in Japan might have vanished. Tsurugajo Castle is truly a place where the modern visitor can slip into the past and become immersed in history.

Hanamiyama
Nature & Scenery

Hanamiyama

Hanamiyama Park is a privately-owned field for flowering and ornamental trees, in southeast Fukushima City. The park is located within a satoyama-type landscape i.e. managed woodland hill country close to human habitat. What originally began more than 60 years ago with local farmers planting flowers and trees, has grown into a beautiful scene. The landowner generously turned the area into a park in 1959 to allow visitors to enjoy the beautiful flowers there. Hanamiyama Park, and the wider Hanamiyama area, is now visited by thousands of admirers every year! Springtime visits see cherry, plum, and forsythia trees paint everything in vivid colors. A gentle pink and purple landscape waving in the breeze with the picturesque snow-capped Azuma Mountains in the distance makes for an amazing sight. The riot of spring colors is spectacular enough to merit calling this park Fukushima's very own paradise. The flowering landscape moves all who see it and has been preserved through the cooperation of the local residents. Enjoy a leisurely one-hour stroll that will take you from the foot of the hill to the summit. Travel through groves of flowering trees and other vibrant flowers in full bloom. Hanamiyama is the perfect getaway for a day for nature lovers, hikers, or people trying to escape for a short time. The best part is that spring isn’t the only beautiful time to visit. Marvel in wonder during the lush green summer foliage or the dappled colors of autumn. When you visit this fairytale-like wonderland, it is recommended that visitors wear comfortable walking shoes as the terrain includes graveled paths, steep slopes, and slippery areas. Mid- through late April is the peak season, so ready your camera and your heart for the beauty that awaits.

Kassenba's Weeping Cherry Tree
Nature & Scenery

Kassenba's Weeping Cherry Tree

These two weeping cherry trees are said to be the grandchildren of the great Miharu Takizakura weeping cherry tree in nearby Miharu Town. They bloom with fantastic pink flowers. When they are in full bloom, the trees are if a waterfall of blossoms is cascading from their branches. These trees are estimated to be around 170 years old. We recommend taking photographs from the bottom of the slope, so you can capture the pink of the blossoms, together with the blue of the sky, and yellow of the canola flowers.

Cherry Blossoms in Baryo Park
Historical Sites

Cherry Blossoms in Baryo Park

As the park's 630 Somei Yoshino cherry blossom trees bloom simultaneously, it is easy to be swept away by the scenery. You will be able to enjoy the coming of spring as you walk along rows of cherry blossom trees on the sando (a road which runs from the torii gate to the shrine). Baryo Park is a well-known location for viewing cherry blossoms, and every year from early to mid April the park holds a light-up event at night. We recommend you visit in the evening to see the cherry blossoms illuminated by the lights from the paper lanterns. A good spot for taking pictures is at the bottom of the sando, looking up at the torii.

Natsui Senbon-Zakura
Nature & Scenery

Natsui Senbon-Zakura

There are 1,000 Yoshino cherry blossom trees planted along both sides of the Natsui River, giving the area the name of 'Natsui Senbon-Zakura', which translates as 'Natsui's 1000 cherry trees'. The view of the river stretching out in the distance is calming. The cherry blossoms actually line the river for a distance of 5 km. Natsui Senbon-Zakura offers good spots for taking pictures. Take a walk along the promenade near the banks of the Natsui River for some beautiful shots of the contrast between the glistening river and the cherry blossoms.

Isasumi Shrine
Historical Sites

Isasumi Shrine

Aizu Misato Town’s historic Isasumi Shrine, known as a great spot for viewing beautiful irises, holds a festival to celebrate the splendor of these flowers every year. Isasumi Shrine's history is thought to be connected to how the Aizu region got its name - a story that has been recorded in two of Japan’s most legendary books of folklore. According to the tale, around 2000 years ago, four shogun were entrusted with uniting the four areas of land which would become Japan. Two of these shogun happened to be father and son. One was sent to the north-east, and the other to the north-west. When the father and son had completed their work uniting the towns in their respective areas, they met in the middle. They named the area “Aizu” (会津), which can be translated as “The riverbank (津) where we met (会)”. The father and son travelled to Mt. Mikagura-dake, a mountain that borders Niigata Prefecture and Aizu, and prayed to the shinto god of pioneering new lands to protect Aizu, and the rest of Japan. Isasumi Shrine is thought to be built where they met. In spring, the shrine grounds become decorated with the blossoms of one of the most prized cherry trees in Aizu. It is said that this tree, which is named Usuzumi Sakura (“Diluted-Ink Sakura”), has been the sacred tree of Isasumi Shrine since it was brought down from Mt. Mikagura-dake and planted in the shrine grounds as a way of commemorating the efforts of the father and son. The lovely, light scent of the cherry blossom welcomes visitors each spring.

Hanamomo-no-Sato Park
Nature & Scenery

Hanamomo-no-Sato Park

From early April right up to the start of May, 40 varieties of blossoming peach trees present a feast for the eyes for visitors to Hanamomo-no-Sato Park. There are over 300 peach trees spread across the 8,000 square meters of land. From blossoms with a single layer of petals, to the elaborate Yae-zakura and Kikuzaki Sakura flowers, there is a huge variety in the shapes and colours of cherry blossoms to be discovered and enjoyed at Hanamomo-no-Sato Park. As well as being free to visit, Hanamomo-no-Sato Park is conveniently located; just 20 minutes on foot from Iizaka Onsen Station.

Shiki no Sato (Village of Four Seasons)
Nature & Scenery

Shiki no Sato (Village of Four Seasons)

Shiki no Sato (Village of Four Seasons) is a lawn-covered agricultural park of about 8 ha in size. There are western-inspired brick buildings in the center, which house a traditional crafts gallery. The gallery includes a glass workshop and kokeshi (traditional wooden doll) exhibit. You can learn to make blown glass, see kokeshi being made by local artisans, and try your hand at decorating a doll of your own. Shiki no Sato also has an ice cream shop offering seasonal ice creams made with the local fruits of Fukushima. In addition to ice cream, you can try a variety of locally-produced beers at the Shiki no Sato's beer hall. The seasonal flowers are a highlight of a visit to Shiki no Sato, which is loved by families and young couples alike. The summertime firework displays and the winter light-ups in the park are some of the most popular times to visit.

Koshidai no Sakura (The Koshidai Cherry Tree)
Nature & Scenery

Koshidai no Sakura (The Koshidai Cherry Tree)

This huge Japanese cherry tree is over 400 years old and has been designated as a national Natural Treasure. The tree has a trunk circumference of about 7.2 meters and stands 20 meters high, and was thus selected as one of the "100 Giants of the Forest" by Japan's Forestry Agency. Koshidai Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year on May 3. A Yabusame horseback archery event accompanied by taiko drumming takes place during this festival, and local organizations set up food stalls. Photo tip: Try taking photos from the south side of cherry blossoms.

Kairyu no Sato Center Theme Park
Nature & Scenery

Kairyu no Sato Center Theme Park

Kairyu no Sato Center Theme Park is a dinosaur themed theme park in Iwaki city. Here there are three rides as well as some unique dinosaur statues including a huge long-necked dinosaur. Around late March to early April is the best time to visit if you want to see the unique sight of dinosaurs surrounded by cherry blossoms. Iwaki is well known for its excavation of fossils and most notably the discovery of the Futabasaurus dinosaur. You can learn more about the mining history of Iwaki at the Horuru: Iwaki Coal and Fossil Museum.

Nanohana Flower Fields and Mazes
Nature & Scenery

Nanohana Flower Fields and Mazes

A massive field of nanohana flowers that first bloomed in Spring 2012, bringing great joy to the community. Since 2013 to today, huge flower fields and mazes are organized for the public to come and enjoy entirely for free. Children can receive prizes for completing the maze and visitors of all ages are encouraged to walk through the maze and have fun.  Takayuki Ueno is a local farmer and creator of the Nanohana Flower Maze, planting the first flowers here in November 2011; eight months after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Click here to read more about his inspiring story.

