This month, we've broken down our list into two sections: Cherry Blossoms and Other Events. Cherry blossom spots are listed first, followed by Other Events starting from #14.
1. Tsutsujigaoka Park sakura
Through early April
A cherry blossom spot in the heart of Sendai City, one that's been a popular hanami spot since the Edo period. Though the festival events and light-up have been cancelled this year due to concern over coronavirus, visitors are still free to stroll the park and view the blossoms. The cherry blossoms here have already opened—much earlier than in regular years! However, the variety of cherry blossoms in the park means that the season here lasts longer than at spots with just one type planted, so there's still time to catch the blossoms here at their peak.
2. Hitome Senbonzakura
Through early April
Ogawara & Shibata, Miyagi
The place for hanami in Miyagi! The Hitome Senbon Zakura (lit. "A Thousand Cherry Blossoms in One Glance") are group of over 1,000 sakura trees that line the riverbanks between the towns of Ogawara and Shibata. Most years there are a number of festivities happening in the area during peak cherry blossom season, but this year due to coronavirus concerns, those events have been cancelled. However, the towns are still welcoming visitors to take in the cherry blossoms while strolling the riverbank. At the Shibata end of the Hitome Senbon Zakura stretch, you'll find Funaoka Castle Site Park, another top cherry blossom viewing spot.
3. Funaoka Castle Site Park sakura
Through early April
One of the most popular spots for cherry blossom viewing in Miyagi. Funaoka Castle Site Park is located on a small mountain, where a castle stood until the Meiji Restoration. Funaoka Castle Site Park is located right next to the Hitome Senbon Zakura, so you can easily hit both of these famous cherry blossom viewing spots in one outing.
4. Shiroishi Castle sakura
Through early April
Shiroishi Castle is a reconstruction built using historically accurate techniques. Visitors can enter the castle for a close look at these construction methods, as well as stroll the castle grounds. Though the cherry blossom festival has been cancelled due to concern over coronavirus, visitors are still invited to visit the castle and view the sakura. The blossoms opened on March 26. For updates on cherry blossom status, see the castle's official website.
Closed days: None except New Year's holiday period
Admission: Cherry blossoms free, castle ¥400
Castle details (English): visitmiyagi.com
Shiroishi Castle official website (cherry blossom updates): shiro-f.jp
Location: Shiroishi Castle (白石城). Map here.
Access (on foot): 10-minute walk from Shiroishi Station.
Access (rental cycle): About 1 kilometer from Shiroishi Station or about 2 kilometers from Shiroishi-Zao Station. Bicycle rental is available at either station. For cycle rental details, see here (English).
5. Hanamiyama Park & sakura
Through early April
Fukushima City, Fukushima
One of the best spots for cherry blossom viewing in all Japan—no exaggeration! This hilly garden-like area offers walking trails bordered by a plethora of spring flowers, plus gorgeous views of sakura against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
Admission: Usually free, but during cherry blossom season they ask that visitors make a small donation.
Official website: hanamiyama.jp
Location: Hanamiyama (花見山). Map here.
Access: About 4 km by shuttle bus or free rental cycle from Fukushima Station. The shuttle bus is scheduled to run through April 18 this year, though may be subject to change depending on cherry blossom status. For bus details and timetables, see here. For rental cycle details, see here.
6. Kasumigajo Castle sakura
Through early April
It's said that the cherry blossoms of Kasumigajo (lit. "Castle in the Mist") are what gave the castle its nickname. Nowadays a spacious public park, visitors can roam the grounds freely, taking in the famous sight of Kasumigajo enshrouded in its sakura "mist."
7. Mikamine Park sakura
Taihaku Ward, Sendai
Rumored to be the best cherry blossom spot in Sendai, but much less crowded than other spots due to its slightly out-of-the-way location. Due to the large variety of sakura cultivars growing here (forty-eight different kinds!), cherry blossom trees in full bloom can be seen here for over a month.
8. Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park sakura
Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park, a hilltop park offering one of the best views of Matsushima year-round, is especially beautiful April, when the view appears to float on a cloud of delicate pink cherry blossoms. The park is also home to attraction-in-its-own-right Cafe Le Roman, a cafe serving light French fare in a sleek glass-enclosed space, offering visitors treetop views of the cherry blossoms and bay beyond as they dine.
