Cherry Blossoms of Aomori

Aomori is blessed with dozens of beautiful places to celebrate spring. But there’s a lot more than just flowers at Aomori’s cherry blossom festivals. At different festivals you can catch a horse archery contest (yabusame), dancing and singing competitions, shamisen concerts, baseball tournaments, and tons of great food. Do you want to watch fireworks, see an ancient castle, or even the Statue of Liberty (replica) from your picnic blanket?  We’ve got those too! And you can ride boats, trains, horse-drawn carts, or even a Ferris wheel surrounded by cherry blossoms.

There are so many festivals and places to see cherry trees, I can’t list them all.  But I’ve tried to highlight the largest, strangest, and most popular places and festivals and cover each region. If you’re looking for lots of activity and excitement, Hirosaki and Kanagi are probably the most famous sakura spots in Aomori. But if you prefer a more peace and quiet, you may want to visit one of the smaller locations. As for when you should go, that will depend greatly on the weather. The current forecast is for the first blossoms to open around April 28th and be at peak bloom by May 4th. (According to the Japan National Tourism Organization site: http://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/city.php?CI=4 ) Wherever you go, I hope you enjoy the brief but brilliant beauty of Aomori’s cherry blossoms.

Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival (弘前さくらまつり)

  • What to expect: 2,600 cherry trees around a beautiful castle. This is one of two sites in Aomori to make the list of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom sites created by the Japan Cherry Blossom Association.
  • Highlights: Boat rides around the castle’s moat, nighttime illumination of the trees, and of course festival food stalls. There is a free Gospel concert as well as a Shamisen concert and a folk song concert for an additional fee.
  • When: April 23rd thru May 5th
  • Where: Hirosaki Castle
  • Cost: Entrance fee of 300 yen if you want to get close to the castle, expect to pay for parking.
  • Websites: Official(Japanese): http://www.hirosaki.co.jp/htcb/sightseeing/fes/sakuramatsuri.html
  • Flyer: http://www.hirosaki.co.jp/images/kanko/2012/sakura/sakuramatsuri_flyer.pdf

Kanagi Cherry Blossom Festival (金木桜まつり)

  • What to expect: 2,200 cherry trees around a lake and garden. This is one of two sites in Aomori to make the list of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom sites created by the Japan Cherry Blossom Association.
  • Highlights: Shutterbugs from all around come to photograph the railroad that passes through a tunnel of cherry blossoms. There will also be boat rides around the lake, 150 festival stalls and nighttime illumination with paper lanterns. There are several contests and events scheduled throughout the week including an all-Japan Shamisen contest, sports competitions and a firework show.
  • When: April 29th thru May 6th, Shamisen contest May 4th-5th, Fireworks at 7:20pm on May 2nd
  • Where: Ashino Park in Kanagi (芦野公園)
  • Cost: Free, 500 yen for parking
  • Websites: Official(Japanese): http://www.kanagi-s.com/sakura/index.html

Towada City Spring Festival & Sakura Yabusame (十和田市春まつり / 桜流鏑馬)

  • What to expect: Komakaido road has been chosen as one of the “Top One Hundred Japanese Roads” so I expect it is quite pretty. The road is lined with 156 cherry trees and 165 pine trees.
  • Highlights: Stroll along the road or visit the observation lounge the Chamber of Commerce will open to the public for this event. During the festival there will be various events and vendors as well as nighttime illumination, a Yabusame Contest (Japanese Horse Archery), and horse drawn carriages.
  • When: April 20th thru May 5th, Yabusame competition (women only) on April 28th & 29th 10:00 – 2:00 and exhibition (men only) on April 30th 11:00 – 2:00
  • Where: Civic Center Street (官庁街通り(駒街道)), Central Park (中央公園), Sakura Square(桜の広場), and Komako Square (駒っこ広場).
  • Cost: Free
  • Websites: Official(Japanes):http://www.towada-kankou.jp/event/event-spring.html
  • English write-up: http://www.towada.or.jp/kankou/en/event/harumaturi.htm
  • Yabusame site(Japanese): http://www.jtng.com/sakurayabusame/

Aomori Spring Festival and Cherry Blossoms (AOMORI春フェスティバル)

  • What to expect: Gappo Park has 670 Sakura trees, a beach with a nice view of Mutsu bay, and is surrounded by Aomori’s capital city.
  • Highlights: Expect food stalls, glowing paper lanterns, and various events around Gappo Park. There will be a giant parade and dance celebration (Yosakoi) on May 4th & 5th which will include dancers, Nebuta floats, and various other acts.
  • When: Cherry blossoms will be late May till early April and the Yosakoi is May 4th and 5th
  • Where: Gappo Park in Aomori City (合浦公園) & various streets (2011 map: http://www.harufes.com/2011/map.html)
  • Cost: Free, but expect to pay for parking
  • Websites: Parade Official(Japanese): http://www.harufes.com/index.html

Hachinohe Park Spring Festival (ちのへ公園春まつり)

Mutsu Cherry Blossom Festival (むつ桜まつり)

  • What to expect: 400 Sakura trees with a lake and a campground not too far away. This is the biggest cherry blossom festival in the Shimokita area.
  • Highlights: There will be concerts, folk songs, traditional dancing, and karaoke contests as well as the regular festival stalls.
  • When: Late April to early May
  • Where: Hayakakenuma Park and Suigenchi Park
  • Cost: Free
  • Websites: English Write-up: http://en.aptinet.jp/detail/xmldetail.html?xmlid=00001468
  • Official(Japanese): http://www.mutsucci.or.jp/kanko/o-sakura.htm

Sanohe Spring Festival (さんのへ春まつり)

  • What to expect: 1,600 cherry blossom and a small castle in a nice park.
  • Highlights: You can catch some dancing, singing, and see Aomori’s lesser know castle.
  • When: April 28th to May 5th
  • Where: Shiroyama Park (城山公園)
  • Cost: Free
  • Websites: Official(Japanese): http://www.town.sannohe.aomori.jp/ivent/index.htm

Oirase Town Spring Festival(おいらせ町春まつり)

Like I said, these are just some of the festivals happening around the prefecture.  Rokunohe, Misawa, Noheji, and several other towns are also holding festivals that I’m sure will be beautiful and fun. Happy flower hunting and I hope everyone has a great Golden Week!

~Jeff in Nakadomari

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