Itineraries in Spring

Ultimate Fukushima Prefecture Road Trip
Ultimate Fukushima Prefecture Road Trip
Ultimate Fukushima Prefecture Road Trip
Driving

Ultimate Fukushima Prefecture Road Trip

This trip highlights some of the best Fukushima has to offer and is perfect for those looking to get the most out of the prefecture in a limited time. Take in castles, nature, traditional villages, and more as you treat yourself to local styles of soba and ramen along the way. Renting a car is a must if you want to hit all the spots on this tour. You can take it slow and complete this trip over three days, or skip out an overnight stay in Urabandai area, and do it in two days. Start the day from Fukushima Station with a scenic drive to the the beautiful Urabandai region. We recommend taking the Bandai-Azuma Skyline road so that you can enjoy a mountain drive and check out the great sights at Mt. Azuma-Kofuji. From there, take the stunning sightseeing road Azuma-Bandai Lake Line into Urabandai. Explore the Urabandai area, have lunch, go on a walk around the five-colored ponds of Goshiki-numa, and maybe even take a dip in a hot spring or two. Choose whether take it slow and stay the night in Urabandai area, or whether to press on to Aizu-Wakamatsu City.  Later that day - or the next morning, depending on your schedule - head into the castle town of Aizu-Wakamatsu City where samurai culture is prevalent. The majestic Tsurugajo Castle offers beautiful views of the surroundings from the keep. Check out the nearby Tsurugajo Kaikan to paint an akabeko or two and maybe have some lunch. Then explore the mysterious Sazaedo Temple and the surrounding Mt. Iimoriyama area. From here, we suggest staying overnight in the city. There are plenty of budget hotels in Aizu-Wakamatsu, but if you are looking for something traditionally Japanese, we recommend looking into lodging at the nearby Higashiyama Onsen hot springs town just east of the city. On the next day prepare to jump into the past with a trip to the Ouchi-juku mountain village. You can spend hours here shopping and eating local foods while walking up and down the street lined with traditional thatched-roof houses. Lastly, head to the To-no-Hetsuri Crags, a natural monument filled with towering cliffs overlooking the Okawa River. Cross the nearby suspension bridge which offers breathtaking views of the surroundings. After getting fully refreshed head back to Shin-Shirakawa station by car, drop off your rental car, and connect back to Tokyo or the next stop on your journey!

Relaxation in Tsuchiyu
Relaxation in Tsuchiyu
Relaxation in Tsuchiyu
Culture

Relaxation in Tsuchiyu

You can enjoy this multi-day relaxation tour of Fukushima any time of year. But that’s not the only thing to make this trip so enticing. You’ll find something for everyone in the family or quiet spots of solitude to be enjoyed alone. Whether you’re traveling with someone or by yourself, this is the perfect way to enjoy Fukushima. Take a bus ride from Fukushima Station to Hotel Sansuiso. Enjoy a quiet room at this lovely hotel where you can soak away your worries in one of their many hot spring baths. Especially nice during winter are the outdoor baths, let the cool air wash over your exposed face while the waters keep you warm. After a day sequestered in baths, why not take a stroll about town and visit the famous shop Matsuya. See their own unique kokeshi dolls, which are popular toys around Japan with each area creating completely unique kokeshi dolls. After you’ve admired the curious little wooden dolls, try your hand at painting your own under the guidance of one of the shop’s staff. Take your very own kokeshi doll back with you as a unique souvenir and memory of your time in Fukushima Prefecture. Finally, explore the other hot spring baths that Tsuchiyu Onsen has to offer. Choose from public baths, baths in other ryokan, or a number of a foot baths dotted around the town. No matter where you turn, you’re sure to enjoy the calming and rejuvenating waters. When you’ve finished enjoying everything that the area has to offer, head back to Fukushima Station by bus.  

Onsen & Sightseeing in Aizu by Train
Onsen & Sightseeing in Aizu by Train
Onsen & Sightseeing in Aizu by Train
Nature

Onsen & Sightseeing in Aizu by Train

Jump start your vacation in Fukushima’s Aizu region with this multi-day tour, which can be enjoyed at any time of year. These ideas make for great additions to already existing plans, or as a tour of their own. No matter how you decide to use this itinerary, you won’t be disappointed. Travel by train and local bus, or taxi, to enjoy Aizu to the fullest. Begin your adventure at Aizu-Wakamatsu Station (don’t forget to snap some pics of its bowing red akabeko cow out front) and use the local bus or taxi to make your way for Tsurugajo Castle. Walk through the gardens and grounds of this magnificent castle and marvel at the red-tile roof—the only one of its kind in all of Japan. Inside you can tour the castle keep and see the artifacts of Aizu, let history come to life before your eyes. From the castle, travel to Nanokamachi-dori Street; this quaint area has preserved its early-20th century architecture and is now home to souvenir boutiques and many diners and hidden gems. With that being enough for one day’s excitement, head over to Higashiyama Onsen and soak your travel aches away in the hot springs of Harataki ryokan, which even has its own hot spring source. You’ll love taking a dip in these hot, refreshing, and soothing waters—the outside open-air bath is especially recommended. The next day, why not head over to Ouchi-juku, here you can tour an authentic preserved Aizu village and try local cuisine. The whole area gets really busy in winter and, if you’re brave enough to face the cold, the snow festival is a popular event.  

Diamond Route (4 days 3 nights)
Diamond Route (4 days 3 nights)
Diamond Route (4 days 3 nights)
Adventure

Diamond Route (4 days 3 nights)

Have you ever wanted to take a cross-prefecture tour of Japan, from Tokyo to the impeccable countryside of Fukushima? Well, now is your chance to travel from the international hub of Tokyo and see what else Japan and—especially—Fukushima have to offer. Enjoy this cross-country tour of Japan any time of the year, over the span of a few days so that you can enjoy things at your pace. You’ll find life outside of Tokyo goes at a much slower pace. Start your trip from Tokyo Station and ride a short distance to Asakusa. See one of the busiest shrine-and-temple locations in Tokyo. You’ll love the bustling atmosphere and the street stalls with their many trinkets and souvenirs. Once you’ve finished in Asakusa, head out of the city and make your way for Tochigi Prefecture’s Nikko. Nikko is perhaps most famous for the three monkey statues that people equate with “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”. You’ll see these wonderful statues and more while you stop over in Nikko. From there, travel north to Higashiyama Onsen and enjoy the sights form the train along the way. Higashiyama Onsen is Fukushima’s home to some truly great hot springs and Japanese-style inns. Soak up the hot waters and relax your tired muscles. At Tsuruga-jo Castle, you can walk the pristine gardens and enjoy the castle grounds. Be sure to make note of the red-roof tiles of the castle as well, this is the only castle in Japan that boasts having these deep-red tiles. Inside the castle keep, discover the history of the Aizu samurai through the many exhibits and displayed artifacts. Make your way to Nanokamachi-dori Street and admire the local architecture, which is quite different than that from the rest of the area. Search out local hidden gems along the narrow streets and find the perfect souvenir to take home. Enjoy your time in Tokyo, Tochigi, and Fukushima like never before with this route.  

Related posts

  1. Useful Information

    Experience Rice Planting in Fukushima, Japan!