9. Hiyoriyama Park sakura
A public park with sakura trees and seaside views. Hiyoriyama Park is located in Ishinomaki, one of the cities devastated by the tsunami of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The park is on top of a hill so was left untouched, but the city below flooded and many people perished. The park's vantage point makes it a good place for getting a feel for the scale of the destruction. Pictures taken before the disaster are posted next to viewpoints around the park, so visitors can compare the the present-day view to what the same spot looked like before the tsunami.
10. Miharu Takizakura
Takizakura is counted among the Three Sakura of Japan, and considered by many to be the single most beautiful in all Japan. The food stalls and light-up event have been cancelled this year due to concern over coronavirus, but visitors are still invited to come admire the blossoms.
Admission: ¥300 ages high school & up, children ages junior high & younger free
Location: Miharu Takizakura (三春滝桜). Map here.
Access: By shuttle bus from Miharu Station. At Miharu Station, board Takizakura-go (滝桜号) bus. Alight at the Takizakura Big Parking Lot (滝桜大駐車場). The shuttle bus will run April 3, 4, 10, & 11 (subject to change depending on cherry blossom status). For bus details and timetables, see here.
11. Tsurugajo Castle Park sakura
Early to mid-April
One of Japan's Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots. A reconstructed castle surrounded by 1,000 sakura trees. The unusual red-tile roof of Tsurugajo Castle complements the light pink of cherry blossoms particularly well. Though the events associated with cherry blossom season have been suspended this year due to concern over coronavirus, the view of cherry blossoms with Tsurugajo in the background is as photogenic as ever.
Hours: Always open
Location: Tsurugajo Shimin Koen (鶴ヶ城市民公園). Map here.
Access from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station: 20 minutes by Haikara-san or Akabe bus, followed by a 7-minute walk. Alight at Tsurugajo Iriguchi (鶴ヶ城入口) bus stop. Bus info & timetable here (English).
Access from Sendai: Aizu-Wakamatsu is about 2.5 hours from Sendai by highway bus. The highway bus hub for Aizu-Wakamatsu is the bus terminal across the street from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station (会津若松駅), but if you alight two stops later at Tsurugajo・Gotochosha-mae (鶴ヶ城・合同庁舎前) you'll be dropped off right at the castle. Timetable here.
12. Kassenba Weeping Sakura
Early to mid-April
Trees with their own Twitter account! These weeping sakura have fields of nanohana blossoms in front, making for an especially photogenic springtime-in-the-Japanese-countryside scene. For blossom status and the latest updates, follow the trees' Twitter @kassenba_s
13. Kannonjigawa riverside sakura
Mid- to late April
The must-see spot for cherry blossoms in Inawashiro. A one-kilometer stretch of the Kannonjigawa River is lined with Yoshino and weeping sakura. The area is so idyllic it feels like a traditional Japanese garden, the surrounding countryside shakkei borrowed scenery.
14. Handworks of Hokkaido
Through April 6
An exhibition and market featuring the work of nine Hokkaido artisans, from the Sapporo metropolitan area as well as far-flung rural areas like Ashoro and Oketo. Wares include pottery, glasswork, woodcraft, jewelry, sweets, traditional teas, and microroasted coffee beans.
15. Okuni Shrine Dogtooth Violet Festival & Haiku Contest
Through late April (haiku contest ~May 31)
Imozawa area, Sendai
Katakuri (dogtooth violet) is a slow-growing wildflower native to Japan. The flower is relatively rare, and so popular amongst unscrupulous wildflower enthusiasts that it is often the target of poachers, to the point that some colonies of dogtooth violets have been completely wiped out due to poaching.
This festival in the forests of western Sendai makes a perfect occasion to not only see these covetable wildflowers, but also check out the impressive but little-known Okuni Shrine. There's also a haiku contest being held in conjunction with the flower festival, so if the beauty of the surroundings (or anything else) is making you wax poetic, carpe diem and enter the contest! Everyone is invited to enter, and winning haiku will be displayed around the park area of the shrine grounds.
