It seems that spring comes late this year. Still cold outside, still raining or snowing at least once a week, so it’s hard to imagine, but in a month we will be planning our this year’s hanami experience. There are many places where you can enjoy cherry blossom in Tohoku (not speaking about Japan in general), but two of the most well-known cherry blossom spots of Japan is less than an hour trip away from Sendai. I mean Ogawara’s thousand cherry trees and Shibata’s Funaoka Castle Park.
No matter where you start your cherry blossom admiring - in Ogawara station, in Funaoka station or somewhere in between, the best way to enjoy it is going hiking. Because in Ogawara and Shibata it is impossible to think of a one particular spot which would be the best one for hanami. Usually Japanese hanami image is sitting somewhere with bento, drinking, chatting all day, and actually there is nothing wrong with this way of enjoying famous cherry blossoms. What you get in Ogawara and Shibata is an alternative, healthier way to spend your hanami day. Instead of spending all day long in one, particularly remarkable spot, you can walk along a thousand of cherry trees, reflected in a river, to a huge statue of bodhisattva Kannon, a goddess of compassion, floating in the sea of cherry flowers, climb the hill and surround yourself with cherry blossom.
Or you can use a funicular car to the hill, where the cherry blossom festival takes place, with everything that is typical for Japanese matsuri - delicious food and drinks, relaxed and joyful atmosphere.
A boat is another possible choice.
Stopping on the way to check out some local attractions and famous restaurants is a useful experience, too. There are plenty of places to visit in Ogawara and Shibata, as well as many gourmet spots - Western style, Japanese style, Western and Japanese mixed together, cosy and posh, cheap and exclusive, traditional and new.
One thing that can be useful for those who don’t speak Japanese well - this year, Ogawara and Shibata are preparing a free paper in English with all the information about hanami and the spots that should be visited besides hanami. You can get it directly on the spot.
Cherry blossom season is great for travelling around Japan. You can start your season in Kyoto and end it on Hokkaido, following the footsteps of spring coming to Japan. But it is good to know that some of the best places are actually here at your hand, isn’t it?
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