    A land of mirrors... Driving around Fukushima in the springtime, you might think you’ve wandered into a world of mirrors. Vast rice paddies flooded with water reflect the mountains, sky, and any cars that travel by creating a beautiful scenery. Due to the hills and valleys, its common to see tiered rice paddies, something I never experienced in America!  [photo id="3ba8x6ZZ060zYPhbTKen47hrgeR292d3vx4qar9Y.jpg"] What is rice farming REALLY like in Fukushima? Curious about the state of rice farming in Fukushima, I decided to visit a small rice farm run by Masakazu Suda in Iino-machi in Fukushima city to learn a bit more! Upon arrival Mr. Suda, Suda-san, took us into his conference room to talk a bit about his farm. He showed us several bags of rice that his farm had produced the previous year and told us a bit about his rice paddies.  [photo id="Gnb4Z7EdZ9Hm37sveoSXNnG8NqcLmaiYy8tVEgZ6.jpg"] Japanese style vs. American style Most of his rice paddies grow rice the ‘Japanese way’ by first growing the rice to a certain size, then removing and replanting that rice into neat, symmetric rows. This is a practice that takes some extra time and effort, but it allows rice farmers to produce large quantities of rice in smaller rice paddies. Apparently, rice farms in larger countries, like America, that have more space don’t bother with the removing and replanting step, but with this style the quantity of rice produced in only 60% of the quantity produced the Japanese way, but it takes a lot less time and effort for farmers. I found it really interesting that despite the typically lower yield of American-style rice planting, Suda-san had one of his paddies set aside to experiment with American-style rice planting! He said his neighbors thought he was crazy, but he respects the easy-going style of America and wanted to give it a try.  [photo id="vouGpyuGkf4CCOTwrv6LzjBE5vtVdmqIVNX3zzFC.jpg"] Safety first! It felt really nice to meet a rice farmer who was so passionate and interested in trying various styles of farming. Suda-san is a really dedicated farmer who strives to produce safe and high quality rice! Following the nuclear disaster, he spent years taking care of the soil and farm, and it was several years before he could continue rice farming, but he never gave up! Suda-san was one of the first rice farmers in Fukushima to return their fields to safety levels that qualified his farm to earn a FGAP safety certification. The FGAP is a strict certification that is awarded to farms in Fukushima that meet their high standards for safety and Good Agricultural Practices! If you would like to read more about this check out their website (available in English): https://gap-fukushima.jp/en/  [photo id="Zjzm9vDGrUX1NnPSGxVHpZgi7UCNjCSUYgJlSNvW.jpg"] Planting rice the old-fashioned way! After our chat, Suda-san handed me and my boss each a pair of crocs and said it was time to plant some rice! Most of his farm is planted using a special tractor-type of machine, but he left some space for us to plant rice the old-fashioned way. Showing us how to take little rice plants and replant them into the flooded, rice paddy soil in a way that it won’t sink too deep or float away. Slipping, barefoot, into the water and soft mud of the rice paddies was a shock at first. Then, it was a comfort. The soft soil was well taken care of and monitored, no sharp stones or surprises, very high quality soil. The music of the frogs filled the air even at mid-day, Suda-san said that when the sun sets their chorus will be even more impressive. Setting into the rhythmic pattern of replanting the small rice plants was therapeutic. The most difficult part was achieving straight lines and adequate spacing, but we tried our best for nearly an hour! The lines and spacing was far from even or straight, but Suda-san encouraged us anyways.  [photo id="Fn8NoxgAcgEtCJjd28HMdrHlqnqJZ39CKd3lFVHF.jpg"] More than rice!  Rice may be most commonly eaten during meals, but rice can also be used to create many other things, my favorites being sake and mochi (a chewy dessert rice cake) sweets. Suda-san grows a variety of rice types, including mochi rice! After a hard day of rice planting we relaxed a bit and enjoyed some locally made mochi sweets at Suda-san’s farm. It was so good! Hearing Suda-san describe the various types of rice that he grows had me really excited for harvest season, it would be so interesting to try the different varieties that he produces here. [photo id="0pRQotxf5UjUTTr1GCM3Ogt6fSloBP1c1WtyefFM.jpg"] Aliens? Yeah that's right. After bidding farewell to Suda-san, we headed up the hill in town to have lunch at the UFO restaurant. The mountain here is thought by locals to be shaped like a UFO landing pad, and many locals have their fair share of stories about UFO sightings and even encounters with visitors from the stars. There is even a UFO museum where visitors can take a look at photographs, stories, and records of the town’s history with UFOs. The townspeople here were very kind and welcoming to all kinds of people, even aliens! So, it’s definitely a unique place that I would recommend visiting. Next time we visit Suda-san we will ask him if he has seen any UFOs visit his rice paddies!  [photo id="02DRdNluRnWqNXCDbcv7faUxxZkcQUvlPXuS2dsQ.jpg"] Interested in a rice planting experience? There are several options for farm stays in Fukushima, you may get to try out rice planting if you visit in the spring! Read more here or contact us about farm stays and experiences in Fukushima.  [photo id="FwzGRgKD9sYM3Yxl3A8laZBkyjoKibBCo9Zn71gb.jpg"] Visiting Iino-machi? You can catch a UFO, I mean... bus, outside of Fukushima station and it’s about a 40-minute ride to Iino-machi!   

    Experience Rice Planting in Fukushima, Japan!
  2. Useful Information

    Exploring the Kasumigajo Castle Park!

    When we arrived at the Kasumigajo Castle Park (Nihonmatsu Castle) I immediately felt drawn in by the sweet smell of the blooming sakura trees. The whole park is full of sakura trees, making this a great place for cherry blossom viewing (Hanami, in Japanese)!  [photo id="aMZPgs0W0EKggtiL534IxRlIXxoG9cYureTa8ETJ.jpg"] Before you walk in through the front entrance you will notice some bronze statues that depict the samurai warriors who once defended the castle. If you look closely you will notice that these warriors seem to be a bit young. These statues honor the Nihonmatsu Youth Corps, also known as the Shonentai, who were boys between the ages of 13 to 17 who lost their lives during the Boshin War in order to protect their hometown. The youngest Shonentai warrior may have been 12 years old, although he sustained injuries, it is thought that he survived the war. Typically such young boys would not fight in wars, however, as the war waged on and troops were diminished, many young boys and elderly men volunteered themselves to join the fight.  The tragedy of the loss of such young lives is honored by these statues. Behind them the statue of a woman mourns the boys as a representation of the boys' mothers and families who were left behind.  [photo id="xK0hxBq2vrgzKHczdtkuCkP3AkiRzuMG58JmfMdQ.jpg"] With this history in mind, I walked toward the entrance and passed under the castle gate, intrigued to see what kind of a place these soldiers were defending.  [photo id="gejCLNpoXvYwt3sPairR1i4zSsQBRilZexEc08af.jpg"] Inside the walls there is a large clearing where cherry blossoms spread out. Around the trees hang paper lanterns that illuminate the cherry blossoms at the night. There is a small waterfall in the corner of the main square and a pond, adding to the atmosphere with the sound of flowing water and the chirping of little frogs. In the spring time there are some food vendors set up so you can enjoy something to eat under the cherry blossoms. There are lots of benches and picnic tables so this is a great place to come and relax and have something to eat outside. I didn't have time to eat anything this time, but the mochi (sweet rice cakes) drew my attention, so I will have to go back and try it next time I visit. [photo id="dvlybdb4rUEqMHigPvZI2KJmcZDignQzfhwDCHZv.jpg"] After exploring this area and photographing the cherry blossoms, when I realized I hadn't even been up to where the castle was! The park grounds are dotted with with castle ruins, some dating back to the 1500s! Unfortunately much of the castle was burned down at the end of the Boshin War, officially, the castle fell on July 29, 1868.  The castle ruins at the top of the hill are worth checking out and offer a great view of the area. The climb is a bit of a work out, so I kept thinking about how great the defense was as it would be quite the challenge for invaders to climb up the hill in their heavy samurai armor!   [photo id="OonxAHMOv3FGcs8jLgX3fTXcld276QXhZKzsPXys.jpg"] It would have been nice to visit here before the war, during a time of peace to see how beautiful this castle parks and the surrounding town must have been! If you are interested in Japanese history, and especially Samurai history, I definitely recommend visiting. Even if you aren't a history buff, this is a great place to visit and enjoy some nature in Japan.  Thankyou for reading, if you enjoyed this article please be sure to check out more of our articles and blogs. Click here for information on visiting the Kasumigajo Castle Park (Nihonmatsu Castle)!