Closed days: None
Shrine details (English): ohkunijinja.org
Event details: miyagi-kankou.or.jp
Location: Oguni Shrine (大國神社). Map here.
Access: About 60 minutes by bus from Sendai Station. At Sendai Station West Exit Bus Pool Platform 10, board a #850 Miyagidai・Okuni Jinja Line via Kenchoshiyakusho-mae・Daigaku Byoin-mae (県庁市役所前・大学病院前経由 みやぎ台・大國神社線) bus bound for Okuni Jinja (大國神社). Alight at the final stop, Okuni Jinja. Bus map here, timetables here.
16. Sato Farm Ume Garden open
Through late April
Cherry blossoms aren't the only pastel beauties of spring—there's also ume blossoms! Pinker and usually more fragrant than cherry blossoms, they too make for wonderful flower viewing. Though Miyagi isn't one of the prefectures famous for ume blossoms, there are still some nice spots, like this orchard on the outskirts of the historic Iwadeyama area of Osaki City. It's private property, but the owners invite the public to come visit freely during ume blossom season.
17. Mizubasho flower habitat open
Through early May
Mizubasho, called "white skunk cabbage" in English, is not as malodorous as its moniker would have it seem. Though belonging to the same genus as Western skunk cabbage species, which do have a reputation for foul odor, this Asian variety, which grows only in northern Japan and eastern Russia, has a more variable scent that is often very faint, or sometimes even sweet and pleasant. As such, in Japanese culture the flower is generally seen in a poetic sense, to the point that there is even a sake brewery named after it. This particular mizubasho colony is located in Shichikashuku, a charming rural town in southern Miyagi.
Hours: Always open
Location: Tama no Kihara Mizubasho habitat (玉の木原水芭蕉群生地). Map here.
Access: About 90 minutes by bus from Shiroshi or Shiroishi-Zao Stations, followed by a 20-minute walk. At Shiroishi Station (白石駅) or Shiroishi-Zao Station (白石蔵王駅), board Shichikashuku-Shiroishi Line (七ヶ宿白石線) bus bound for Yakuba・Nananiro Hiroba (役場・なないろひろば). Alight at Yakuba, Family Mart Shichikashuku-ten, or Nanairo Hiroba (役場、ファミリーマート七ヶ宿店、なないろひろば) bus stop, then transfer to a Shichikashuku Kaido Line (七ヶ宿街道線) bus bound for Yubara・Hikaba (湯原・干蒲). Alight at Yubara Sakanoue (湯原坂の上). Bus timetables here (Shichikashuku Shiroishi Line) and here (Shichikashuku Kaido Line).
18. Kyu-Abe House Hinamatsuri
Through May 5
A Hinamatsuri celebration at the historical Abe House. Roughly six hundred antique hinamatsuri dolls, dating from the end of the Edo period to the pre-WWII era, are displayed. Visitors are also invited to make or paint their own hinamatsuri dolls here.
Hours: 9:00–16:30 (last entry 16:00)
Closed days: Mondays. If Monday is a holiday, the house will be open Monday and closed the following day.
Location: At the Kyu-Abe House (旧阿部家). Map here.
Access: 30 minutes by bus from Sagoshi Station. From Sagoshi Station Ekimae (砂越駅前) bus stop, board a Hirata Runrun Bus (平田るんるん) Sagoshi Kobayashi Line (砂越小林線) bus bound for Kobayashi (小林). Bus route map and timetable here.
Access to Sakata from Sendai: About 3.5 hours by train or highway bus. The Sakata Shoko Bus Terminal (酒田庄交バスターミナル) is the highway bus hub in Sakata, and is located next to Sakata Station. Highway bus timetable here.
19. Otsujigataki Falls Light Up & Lantern Zone
Through May 9
Otsujigataki is ranked on of Japan's Top 100 Waterfalls. Come see it in a new light (literally!) at this evening illumination. In addition to the waterfall being lit up, the park-like area near the falls will also be illuminated, with colorful Asian lanterns.
Location: Otsujigataki Park (乙字ヶ滝公園). Map here.
