The highlight of my month has probably been visiting Kasumiga-jo Park when its 1700 cherry trees were in full bloom, and enjoying a matcha tea in a traditional tea room from the Edo Period.
I have wanted to visited the tea room Senshintei (洗心亭) since my last trip to the park last Autumn, so I was glad that I finally had time to have a cup of tea there.
The building is beautiful. It’s thatched roof is designed in a “hipped” style, called yosemune (寄棟) in Japanese, and, as is typical of buildings from the Edo period, it does not have windows, or a door, so that the window can flow gently throughout the whole building. The floor is covered in tatami, and there is a decorative folding screen to one side.
Out of all of the tea rooms which used to be situated inside the walls of Kasumiga Castle, Senshintei is the the only one that remains. The others were destroyed – and Senshintei was damaged – during a landslide in 1837. It was moved to a different location and rebuilt in part before being brought back to its original location.
For just 500 yen, you can have a bowl of matcha tea, and a traditional Japanese sweet known as wagashi (和菓子) in this historic building.
Seeing as I visited during cherry blossom season, the wagashi I received had been molded carefully into the shape of a cherry blossom!
The lady sitting next to me was presented with a wagashi of a completely different design. In total, 4 different designs had been prepared for customers.
I love matcha, but rarely have an opportunity to drink matcha that isn’t out of a packet, so I really savoured its taste during the relaxed time I spent in the tea house, the weather perfectly warm, with just a slight breeze occasionallly passing through the walls of the building.
The tea and wagashi were prepared by a group of women working in the tea shop, each wearing traditional Japanese dress. They looked wonderful, so I asked for permission to take a photograph. Although a bit nervous to have individual photographs taken, I got to take a group photograph of them.
I was lucky enough to get my picture taken with them as well!
The tea room is only open during the cherry blossom season and the park’s famous Kiku Ningyo Matsuri (Chrysanthemum Doll Festival), which I wrote about here, but the ladies assured me that they would be working there this autumn. They asked me to come back and visit them again!
I will definitely be back in Autumn, and next Spring as well. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing not only the cherry blossom in the park, but also exploring the many winding paths the cut up and down the slopes that make up Kasumiga-jo Park. Wherever I walked, I discovered waterfalls, shaded places to rest, little shrines tucked away behind trees, and fantastic views.
The park even includes a 300 year old pine tree, its branches shaped in a really unique way so that it resembles a parasol (well, at least, it does to me!).
One of my favourite phrases that I have learned since coming to Japan is komorebi (木漏れ日), which translates as ‘the shapes that sunlight makes as it passes through the branches of trees’. It’s a lot simpler in Japanese, isn’t it!
Kasumiga-jo Park is actually known for having a number of spots famous for this komorebi, including one close by to the tea room. When you visit the park, make sure to try and notice things like this, that you might otherwise overlook.
The Park’s History
Kasumiga-jo Park was the site of Kasumiga Castle, which was built in 1643 by the first feudal lord of the Nihonmatsu domain. It was destroyed in the Boshin War, and the castle’s ruins were transformed into a prefectural park.
The stone walls are the only parts of Kasumiga Castle that remain to this day. Hundreds of years ago, it gained its name Kasumiga-jo (Castle in the Mist) in the springtime, when it was said that the 1700 cherry blossom trees that filled the castle’s grounds looked like pale mist from afar, on top of which the castle floated.
By train: 20 minute walk from Nihonmatsu Station (JR Tohoku Honsen Line).
By car: 5 minutes from the Nihonmatsu IC exit off of the Tohoku Expressway.
Entrance Fee: Free! (Except during the Chrysanthemum Doll Festival)
Cherry Blossom Season: Mid-April
For more information about Kasumiga-jo Park, see here!
Why not rent a car and include Kasumiga-jo in a ‘cherry blossom viewing’ drive through Nihonmatsu City? There are a number of great cherry blossom spots near by (see the map below), such as Kassenba’s weeping cherry trees.