    Exploring the Kasumigajo Castle Park!
  3. Destination Spotlight

    Hanami & Hope in Tomioka

    The Sakura Tunnel, made up of 400 cherry blossom trees that line Tomioka’s Yonomori district, made the area a well-known hanami (flower-viewing) spot. However, following 3.11, the fantastic cherry trees could no longer be enjoyed in the springtime. That all changed in April 2017. In April 2017, for the first time in 7 years, visitors have been filling the streets throughout the day and during the evening too, for fantastic views of the sakura trees lit up from below. [photo id="YlbaKko5IVKvnkCDpcQWwztnuw0yeRobah2Uf9e0.jpeg" size="original"] All areas of Tomioka, excluding those labeled as ‘Difficult-to-Return Zone’, had evacuation orders lifted on April 1st 2017, meaning that former residents can now return home, and anybody can stay overnight in the town without applying for permission – something that was not possible prior to April 1st. [photo id="BHMfDyKYtfjwA6E2MO8WZnhCtpkM36Ycj7ev4ker.jpeg" size="original"] Over half of the Yonomori district’s beautiful sakura trees stood within Difficult-to-Return Zones, meaning that those visiting the park over in April 2017 weren't able to walk the full length of the former cherry blossom spot. When I visited in April 2017, barricades block entrance to the Difficult-to-Return Zone, but visitors could still enjoy over 100 cherry blossom trees in the area close to the Junior High School. [photo id="LmKVeDdR5AQP6c33g74LezMVOpQRbLJAkKO4NNls.jpeg" size="original"] Another area also lit up was on the west side of Yonomori Station - where service will be resumed on March 14 2020, for the first time since the disaster. My visit to this area coincided perfectly with the setting of the sun, meaning that I got to see the flowers in daylight, the warm glow of sunset, and basking in the bright lights of the light-up display. [photo id="CG8o2qKPwsnbOZUOFvyq0KgQfEQdzRRH8V61FZ5L.jpeg" size="original"] The 900-year-old, 13 meters tall weeping cherry tree inside the grounds of Hosenji Temple was also lit up during my visit. The grounds of this temple have been lovingly looked after and cared for by former-residents who were evacuated to Iwaki since the disaster. [photo id="DeW9i6v4ilmqo3B6YSYiB8XZE5E9rqvgtp4NO4rd.jpeg" size="original"] For the people of Tomioka, April 2017’s event acted as a symbol of hope of things to come. That being said, the abandoned buildings on either side of the road and the barricades cutting through the centre of the cherry blossom tunnel remained a stark reminder that everything is not exactly as it was. However, as the sky darkened, the barricades and empty houses slid into shadows, and the blossoms slowly began to glitter with light. Standing in the centre of the long road, looking straight at the rows of trees, it was possible for me to imagine how this area would have looked in 2010. [photo id="dJXO4FBV1w6wWj6ONnTgaHw9SXlP1cgBrgqE84JP.jpeg" size="original"] Although the light shows of years gone by were held with tourists and visitors from near and far in mind, 2017’s light show was for the people of Tomioka – for those who have returned with cautious hopes, and for those who have not. [photo id="2Gsk775sP49VezkUaqbD0eOh4lKmATLoTpHQcfoH.jpeg" size="original"] It is a reminder of the excitement and beauty of the town that these people loved, and still love. A symbol of the blossoming of splendor from the tiniest spaces. The joy of nature and the cycle of spring after winter, of warmth after cold. [photo id="hDMUGMMwQwfcgUy9AWdns3yCPTRWKtxSnD9h4WnJ.jpeg" size="original"]

    Hanami & Hope in Tomioka
  4. Destination Spotlight

    Nicchu Line Weeping Cherry Blossom

    Yesterday I ticked one place off of my Fukushima bucket-list: the cherry blossom along the Nicchu Line in Kitakata City. It definitely did not disappoint, and I am so glad I got to go. The Nicchu Line is an old railway line that used to run between Kitakata City & Atsushio Onsen town. The railway line was over 13 km long, and 3 km of this has been changed into a cycling & walk path, which looks absolutely fantastic in cherry blossom season. [photo id="6F6Z98OeroH2emDy0yWttzsQ9QLaS9EeKVHdhbN5.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="Ax1ZU1yTqv3SIOP5JdOq268y197hT6lKKfulxc7X.jpeg" size="original"] Usually the cherry blossom at Nicchu Line come into full bloom around Golden Week – a string of national holidays in Japan that take place in late April / the start of May – but when I visited in April 2018, the cherry blossom across Fukushima are all blooming really early! [photo id="YKO1fDlumCn4RACYguEpMnCkxIvDMjM7iSw0Mu2J.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="3tW7sh1nJJZWWKAeeoph3zxzBq3HBwBGKKNWpkIb.jpeg" size="original"] One thing that is really great about the Nicchu Line being 3 km long is that even if some areas along the path are a bit crowded, there will be areas that are less busy so you can take some really nice photos. [photo id="BPuBCGqzrhKYwyeHjqFThaGD7uZrXIqOaRp3samd.jpeg" size="original"] Not only were the cherry blossom fantastic, but I loved being able to see them against Mt. Bandai in the distance. It was also really relaxing to walk along a path surrounded by local houses, rice fields, and farmland for as far as the eye can see. [photo id="K3wOUOqx4jxr6JPtu4UeANDmnsIQ3Smc47mzuCAP.jpeg" size="original"] At around the midpoint of the Nicchu Line stands an old steam train that used to used on the Nicchu railway line. The pinker cherry blossom to the left of the train in the photo above weren’t blooming very much, but if I took the same photo in a couple of day’s time, it would look even more impressive! [photo id="7kIsSwwnapj7iuwQTDm233qeDBVJO7Lp1pPaZ0A6.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="LZQ3tSDzpN1mIOod52fnxSL5pIq0Yq4HDCTIeRUe.jpeg" size="original"] It was really nice seeing lots of different varieties of cherry blossom all in one place. It was really, really relaxing to walk along the line. I saw the women in the photo below and felt a little jealous – it would be lovely to sit under the weeping cherry blossom with a book and just chill out and read for a few hours! [photo id="6qFa4jDK4zSMtHhLnNKYGYpuZwjCX1h9EVoWhIwn.jpeg" size="original"] After a bit of time, I joined the many of the other visitors and decided to take some selfies too! [photo id="QpCabL73Q6wEhQVZvKzEjEDZ1vE48kPjg4baVE8j.jpeg" size="original"] TIPS 1.) BRING SUN CREAM! The road is pretty long, which means you might be outside under the sun for quite a long time! Make sure to put on protective sun cream. 2.) BRING A PICNIC! As above, during the 3 km walk, it’s likely you’ll get pretty peckish. There are some festival stalls at a couple of points during the walk, but it’s worth bringing some snacks (and water), and having a picnic under the cherry blossom. There were quite a few people doing this when I visited. 3.) CHECK THE SIGNS ON THE NICCHU LINE [photo id="O8LxKp9jYDtbgNoEV0TDZj24zGjIHWS4oqgNSAMj.jpeg" size="original"] This map shows where you as well as where how much cherry blossom is blooming at different points along the path. This can help you prioritise which areas you visit during your visit! Below are some words to help you understand the map. 現在地 Current Location 咲き始め Just started blooming 三分咲き30% in bloom 五分咲き 50% in bloom 七分咲 70% in bloom 満開 Full bloom [photo id="HXiP6OKeg8wq2YBpK9crrjKKssBiXjJXDiGsFw3K.jpeg" size="original"] This sign means ‘Weeping Cherry Blossoms Road this way’ – useful to know if you’re coming by car or walking from the station. There are no big signs point out the start and end of the Nicchu Line. But when you come to an intersection where you have to cross the road and join a perpendicular path (as shown above), this signifies you’re nearly at the end (or the beginning!) of the road. 4.) RENT A BIKE AT KITAKATA STATION There are 2 shops outside Kitakata Station where you can rent a bike for a couple of hours. This means you can see the whole of the Nicchu Line without getting tired out from all the walking! 5.) VISIT NEARBY SIGHTSEEING SPOTS [photo id="oCJ9qXnhJOF4god7PNjUwbcPB48kOpuqYkDhNgxh.jpeg" size="original"] Kitakata has some amazing sightseeing spots, such as the red brick warehouse district, a Ramen Museum, Shingu Kumaho Shrine Nagatoko temple, traditional shops, and much more. Make the most of your trip to Kitakata by exploring some of these places! You can find more information on their locations on this English map. GETTING TO NICCHU LINE BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT The most southern point of the Nicchu Line is only a 7 minute walk from Kitakata Station!  There are Burarin sightseeing loop buses that take you a bit further up the Nicchu Line. Read more here. BY CAR For those travelling by car, there are a number of temporary car parks set up around Oshikiri Park during cherry blossom season, so please use these! MORE INFORMATION See here for more information on reaching the Nicchu Line.