Access from Sukagawa Station: About 25 minutes by bus. At Sukagawa Station (須賀川駅), board bus bound for Ishikawa Station (石川駅) via Tatsuzaki (竜崎). Alight at Takiyama (滝山). Timetables here.
Access from Ishikawa Station: About 30 minutes by bus. At Ishikawa Station (石川駅), board bus bound for Sukagawa Station (須賀川) via Tatsuzaki (竜崎). Alight at Takiyama (滝山). Timetables here.
20. Traditional Kokeshi of Tohoku
Through May 16
Kokeshi are traditional wooden dolls which originated in Tohoku; this exhibition pays homage to their origins by displaying kokeshi from across the region. In particular, the exhibition will showcase the work of Akira Kon, a Tsugaru kokeshi artisan.
Hours: 10:00–16:00 (last entry 15:30)
Closed days: Mondays (open if Monday is a national holiday)
Admission: ¥300 adults, seniors 65+ free, children ages high school & younger free
Location: Museum of Kamei Collection (カメイ美術館). Map here.
Access: 8-minute walk from Sendai Station
21. That Day Was Supposed to Have Been Like Any Other
Through May 30
Izumi Ward, Sendai
An exhibition in commemoration of ten years having passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11. Materials from the Miyagi Prefectural Library Shinsai Bunko Seibihan (宮城県図書館 震災文庫整備班) collection will be displayed, showing the scenes from the disaster and candid images of how people and organizations dealt with the tragedy.
22. Strawberry picking at Ichigo World
Through late May
Hours (strawberry picking): 10:00–15:30 (last entry 15:00)
Closed days: Thursdays & Fridays
Fee: ¥2,000 per person ages 10 & older, ¥1,000 children ages 4–9, children 3 & under free.
Reservation: Highly recommended, as they often cannot accommodate visitors who come without reservations. Reservations can be booked online.
Details (English): sendaimotions.com/blog/ichigo-world
Official website: ichigo-world.jp
Location: Ichigo World (イチゴワールド). Map here.
Access: 9-minute walk from Yamashita Station
23. I remember: memories of the disaster and a parenting for 10 years
Through June 13
*NOTICE: In accordance with the State of Emergency declared by Sendai City, this exhibition and facility will remain closed until April 11 or whenever the State of Emergency is lifted. For details, see here.*
Shortly after giving birth, Sendai resident Kaori-san began keeping a diary, something she continued for ten years. The diary details her experiences raising her child, which happened to take place during the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake and its aftermath. Rereading passages from her journal, recalling those times, this exhibition recounts her daily life and experiences during those years.
Closed days: Mondays (except public holidays) & the day after a public holiday (except Saturdays, Sundays, and other holidays).
Languages: English. The Center itself has good English signage for nearly all of its permanent exhibits. Not sure about this particular exhibition since it's a temporary installation.
Exhibition details: sendai311-memorial.jp
Center details (English): visitmiyagi.com
Location: Second-floor gallery of the Sendai 3.11 Memorial Community Center (せんだい3.11メモリアル交流館 ２F展示室). Map here.
Access: At Arai Station
24. Strawberry picking at Yamamoto Strawberry Farm
いちご狩り at 山元いちご農園
Yamamoto is Miyagi's number-one strawberry-growing area. Not only can you buy Yamamoto strawberrries, but you can also pick them yourself to gorge on right away! Yamamoto grows three varieties for picking: Nikonikoberry, Tochiotome, and Mouikko. In addition to strawberry picking, the farm also features a strawberry-centric cafe, winery, baumkuchen bakery, and omiyage shop.
Closed days: None
Fee: Varies by date. Through May 5, it's ¥1,800 people ages 7–65, ¥1,500 seniors 65+, ¥900 children ages 3–6, children ages 2 & under free
Reservations: None needed (except for large groups)
Official website: yamamoto-ichigo.com
Location: At Yamamoto Strawberry Farm (山元いちご農園). Map here.
