Hello! I hope that everyone is enjoying cherry blossom season, wherever you might be.
I got back from a business trip to Thailand on Tuesday, and made it a priority to go out & see some cherry blossom this week, refusing to acknowledging that most of the sakura spots near me had been in full bloom while I was away!
I read that the cherry blossom in Nihonmatsu City was still in bloom, so yesterday I headed over there to take photos in a couple of popular locations.
My first stop was Kassenba – a beautiful Shidarezakura (Weeping Cherry Blossom Tree) a 30 minute drive away from central Nihonmatsu City.
The tree looked spectacular, despite the grey skies. I love the way that the dainty light-pink blossoms contrast with the bright rapeseed blossom at its base. I still haven’t visited Takizakura, so Kassenba is the closest I have been to gettin up close & personal with a huge cherry blossom tree. (Although its 170 years make it look like a baby next to the 1,000+ year old Takizakura).
The best day to visit Kassenba may have passed, but it should still look beautiful this weekend. There are a couple of food stands near the car parks & a number of places to sit down and have a chill next to this fantastic tree.
You need a car to visit Kassenba, so it might be necessary to either rent a car or go by taxi. Below is a map of the tree’s location.
Read more about Kassenba here.
Nakajima no Jizosakura
Next, I headed to Nakajima no Jizo Sakura, which is another single cherry blossom tree not too far away from Kassenba, in the area of Nihonmatsu City that used to be known as Towa (read more about Towa here).
According to a couple of websites and articles I looked at, the Jizo Sakura tree was supposed to be in full bloom, but as it happened, although some other trees at the location looked pretty nice, the best day to see the main tree was over 4 days before my visit!
I was a little disappointed at having got the timing wrong. Also, the grey skies didn’t improve its appearance. I had been hoping to see it looking as in bloom as it does in the picture below.
I’ll have to come back earlier next year and check the official Twitter page in advance!
Visiting Nakajima no Jizosakura
As with Kassenba, you need a car to visit Nakajima no Jizosakura.
This reminded me of the importance of getting up-to-date information on cherry blossom spots before you visit (especially when the cherry blossom season of the year is early or late, like it is this year).
So, if you don’t speak Japanese, how can you keep up to date with the cherry blossom season?
Below are a few tips for making the most of cherry blossom season in any part of Japan.
Many local people create Twitter accounts for famous sakura spots, and upload photographs of how the blossoms are doing daily during cherry blossom season. If you find out the sightseeing spots’ name in Japanese, you can search for their Twitter Page, follow it, and keep in-the-know that way!
By the way, here are a couple of the prefecture’s top cherry blossom spots’ Twitter Pages:
Search Instagram via hashtags or locations (input in English or Japanese). Although some people don’t upload photos on the same day of their visit, users will often make note of when they took the photo. The most recently uploaded photos are also most likely to give you a good indication of how new the photos are!
This is what I should have done before driving to Nakajima Jizosakura! Although many Tourism Associations in Japan don’t have English-speaking staff – and therefore taking phone calls can seem quite scary – many will at least be able to respond to emails.
If you are visiting Fuushima, you can email or call my office using the details on our organisation’s home page.
After the fail that was our visit to Nakajima no Jizo Sakura, we headed to Dake Onsen to the west of Nihonmatsu City. This town is famous for being the entrance to a popular hiking route up Mt Adatara. However, before we left Towa, a sight caught my attention from the corner of my eye.
This temple had numerous jizo lining the steps to the top of the temple, and was surrounded by cherry blossom trees of a number of varities. The site of all the jizo lined up on the stairs really moved me and I had to stop the car and rush over to snap a few photos.
It was a very peaceful place with benches and seats which would make it a good place to do some hanami (Cherry blossom viewing).
One of the best things about renting a car in Japan is being able to stop at places that catch your eye, places that you would otherwise just pass by and forget! Zendoji was definitely one of these places.
Once we arrived at Dake Onsen, we had lunch at Narikoma, a very well-known Sauce Katsudon Restaurant.
Huge Sauce Katsudon for Lunch
Katsudon is pork cutlet lightly fried in batter. This is a popular dish in Japan, but Fukushima has given this amazing dish. In Fukushima – and especially in Aizu – you can find Sauce Katsudon, which is katsudon covered in a delicious sauce similar to Worcester Sauce.
I was so excited to hear about a new Sauce Katsudon restaurant that I was yet to try so we ordered katsudon quckly upon arriving.
It was amazing and the portions were huge for around only 1000 yen!
After lunch, we decided to digest our food by going on a little walk down Sakurazaka, located really close to Narikoma.
Sakurazaka (which means ‘Sakura Hill’ in English) is a popular spot for hanami-lovers. I understood why as we drew closer – the whole road is lined with cherry blossom trees, which stretch for as far as you can see.
At the end of the road lies Kagamigaike Park, where you can continue your hanami while having a picnic.
It was nice to see so many locals getting out and about enjoying the cherry blossom – I even got photo-bombed by one of them.
How to visit Dake Onsen
Take a train from Koriyama Station to Nihonmatsu Station on the Tohoku Line. Then catch a bus from Nihonmatsu Station to the center of Dake Onsen. For information on how to get to Koriyama from Tokyo, please see here.
So cherry blossom season is almost over…
I’m hoping to go to Kitakata City in Aizu Region next Monday for a last attempt at some hanami. I’m planning to visit the Nicchu Line, as the cherry blossom in Kitakata City should be at their best early next week!
Where did you go to see cherry blossom this year? Do you have a favourite place in Japan for enjoying the sakura? Please let me know if your comments!
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