    Nicchu Line Weeping Cherry Blossom
  5. Destination Spotlight

    Yunokami Onsen In Spring

    I visited Yunokami Onsen during the cherry blossom season! We visited the station in late April – which just so happened to be perfect timing! We were greeted with blue skies and sakura in full bloom. YUNOKAMI ONSEN STATION Yunokami Onsen Station is a very picturesque local station on the Aizu Railway Line that connects Aizu-Wakamatsu City with Aizu-Tajima, and further on to Asakusa Station in Tokyo. This beautiful thatched-roof station must be one of my favourite stations in the prefecture – it’s got a public foot bath just outside so you can treat your feet to natural hot spring water before catching your train, there’s a traditional Japanese stove to warm yourself up with in winter, there’s a range of souvenirs on sale, and it’s extremely photogenic – what’s not to love?! [photo id="QV2xux63G83bg7b17pRPTqKAwGmPVPxwEWo1wFT1.jpeg" size="original"] There are many cherry blossom trees surrounding the station, which had caught the attention of quite a few tourists, who were busy snapping photos with the blossoms. If you look directly at the front of the station, turn right and walk down the hill, you’ll reach the bus stop for Ouchi-juku. It’s the dark green bus in the photos below. [photo id="dadT9NWU6nJIrv6MgSvh1smxmdum1MSnaS5pzf8I.jpeg" size="original"] We took photos outside of the station while we waited for the prime time to take a photo of the moment when the local train passes in front of Yunokami Onsen Station. (You can check when the train will pass in front of the station by checking the timetable listed inside the station.) [photo id="YBV2TRmD8wvrPJ9llIB62tcOOTVxakT6lRdFLr6f.jpeg" size="original"] In order to take the best photo, you have to pass through the barriers in the station. It’s necessary to buy a ticket that will let you access the train platform. Once we passed through the barriers, we walked onto the platform, then crossed over onto the other side of the tracks, where there were a number of reporters and photographers waiting. [photo id="svTkWy0c8P5Z9pZu7E0XDUUONPX4HhO02oauSE0r.jpeg" size="original"] Taking a photo of the train passing in front of the station was harder than I was expecting! After I got home, I looked back at the first photo and realised that the angle I had taken my photos from wasn’t quite right for including as much sakura in one shot as possible. It’s good to know this for next time! [photo id="O6pUcLQCxfZalJK6jeVsBk4wVToTF610x3lwEfcY.png" size="original"] At the tourist information desk at Yunokami Onsen Station, the staff let me know that the cherry blossom at Nakayama Fuketsu were also in full bloom, so we decided to go check it out. This viewpoint is 2.5 km away from the station and much of this is up a steep hill with no footpath, so you may be difficult to reach if you aren’t travelling by car. We were travelling by car so it wasn’t a problem for us. NAKAYAMA FUKETSU VIEWPOINT [photo id="aWWqXJF5Nzx5CwoPekslqBanbWPNCmuCmhU2hVn2.jpeg" size="original"] I had never been to this view point before. It was a bit of an adventure getting to the viewpoint, because it involved driving up quite a narrow mountain road. But it was worth it for the beautiful views, especially ones of the snow-topped mountains behind pale pink cherry blossom. [photo id="AsZeytb2u9IxsCvSRAha4yfukFqgaK55tY96Dvdd.jpeg" size="original"] LUNCH AT MOTHER LIP After we had explored the cherry blossom spots, we went to Mother Lip Café for lunch. I’ve wanted to go to this café for ages! Mostly because of its intriguing name. The coffee was delicious and the spaghetti was really nice. I chose “Napolitan”, which is actually a Japanese spaghetti recipe originating from Yokohama. We had to head back to work after our trip to Minamiaizu, but there is plenty to do near Yunokami Onsen – both the To-no-Hetsuri rock formations and the Edo post-town of Ouchi-juku are very close. I really recommend you visit this area in late April when you get the chance. It’s really beautiful and makes for a very pleasant drive. I’ve included Ouchi-juku, To-no-Hetsuri, as well as the places mentioned in this post, in the Google Map below.