Access: 15-minute walk from Yamashita Station
25. Ontayaki Pottery Sakamoto Kiln exhibition
Ontayaki is considered one of Japan's greatest schools of folk pottery. Hailing from the Onta Village on Kyushu, this kind of pottery is rarely seen up north here in Tohoku. The Sakamoto Kiln is a father-and-son team of Onta Village natives who still produce pottery according to traditional methods. This exhibition will be the first time for these two potters to exhibit their wares in Tohoku.
26. Boys' Day display at Sairi Yashiki
Until 1948, Children's Day was known as Boys' Day or, further back in history, Tango no Sekku. As a complement to the traditional Hinamatsuri (aka Girls' Day) display of imperial court dolls Sairi Yashiki does in March, in May they opt for a display of more masculine items, like armor and warrior dolls. In addition to the seasonal display, visitors are also invited to explore the rest of the Sairi property for a historically immersive experience.
Admission: ¥620 adults, ¥310 children
Language: Limited English
Sairi Yashiki details (English): visitmiyagi.com
Event details: miyagi-kankou.or.jp
Location: Sairi Yashiki (齋理屋敷). Map here.
Access: 2.5 km on foot or by free rental cycle from Marumori Station. For cycle rental details, see here (English).
27. Snow walls along the Zao Echo Line
From April 23
Blossoming sakura trees may be the landscape that comes to mind when most people think of spring in Japan, but in the Mount Zao area it's an entirely different scene. The area gets so much snow that the Zao Echo Line highway gets closed for winter and remains that way until late April. Once the road is plowed, snow walls towering as high as ten meters remain on both sides of the road, making for unique terrain for a spring drive.
The Snow Wall Walk event has been suspended for 2021, but visitors can still thrill at the towering walls of snow on either side as they drive along the Echo Line.
28. Denmark Design exhibition
April 23–June 27
Scandinavian design is one of the hottest, most longstanding trends in interior design, and Denmark is the capital of the style. This exhibition showcases designs from the mid-century onward, considered the golden age of Danish design. It attempts to grasp the essence of Danish design and the influences which have shaped its evoltution: the history, culture, and natural environment of Denmark.
Hours: 9:30–17:00 (last entry 16:30)
Admission: ¥1,200 adults, ¥1,100 seniors 65+, children ages elementary to high school ¥600
Language: The museum's permanent collection has English signage. Not sure about this exhibition, as it's a temporary installation.
Museum details (English): visitmiyagi.com
Exhibition details: thm.pref.miyagi.jp
Location: Tohoku History Museum (東北歴史博物館). Map here.
Access: At Kofuku-Tagajo Station
29. Kakuda Nanohana Flower Festival
April 24–May 5
Nanohana are another cheerful Japanese spring flower. This same plant is also eaten as a vegetable when young and, when mature, the seeds are pressed to make rapseed oil (for example, canola oil). In Kakuda, nanohana fields along the riverside offer idyllic views of the flowers and surrounding countryside.
30. Ukiyoe that Challenges: Kuniyoshi, Yoshitoshi . . . and More!
April 24–June 6
An exhibition of about 150 works some of the most striking and unique ukiyo-e in existence. Kuniyoshi was an ukiyo-e artist from the late Edo–early Meiji era who earned himself a reputation for his eccentric, often violent designs. Yoshitoshi, meanwhile, is widely recognized as the last great master of ukiyo-e. He was creating at a time when Japan was rapidly adopting Western-style printmaking and other technologies; his work represents a fight against the loss of traditional Japanese culture. And yet, although his medium may have been traditional, the design and content of his prints was incredibly innovative. This innovativeness has caused some collectors of traditional ukiyo-e to dismiss his work as being too experimental, yet his work remains well appreciated by more open-minded art enthusiasts.
Closed days: Mondays (except May 3), May 6
Admission: ¥800 adults, ¥500 seniors and students ages college to high school, children ages junior high & younger free
Location: Koriyama Art Museum (郡山市立美術館). Map here.
Access: 10 minutes by bus from Koriyama Station, followed by a 2-minute walk. From Koriyama Station Bus Stop 5 (5番乗り場), board bus bound for Bijutsukan via Tobu New Town (美術館経由東部ニュータウン). Alight at Koriyama Bijutsukan (郡山美術館) bus stop. Details and timetables here.