Must see: Three best spots for cherry blossoms in Japan!
|If you’re looking for cherry blossoms, then head to the three most famous spots in Japan!||Takato Castle Park (Nagano)|
|Mt.Yoshino (Nara Prefecture)||Hirosaki Park (Aomori Prefecture)|
Japanese love sakura (cherry blossoms) and hanami (the tradition of enjoying these flowers). People gather in famous hanami spots all over the country regardless of night or day while the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Of all the beautiful places around Japan, there are three special spots considered to be “Japan’s top three places for cherry blossoms (Japan’s three most amazing cherry blossom spots)” that have been well-known since a long time. If you’re blessed to be in Japan during this time then you must definitely get yourself to one of these special spots. Check and see if you plan to be close to one of these places, if so make sure to add them to your schedule. This sure to be one of your best memories of Japan.
Takato Castle doesn’t have the great tenshukaku (large central tower) that many other castles have, but it is a rare site with small turret buildings and historical residences. Takato Castle Park is built on top of the ruins of the old castle. The “Takato kohigan-zakura,” which are redder than the more common pink “somei-yoshino” variety of cherry blossoms, are said to be “the most beautiful sakura in the world” and are named after this famous spot.
Over the ruins of the original moat stands a wooden bridge named, O-unkyo (Cherry Blossom Cloud Bridge). Cherry trees are planted not only above but also below the bridge making every direction filled with cherry blossoms! This is undoubtedly the best hanami spot in all of Takato Castle Park.
The 1,500 cherry trees in Takato cover the entire park in blooming cherry blossoms. Takato-kaku, the red-tile roof building in the park, was built in 1936, and currently acts as a rest area and is a great attraction in and of itself. Takato-kaku is registered as a tangible cultural property for its profound beauty. The image of the red-tile roof floating above the sea of pink cherry blossoms is remarkable.
From an elevated view one can also get a glimpse of Japan’s great Southern Alps mountain range standing behind the cherry blossoms.
Due to the large amount of cherry trees in one small area, it is said that the other two best spots for cherry blossom viewing don’t match up to Takato Castle Park’s night hanami. One can enjoy the night hanami during the special park opening period until 22:00. However, April nights in Nagano are extremely cold, so don’t forget to wear enough layers!
Takato Joshi Koen (Takato Castle Park)（高遠城趾公園）
Address：2295 Higashi Takato, Takato-machi, Ina-shi, Nagano（長野県伊那市高遠町東高遠2295）
Phone Number：+81-265-78-4111 (Ina City Tourism Association)
Opening Hours：Special Cherry Blossom Period 6:00-22:00
Cherry Blossom Season: Every year from early to mid-April
There are not many famous tourist attractions around Takato Castle Park, but within walking distance one can find the “sakura bath” in Takato Onsen (hot springs)! So go relax in some hot springs after your hanami. This is how to truly enjoy Japan.
Soba (buckwheat noodles) are famous all over Nagano, but it is here in Ina City where the delicacy first originated. With some daikon radish and cooked miso along with a slightly spicy dipping sauce, it is said the ancient lords of Takato Castle enjoyed Takato’s famous soba just as people do today. Go ahead and try some at “Ikkoku,” a great restaurant for soba located near the closest bus stop to Takato Castle Park, “Takato-eki” (station)!
Address：1696 Nishi Takato, Takato-machi, Ina-shi, Nagano（長野県伊那市高遠町西高遠1696）
Holidays：December – March, and Thursdays throughout the rest of the year
The only hotel within walking distance of Takato Castle Park is the Takato Sakura Hotel. The hotel is connected to Takato Onsen, so we highly recommend this convenient course which will lead you from cherry blossoms, to hot springs, right to your accommodation. All other options for accommodation in the area are small minshuku (individually managed and family run inns) which tend to be pre-booked far in advance during the cherry blossom season, so be sure to get your reservation early!
Takato Sakura Hotel（高遠さくらホテル）
Address：217 Katsuma, Takato-machi, Ina-shi, Nagano（長野県伊那市高遠町勝間217）
Access：(By Train) Take a bus from the JR Ina-shi train station on the JR Bus Takato Line to the Takato Station bus stop and walk for 15 minutes.