    Yunokami Onsen In Spring
  6. Destination Spotlight

    Azuma-Kofuji’s Short & Scenic Hiking Route

    Home to a wealth of stunning views and scenic roads that can be enjoyed by car or bike, the eastern side of the Azuma mountain range that borders the prefectures of Fukushima and Yamagata is particularly popular for those who enjoy hiking and walking. Mt. Azuma-Kofuji (which translates as ‘little Mt Fuji’), is a popular place to follow a short hiking course, since it takes less than 1.5 hours to complete, and is not far from central Fukushima City. [photo id="ZIlNIFXy63KOyr0jIj26Zq9xUblFJJeqz7T9L34G.jpeg" size="original"] Mt. Azuma-Kofuji – which has a shape likened to the famous Mt. Fuji – has a distinctive crater at its center, which was formed after a volcanic eruption. Although the peak of Mt. Azuma-Kofuji is around 1700 m, the base of the crater is around 70 m lower! [photo id="Ju6V9J816ddWpa22bGuHoCjD3OgAphVXB2uqHPpH.jpeg" size="original"] Along with its status as being seated on Bandai Azuma Skyline – a famous motorbiking, cycling and driving route – Mt. Azuma-Kofuji is also well-known for its role in producing the mascot of Fukushima City, Momorin, a cute little rabbit. Every year, when the snow begins to melt from the top of the mountains in springtime, a space is cleared on the side of Mt. Azuma-Kofuji that melts into the shape of a rabbit! Depending on how fast the snow melts, and how much rain falls, the exact form of the rabbit does change from year to year, but it always there to some extent, looking down on the citizens of the city. [photo id="1S9vCeRv55tOHLBSU6RuoDi7V9GurlanJ6zJVHfI.jpeg" size="original"] Jododaira Plateau, from where Mt. Azuma-Kofuji , Kamanuma Pond, and Mt. Issaikyo can be accessed, can only be reached between early-April and mid-November every year, as the heavy snow fall of winter has lead to the scenic road that passes through the area to be closed during this time. Even though it is not possible to come right to the top of Bandai Azuma Skyline during this winter season, the two onsen towns that bookend it – Tsuchiyu Onsen and Takayu Onsen – can still be visited in the winter. The Mt. Azuma-Kofuji hike begins at Jododaira Plateau, which is home to visitor center and rest house where visitors can have a snack and buy souvenirs. [photo id="ntrWhcdqNzwB3E8zExUVy7oocG3mkWpmJ2DDlkPA.jpeg" size="original"] There are Japanese language pamphlets at the rest house which display the various hiking routes around the Jododaira area, such as those to Kassanuma Ponds and Issaikyo Peak. Even if you don’t understand Japanese, there are lots of pictures and maps, so you can understand where you are in relation to the rest of the hiking trails. [photo id="YTjUmz8I8XRbpGi2Ys0tznxdYK1A09MYvtnADa8P.gif" size="original"] The start of the walk (little squiggly red line) – a winding trail of stairs – is visible from outside of the rest house (the P close to the squiggly red line!). The ascent to the top of the crater takes around 10 minutes, and visitors are recommended to allow 1 hour to walk around the crater. It’s also said that this walk should be enjoyed by walking clockwise round the crater’s edge. I really like walking around Mt. Azuma-Kofuji because once you reach the top of the steps, you’re greeted with amazing, otherworldly views. It seems like every angle of this walk supplies completely different scenery. If you look one way, you can see the beautiful snowy mountains in the distance… [photo id="X115MpkakyUJg03zFZuNjTeL606d9ERdzmIkN8GS.jpeg" size="original"] …But if you look another way, it feels like you have been transported to a desert, or even to the moon! [photo id="n0KOLzrvfGktIbu52raMbKbyKdXE3hNXoji3e6Vn.jpeg" size="original"] The faces of rocks and stones that surround the crater have changed colour over time due to the different volcanic gases and substances present in the area. It was interesting to take a close look at the unusually bright red and purple colouring of the stones. [photo id="ETeDXD38bpj1Y9aTPT9gZtaT3S7yiE6wjb0CNoXK.jpeg" size="original"] This short hike really does make you feel like you’re walking on top of the world. [photo id="2ZdSYtnvVSlBNlCZYY0wUbpG00SOY9eH2XXZXSz3.jpeg" size="original"] Circling the edge of the crater was not too physically challenging, although I did lose my balance a couple of times when I place my weight on groups loose stones. I would advice not trying to complete this walk in heeled shoes! I did find that climbing up the relatively steep staircase made me quite out of breath. However, I did finish the route in less than an hour though, so it’s possible that I was just rushing! One other word of warning is that it can sometimes get extremely windy at the top of the crater. When I visited most recently in April, it was my first time to attempt making it the whole way around the crater, as during previous visits, the wind had been too heavy to attempt it. This time, the wind was even calm enough for me to place my camera on a rock for long enough to take a selfie without fear of it being swept off into the distance! [photo id="FCQEpnSzVFjBDSFXZ2zBkgAUUZ94NpWDMPLyrhUK.jpeg" size="original"] If you find yourself in Fukushima City on a sunny day, with a few hours to spare, I would wholeheartedly recommend a hiking trip to Jododaira. The views are honestly spectacular. Coupled with a trip to either (or both!) of the onsen towns nearby, a visit to Jododaira can easily become part of a really fun day out! [photo id="1Musa7SG9XwOk7KCGN05gpPbMgSOCNcglVcxuTAn.jpeg" size="original"] See here for more information on visiting Mt. Azuma-Kofuji

    Azuma-Kofuji’s Short & Scenic Hiking Route
  7. Useful Information

    Reaching Miharu Takizakura

    KEY INFORMATION VISITING HOURS Visiting hours are usually between 6:00-18:00, but they are extended until 20:30 during the light-up period. HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO VISIT? Miharu Town asks for visitors to pay 300 yen to visit the tree. This money goes towards the continued conservation efforts towards Miharu Takizakura. REACHING MIHARU TAKIZAKURA LOCAL BUS The number of local buses in service is typically increased during cherry blossom season. These buses leave from outside Miharu Station. The dates of increased service differ from year to year. For 2018, service was increased between April 7th and April 15th. For 2019, service was increased between April 6th and April 21st. A 1-Day pass can be bought for use on the public bus costs 1,000 yen per adult. FREE SHUTTLE BUS A free shuttle bus runs regularly between Miharu Town Exercise Park (三春町運動公園)(map here) & the Miharu Takizakura during the cherry blossom season. The dates that the shuttle bus run differ from year to year. For 2018, shuttle bus service ran between April 7th and April 15th. For 2019, the shuttle bus service ran between April 12th and April 21st. Be aware that the last shuttle bus from Takizakura might leave at 17:00 despite the Light Up events that occur during cherry blossom season that run until later in the evening. GETTING TO MIHARU STATION The local buses mentioned above depart from Miharu Station. You can get to Miharu Station via the JR Ban-etsu East Line from Koriyama Station. The train from Koriyama Station – a major station – only takes 12 minutes. For information on reaching Koriyama Station. Here are some terms in English and Japanese to help you decipher bus timetables! ・滝桜 Miharu Takizakura ・三春駅 Miharu Station ・滝桜方面 Heading to Miharu Takizakura ・三春駅方面 Heading to Miharu Station TAXI Taxis from Miharu Station must be booked in advance. It is likely to be difficult to get a taxi on the day of your visit without ringing up in advance. Bookings via phone in Japanese only. CAR The closest I.C. (interchange) to Takizakura is Funehiki Miharu, but this I.C. gets very busy during hanami season, so it’s recommended to exit the Ban-etsu Expressway at Koriyama Higashi I.C. From this I.C., the tree is a 30 min drive (12.6 km). During cherry blossom season, visitors coming by car are likely to have to queue for quite a bit. When I drove to Miharu Takizakura in 2019 on a weekday, I had to queue for about 40 minutes to get into the car park from 1 km away. On the plus side, I didn’t have to queue to get out of the car park. If you’re using a GPS system in your car, you can enter the map code: 300 840 492*42 WALKING FROM THE BUS STOP AND CAR PARK The buses stop in the large car park. From the car park, you pass through an underpass, reach an office where you can buy a ticket to view the tree, then follow the path to the main tree. The tree is about a 5 min walk from the car park. [photo id="CNCoyAYFh16Zn8fk0NakAwb1KAS87IqKEFQ5Yeao.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="qvQjvmKWJNCB2DFIB0Jqee1JZXkMOVEQ8cZ7Hk8c.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="aACXtGasd7180Sz6G4KMaHRWXieROpQaoYpUXpXL.jpeg" size="original"] [photo id="gfBcfQJzYpHe3waAHQPEtdpiqdWv8cGH7wzC1MYo.jpeg" size="original"]

