The highlight of my month was 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) for ages, so I was glad that I finally got to go.
The building is beautiful. It’s thatched roof is designed in a “hipped” style, called yosemune (寄棟) in Japanese, and it doesn’t have windows or doors, so that wind 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 Kasumiga Castle’s tea rooms, Senshintei is the the only one that remains. The others were destroyed during a landslide in 1837, which damaged Senshintei. Senshintei was moved to a different location and rebuilt in part before being brought back to its original location.
For 500 yen, you can have matcha tea, and a traditional Japanese sweet known as wagashi (和菓子) in this historic building.
The wagashi I received was shaped as 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 it, so I really savoured its taste during the relaxed time I spent in the tea house. The weather was perfectly warm, a slight breeze occasionally 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, and kindly gave me permission to take some photos.
I even got a photo 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). The ladies assured me that they would be working there this autumn, and asked me to visit them again!
I enjoyed seeing the cherry blossom in the park, and exploring the winding paths the cut up and down the park’s slopes. Wherever I walked, I discovered waterfalls, shaded places to rest, little shrines tucked away behind trees, and fantastic views.
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 spot some komorebi.
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 remaining part of Kasumiga Castle.
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.