Mt. Yoshino is officially registered as a World Heritage Site. Since ancient times cherry blossoms have been considered the trees of the gods, and so as a testimony to many believers’ faith, many trees have been gifted to the famous site over time. The common tradition of hanami (cherry blossom viewing) was started by the aristocracy in Nara. The beauty of Mt. Yoshino’s cherry blossoms was first praised in the verses of the famous poetry collection written in 905, the “Kokin Wakashu.” So come and enjoy the original site for hanami on Mt. Yoshino.
You’ve got to see this scenic beauty! Over 200 different kinds of 30,000 cherry trees spread across the mountain which produces the famous saying that goes, “1,000 cherry trees in a single glance.” One of the special features of Mt. Yoshino’s cherry blossoms is that one can see the gradations of sakura that bloom over time which spread upwards from the 1,000 trees at the base of the mountain, to the 1,000 located mid-slope, to the 1,000 near the summit, and the 1,000 located in the back.
The picture above shows the cherry blossoms in a place called, “Hana-yagura.” Don’t these sakura in full bloom look just like a waterfall? Because of its shape this view is named “Taki-zakura” (Sakura Waterfall).
From this high view, it looks as if a long cloth is stretched all the way down to the base of the mountain and so is called, “Nuno-hiki-zakura” (Long Cloth Cherry Blossoms). One can also enjoy night illuminations until 22:00 during the cherry blossom festival period.
Address： Yoshino-yama, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino-gun, Nara（奈良県吉野郡吉野町吉野山）
Phone Number：+81-746-32-1007 (Mt. Yoshino Tourism Association)
Cherry Blossom Season: Every year in mid-April
When you come to Mt. Yoshino be sure not to miss the World Heritage Site of Kinpusen-ji (temple) that contains the famous Buddhist statues that are normally withheld from public view, “Kongo-zao-kongen-ritsu-zo.” The temple was originally built sometime between mid-600 and AD 710 and reconstructed thereafter. This temple is revered at the same level as the famous “Nara-no-Daibutsu” (giant Buddha statue in Nara). The temple is opened during a fixed period every year until 2022, so be sure to visit during the cherry blossom season in 2016!
Address：Yoshino-yama, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino-gun, Nara（奈良県吉野郡吉野町吉野山）
Special Opening in 2016:
April 1 (Fri) – May 8 (Sun), 2016
Opening Hours: 8:30-16:30 (Last entry by 16:00)
Special Admittance Fee: 1,000 yen for adults, 800 yen for junior high school and high school students, 600 yen for elementary school students
“Kaki-no-ha-zushi” (sushi wrapped in the leaves of a persimmon tree) is the famous delicacy that originated in Mt. Yoshino. In ancient times, this is was a special seafood treat of salted saba mackerel brought all the way from the Kumano Sea to be enjoyed in the inland mountain area of Yoshino. Kaki-no-ha-zushi can be found in restaurants located around the base and mid-slopes of Mt. Yoshino.
Yumoto Hou-no-ya is a ryokan (traditional Japanese-style inn) in the Naka-senbon area in a location with sweeping views of Mt. Yoshino. Cherry blossoms cover the view stretching down from the outdoor hot spring baths!
Yumoto Hou-no-ya（湯元 宝の家）
Address：Nakasenbon Koen, Yoshino-yama, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino-gun, Nara（奈良県吉野郡吉野町吉野山中千本公園）
Access：By Train Take an express train from the Kintetsu Osaka Abenobashi Station for about 1 hour and 16 minutes and get off at Yoshino Station. Or, take an express train from the Kintetsu Kyoto Station for about 1 hour and 40 minutes and get off at Yoshino Station by way of the Kashiharajingu-mae Line.
Hirosaki Park is located on the ruins of Hirosaki Castle which was built over 400 years ago. The tower located in the center of the castle is left just as it was since its reconstruction in 1810. The tower along with stone walls and a moat are as they were since their original construction making it a precious historical remain. In spring, around 2,600 somei-yoshino and weeping cherry trees bloom all over the beautiful park.