    Reaching Miharu Takizakura
  8. Useful Information

    Fukushima's Top Cherry Blossom Spots

    Fukushima Prefecture is blessed with lush nature and dramatic scenery. As the third-largest prefecture in Japan, the climate, seasons and landscapes differ vastly by area. However, there is one season that is spectacular no matter where you may be in Fukushima – spring! Blossoms start to bloom from the south-east of Fukushima, where the temperature is warmest, and flower the latest in the west. This means that if visitors come to Fukushima during April and May, it is very likely that cherry blossom will be in full bloom somewhere in the prefecture! OGAWASUWA SHRINE The beautiful weeping cherry blossom tree at Ogawasuwa Shrine has been standing strong in Iwaki City for over 500 years. The branches gracefully stretch across the main area of the shrine, providing a stunning foreground against the red torii gates. The blossom is illuminated by traditional Japanese campfires every night of the cherry blossom season.  [photo id="4UtL7ZgDAK23kmos6In3xFZAnd7j4105QKe1HA3B.jpeg" size="original"] See here for information on visiting Ogawasuwa Shrine NATSUI SENBON-ZAKURA 'Senbon-zakura' translates as '1000 cherry trees'. As its name suggests, this area is well known for the 1000 Yoshino cherry blossom trees that line both sides of the river. Natsuigawa River is a wonderful location for taking photos or going on a peaceful walk.  [photo id="3quLD9y7jnuvZK38s7mm7aSBik8OCmfspJr8L3u8.jpeg" size="original"] See here for information on visiting the Natsui Senbon-Zakura HANAMIYAMA AREA The Abe family opened their stunning garden to the public as a park in 1959 to allow visitors to enjoy their flowers. In the springtime, over ten types of blossom bloom together, enveloping the park in bright, beautiful colours. The white of the often snow-clad Azuma mountains contrasts sublimely with the flowers, giving visitors the impression of having accidentally wandered into paradise. When I visited Abe-san, he spoke about how Hanamiyama Park can be enjoyed with all five senses – the sound of water from rock garden, the feel of the breeze on your skin, the sight and sweet smell of the flowers, and the taste of the fresh spring air. When I asked him where his favourite spot in the park was, he told me that he had too many to count, and it depended on the weather, the season and the time of day. Visitors can enjoy finding their own favourite spot or ask for suggestions from the volunteer guides, who can guide visitors in English, Chinese and Korean. [photo id="5ODrXtuWUIb4DFF7187adbaNkj5KC7JHovqxH8Eu.jpeg" size="original"] See here for information on visiting Hanamiyama. MIHARU TAKIZAKURA One of the three great weeping cherry trees in Japan, the Takizakura tree in Miharu is truly breathtaking. It is estimated to be around 1000 years old and has been designated as a national treasure. Around 12 metres high, the flowers of the cherry blossom cascade down for metres around the magnificent tree, enveloping visitors in bright flowers. It’s no wonder that its name translates into English as ‘Cherry Blossom Waterfall’.  [photo id="gr1KPDPtFxMItIYf3AE7WLcVm6ImLW3ot8w0uWPR.jpeg" size="original"] See here for information on visiting the Miharu Takizakura. TSURUGAJO CASTLE The light colours of the castle walls are complemented by around 1000 cherry blossom trees that decorate the castle and its surrounding park in the springtime. The blossoms can be appreciated from up close, or from above – a sight you can gain access to from the viewing platforms at the top of Tsurugajo Castle. Relax at the traditional Japanese tea house inside the castle walls, or take a walk through the picturesque park before entering the castle and learning about Aizu-Wakamatsu City’s rich and interesting samurai history. Free English guided tours are available at the castle if booked 2 weeks in advance through the Aizu-Wakamatsu City International Association (Website here). You can also rent bicycles at the castle.  [photo id="pPlZqvIcf6P4nzASIHt7KR03nQPn8dRNAxIzOcbl.jpeg" size="original"] See here for information on visiting Tsurugajo Castle. NICCHU LINE Nicchu Line is the name of the train line that used to run at this site. The train tracks have been closed and converted into 3 km long cycling paths, but you can still see the steam train which used to run on this line. 1000 weeping cherry trees stand tall along the Nicchu Line, their branches stretching as far down as the feet of visitors that pass by. There are 'cherry blossom walks' held along the Nicchu Line in late April. [photo id="a4Na6P9UsOqipiEocImb6AW6H91iTsZ1pfdLybCc.jpeg" size="original"] See here for information on visiting the Nicchu Line. KANNONJI-GAWA RIVER During springtime, a 1 km path along the banks of the Kannonji-gawa river becomes lined with Yoshino and weeping cherry tree blossom. Visitors walking along the river banks may feel like they are passing through a tunnel of blossom. On a bright and sunny day, a visit to Kannonji-gawa River is a must. That being said, it is worth it to hang around until the evening, when the branches and flowers are lit up with the setting sun, and later with stunning light displays. [photo id="2qio4OCVoBnh7Nxln20edfqKeVEUYFrkccpSRmci.jpeg" size="original"] See here for information on visiting Kanonji-gawa River

    Fukushima's Top Cherry Blossom Spots
  9. Destination Spotlight

    Springtime Koriyama Day Trip

    For this itinerary, I would recommend renting a car at Koriyama station, or elsewhere. All of the spots included in the itinerary above are at least a 10-15 minute drive from each other, so renting a car would be the easiest way to make the most of your day out in Koriyama! 1. MIHARU TAKIZAKURA Start your day trip with a visit to Miharu’s Takizakura tree. 'Takizakura' can be translated as 'Waterful Cherry Blossoms'. Over 1000 years old, its trunk’s circumference 11 m in width, the Takizakura tree is one of the three biggest cherry trees in Japan, and has been designated a national treasure. The view of the tree, and the flowers that surround it, differ from year to year. However, Takizakura is always stunning during its peak season, no matter the year. (More information on Miharu Takizakura here) [photo id="ggfynNsaYJMwm9UoDCBlgvt7zXlNRpz6SSddzpWW.jpeg" size="original"] 2. TAKASHIBA DEKOYASHIKI 'Takashiba Dekoyashiki' is the name given to a number of craft workshops that have been making dolls and decorative items for centuries. As well as being able to watch how traditional dolls are made, you can try out painting your own dolls. Walk around the arts and crafts studios and soak in the atmosphere of traditional Japan. This area is a 20-minute drive from Miharu Takizakura. (More about Takashiba Dekoyashiki here) [photo id="NLA8406oDbROwO3H9PaXM9tI7nRR1WNmE75PLajq.jpeg" size="original"] 3. KAISEIZAN PARK One of Japan’s first parks in Japan to be opened for public use. Despite the general photograph posted above, the park is beautiful and fun to explore by foot, especially in the springtime, when the cherry blossom line the pathways. Kaiseizan Park is a 30-minute drive from Takashiba Dekoyashiki. (More about Kaiseizan Park here) [photo id="5JdCl5ey8DtJEGmjvnl3AT1Mpr9QTLpdXEJion2j.jpeg" size="original"] 4. KORIYAMA STATION Koriyama Station is a 15-minute drive from Kaiseizan Park. Train stations in Japan are usually filled with cafes, restaurants, and shops, making them great – and convenient – places to buy omiyage (souvenirs) for friends and family. One of Koriyama’s most well-known omiyage is called yubeshi (pictured above). It is a sort of sweet rice cake, filled with red bean paste. It has quite a honey-like taste as well! Why not give them a try, and see what other fun gifts you can find as well? Finish your day trip here! Perhaps you could stay overnight in Koriyama, or in the nearby Atami Onsen spa town. Or you could hop on the shinkansen and head to Tokyo! [photo id="U90udocVwt1yu9rwLevz6SORgOk2OIQiIYZTCfyI.jpeg" size="original"] MAP OF ROUTE

