Matsugaoka Park, Iwaki, is a large, family-friendly park which manages to balance modern life with its old roots.
The park is well-known by locals as a great place for flower-viewing in springtime, not only for its cherry blossom, but also for its azalea! During the peak season of early April to mid-May, the park draws a lot of visitors, and I was surprised by the number of families and young children that I came across during my visit.
Aside from the 270 someyoshi cherry trees, another reason for Matsugaoka Park’s popularity is its proximity to Iwaki Station. Iwaki Station is really huge (1200 square km), and Matsugaoka Park is one of the only cherry blossom spots that you can easily reach by foot in around 20 minutes.
For families and friends who want to enjoy good weather, eat festival food, lay out picnic blankets and while away the afternoon, Matsugaoka Park is perfect. It is really big – in fact, it’s made up of two parks – so no matter how busy it gets, you should be able to find your own space to relax and spend time those you care about.
During my visit, the atmosphere was extremely laid back. There were many food stalls at the centre of the park, and I could from the delicious smells of festival food and the excited laughs of playing children that the annual cherry blossom festival was truly in swing.
Matsugaoka Park was made in 1907 as part of commemorating the Russo-Japanese War. The first area of the park to be built was a pond, around which cherry trees, plum trees and azalea were planted in abundance.
As you can imagine from Iwaki’s oldest park, it contains a small traditional Japanese garden, which is very picturesque, and a few steps from the park’s car park. A five minute walk from the Japanese gardens stands the childrens’ playground.
The kids’ play area is contain in ‘Section 1’ of the park, and this play area was actually closed after 3.11, due to necessary repair work. It was finally reopened again in 2016.
At the centre of the play area is a huge someyoshi cherry blossom tree.
Towering tall, right in the middle of a busy, lively park full of young families, it seemed to me like the tree was not only placed physically in the centre of the park, but also, symbolically, at the centre of the community.
See below for a map of the hanami spots I visited in Iwaki!