The remaining tower of Hirosaki Castle is one of only twelve others that have survived in Japan since the 1800s. The view of the sakura, stone walls, and water of the moat gives Hirosaki Park the best scenes of cherry blossoms in the entire Tohoku region in northern Japan.
Rental boats are available to enjoy the western moat which appears as a giant tunnel of cherry blossoms. Even if you miss the full bloom of the cherry blossoms, don’t worry because you can still enjoy the fallen flower petals. There is a specific phenomenon that people call, “hana-ikada” (flower float), which occurs when the cherry blossom petals have fallen. What kind of phenomenon is this exactly?
The moat gets covered in cherry blossom petals turning the water pink! It is a truly magnificent sight to behold.
Throughout Japan, the somei-yoshino variety of cherry trees is the most prevalent, the oldest of which can be found in Hirosaki Park. Planted in 1882, it’s led a very long life! Even now, the tree still produce beautiful cherry blossoms every year.
In 2015, a huge change took place at Hirosaki Castle. It is said that the view of the cherry blossoms from the red-railing Gejoubashi Bridge is the most beautiful in the park. However, 2015 marked the first movement of the castle tower in 100 years, making it the closest it’s ever been to the cherry blossoms, thus 2016 will present a different view of cherry blossoms compared to the past. This movement depended upon the manpower of the people as they physically pull the castle along little by little. This is one movement that has been news all over Japan! Everyone is looking forward to the new photos of the castle in spring which will be slightly different than before due to its new position.
Address：1 Shimoshirogane-cho, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori（青森県弘前市下白銀町1）
Phone Number：+81-172-35-3131 (Hirosaki Tourism Convention Association)
Opening Hours：9:00-17:00 (Sakura Festival Period: 7:00-21:00)
Holidays：11/24 – 3/31
Cherry Blossom Season: Every year from late April to early May
Leaving Hirosaki for Aomori Station, drop by “Nebuta no Ie Wa Rasse,” a facility that has many of the famous giant floats on display from the “Nebuta Masturi,” which is considered one of the top three festivals in all of Japan. It will make you want to come see the power of the real Nebuta Matsuri festival season!
Nebuta no Ie Wa Rasse（ねぶたの家 ワ・ラッセ）
Address：1-1-1 Yasukata, Aomori-shi, Aomori （青森県青森市安方1-1-1）
Opening Hours：9:00-19:00 (9:00-18:00 from September to April)
Holidays：12/31, 1/1 (+2 days in August)
Hirosaki City is the number one producer of apples in Japan. Over 47 different kinds of apple pie are made from these famous apples. So go ahead and explore the town while eating apple pie. First head inside the JR Hirosaki train station to the Hirosaki Tourist Information Center and pick up an apple pie guidebook. Then, go get an all-day pass for the “100 Yen Loop Bus” for 500 yen! The bus goes by Hirosaki Park, so it’s a great deal if you want to go see the cherry blossoms as well. Here, we’ll introduce two stores that have won awards in local apple pie contests. First is “the Dessert Shop,” a pastry shop that is connected to the French restaurant, “Chez Tateyama.” The combination of the crispy crust and soft warm apple filling is amazing!
(Source：Tea Wave ～幸せの波動を感）
Address：3-17-1 Miyagawa, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori（青森県弘前市宮川3-17-1）
The “Le Castle Factory” is another wonderful pastry shop that uses generous amounts of delicious Aomori-grown Fuji apples in its apple pies.
Le Castle Factory（ル・キャッスル・ファクトリー）
Address：24-1 Kamisayashi-machi, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori（青森県弘前市上鞘師町24-1）
Holidays：all year round
If you come to Tsugaru, then head to “Hirosaki no Okuzashiki” in Owani Onsen, which has a history of over 800 years. One can enjoy baths with floating apples at the renowned hot spring resort, “Hoshino Resort Kai Tsugaru.”
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