    Springtime Koriyama Day Trip
  10. Destination Spotlight

    Japan's Oldest Waterfall Sakura

    Cherry blossoms in Fukushima Prefecture can be enjoyed over a long span of time from late March through early May because of the variation in climate across the wide distances between the east and west. One area particularly famous for cherry blossoms that features a number of famous trees is Miharu, which boasts more than 10,000 cherry trees. Take a trip to Miharu, the town of cherry blossoms, to experience springtime in Japan. Countless tourists visit Miharu every year from mid to late April to view just one single cherry tree. The tree that draws these crowds here is known as Miharu Takizakura, a tree over 1,000 years old and one of the three most famous cherry trees in Japan. Designated a National Monument, this massive Shidare Zakura (Cerasus spachiana f. spachiana) that reaches 13.5 m in height and 11.3 m in girth was given its name 'Takizakura' ('cherry blossom waterfall') because the cherry blossoms that bloom from its long, hanging branches seem to flow like a waterfall. Unlike many other popular cherry blossom spots where one views entire groves of cherry trees, visitors come here to stand in awe at the singular beauty of this one great tree. This vision of countless cherry blossoms wrapping the hanging branches that spread in all directions is simply beyond words. The tree continues to awe innumerable visitors from both inside and outside Japan. The name 'Miharu' is comprised of the Chinese characters for the phrase 'three springtimes.' The origin of the name stems from the fact that here, the Japanese plum, peach, and cherry trees, which normally bloom one after the other, instead bloom all at once, causing three different periods in springtime to happen at the same time. The town of Miharu fully embraces springtime when the cherry blossoms bloom on top of the already blooming plum and peach trees. Takizakura lives on as a symbol of the town as an elder statesman that has watched over the land for over 1,000 years. The unfurling of its blossoms augers the arrival of spring and the coming to an end of the severe cold of winter. Visitors celebrate the coming of spring and share their joy together. Once Takizakura blooms, the night view of this spectacular tree become bathed in lights. Thus both the sight of the tree in day time soaking up spring sunlight, and the sight of its bewitching beauty that seemingly floats against the sky in the evening, are worth seeing. Another great thing about Miharu is that one can view numerous famous cherry blossom locations and trees in a single trip if traveling by car. Takizakura is itself located closeby from other famous ancient trees, such as the 400 year old Jizozakura, said to be Takizakura’s daughter, and the 350 year old Fudozakura, said to also be a descendant. Come to Miharu Town to enjoy the grandeur of these cherry trees, and make sure to prepare your camera. Cherry trees only display the beauty of their blossoms for but a fleeting moment each year. The blossoms bloom at once for a brief time, and before long the petals fall to the ground. Make sure to check online for the latest information on the timing of the cherry blossoms before making your trip to Miharu. Also check out this page for information on reaching Miharu Takizakura.

    Japan's Oldest Waterfall Sakura
  11. Destination Spotlight

    Sakura Bliss Hike at Hanamiyama

    Vistas of indescribable beauty will greet you at Hanamiyama, an area in Fukushima City, in springtime between March and April. The abundant flowers, including cherry and peach blossoms, magnolia, forsythia, and Japanese quince, weave their colors together to create a gradation of nature with pinks and yellows and greens. Released from the severity of winter, this vista announces the arrival of spring with fanfare, and is loved by visitors from not only within Fukushima but from throughout Japan, and abroad as well. Come enjoy a walk through Hanamiyama Park, located in the central Hanamiyama area, as you are embraced by the soft, warm sunlight of springtime. One of the most fantastic things about Hanamiyama Park is that the hill upon which the park is located is home to uncountable wildflowers. Originally a private garden used to cultivate flowers, it was ultimately opened to the general public in 1959 as its beauty gained renown. Since then, countless visitors have come to Hanamiyama Park each year, making it one of the best known tourist destinations in Tohoku. The popularity is such that it gave rise to the phrase, “The Peach Blossom Spring is found in Fukushima,” referring to the ancient Chinese fable describing an isolated utopia inhabited by a hermit where beautiful flowers bloom, pure water flows, and birds sing. It is said that the Peach Blossom Spring cannot be found if you seek it, but that it in fact exists within your own heart. Yet Hanamiyama Park in the springtime will present you with a fantastical vista as if the Peach Blossom Spring has been made real and materialized before your very eyes. The specific aspects of that vista will change depending on the precise timing of your visit. Unlike the traditional Japanese 'Hanami' practice of flower viewing which focuses exclusively on cherry blossoms, Hanamiyama Park features a procession of different blooming flowers covering the entire hill that lasts from March all the way through May. The view transforms from pale flowers in March, such as various shades of plum blossom, through pink flowers in April including yoshino and weeping cherry blossoms, to deep pink and red flowers in May, including double cherry blossoms and azaleas. Thus, the color of the flowers steadily deepens with the progression of the season weaving a beautiful gradation of hues. While the view appears more like an impressionist painting from afar, you will find yourself surrounded by a veritable explosion of flowers the moment you step into the park. Take in the ever-changing vista and the procession of flowers as you enjoy conversation with friends or a relaxing walk. There are a number of walking courses that take visitors around Hanamiyama Park. You will find everything from gently graded walking courses that can be enjoyed by wheelchair users to more challenging trekking courses for those with energy to burn. Let your heart dance and you will quickly find yourself at the end of a long walk much sooner than you expected. That will be a perfect time to enjoy a break of green tea and rice cakes at the nearby shops and stalls as you take in the outside views. Don’t forget to visit the local shops and stalls before you leave. Shops and stalls sell an array of farm produce such as apples, green onions, and spinach in addition to popular sweets and locally processed foods. Hanamiyama Park can become quite crowded during the peak season, but the mornings are relatively less crowded than other parts of the day. We recommend you come to enjoy the fresh morning air of the park and take some photographs of the beautiful scenery while you’re at it. You might also enjoy the luxury of eating a delicious breakfast here after building up your appetite by walking.

    Sakura Bliss Hike at Hanamiyama
  12. Useful Information

    Hanami: Picnic Under the Sakura

    Cherry blossoms are a symbol of springtime throughout Japan. From late March through May, the hearts of the people of Japan are filled with joy at the coming of spring as the pink cherry blossoms begin to bloom. If you visit during this period, you will see countless people in many different locations in Japan enjoying picnics under the blossoming cherry trees, in a practice called “Hanami.” Hanami is the practice of eating and drinking to welcome the arrival of spring and enjoy the warm spring weather anywhere the gently falling cherry blossoms can be found, such as parks or by the river side. Why not experience this traditional Japanese Hanami yourself surrounded in the indescribably beautiful spring scenery? The culture of Hanami is specific to Japan with its four seasons, and has a history of over 1,000 years. The aristocracy of the middle ages gave rise to a culture of creating Japanese waka poems based on the theme of cherry blossoms, and this practice was gradually adopted by the general public over the passing of time, resulting in the practice today of picnicking under the cherry trees. [photo id="1Pe197Z0CR0Ii0AOeQzmomyms0kKIPetr5prFaSb.jpeg" size="original"] Cherry blossoms bloom but for a brief moment out of the year, and the purpose of Hanami is thus to enjoy this short time as much as possible to welcome the arrival of spring. Further, the cherry blossoms bloom at a time when the air grows warmer and there is little rain, making it pleasant to spend time outdoors. There are even food stalls at popular Hanami locations where celebrants can purchase sweets, drinks, and snacks. This adds to the appeal of the activity, allowing you to take in the blossoms after purchasing your favorite food and drink. The word Hanami-zake, a portmanteau of Hanami and Japanese sake, demonstrates the inseparable relationship between Hanami and the favored Japanese rice wine. Sipping sake while enjoying the gentle spring sunlight and the ephemeral beauty of the rows of cherry trees puts one in an otherworldly state of mind. Even if you prefer not to try the sake, you can still enjoy that sense as you eat a delicious boxed lunch under the cherry blossoms as they dance in the wind. Incidentally, daytime picnics are not the only way to enjoy Hanami. After sunset, the cherry trees are typically lit up, creating a more fantastical atmosphere different again from the daytime mood. [photo id="rhDkzfd9KPFfJH2Wi7usNG6JRZjyzxg0xn0yuyWB.jpeg" size="original"] Hanami Tips & Manners Temperatures still fall sharply at night even though spring has arrived, so don't forget to prepare for the cold. While some Hanami locations feature chairs and tables, we recommend that you bring everything you need for a picnic instead. It is also important to adhere to certain manners in order to properly enjoy Hanami. Specifically, cherry trees have a very short lifespan. Though the flowers are beautiful, snapping off branches to take home with you is strictly forbidden. Also, show your gratitude to the cherry trees and their beautiful blossoms by taking your trash home with you or disposing of it in designated locations. [photo id="9EPQ2Ar30WhYJvaEMs8fzGzCSnxfzqyuOUZwg6Qn.jpeg" size="original"]

    Hanami: Picnic Under the Sakura
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