Tohoku, the northeast region of Japan, is still abundant in nature. It is a well-known destination for appreciating Sakura. To enjoy Sakura in Tohoku would be different from going to Kansai region because most of Sakura here is blossoming along the forest, river, lake, and very much blend in with the nature where most of Sakura in Kyoto are to be seen in temples.
Nonetheless, it offers the same colorful beauty and the species of Sakura is similar too. Somei Yoshino Sakura, the most found Sakura in Japan, are seen in both Tohoku and Kansai region.
The advantage of appreciating Sakura in Tohoku region is that you get to truly feel the nature as most of them are blooming along the nature like forest, river, and in vast area. Therefore, you won't feel as crowded as when going to temples in Kyoto which comes with limited space and big crowd.
If you like to travel to the nature and in no rush, appreciating the beauty of Sakura in Tohoku region would be your perfect choice. Since Tohoku region is vast, it is recommended that you choose a specific city as your base (it could be Koriyama, Fukushima, or Sendai). Once we know the location of full bloom Sakura, we can simply visit that place. It is possible because we can take a one day trip train to every city in Tohokku region. Traveling like this saves us from changing accommodations too frequently and we can also enjoy the full bloom Sakura at the right time too.
Sakura in Tohoku region will start to bloom from Fukushima Prefecture which is located on the most southern part of this region to the northernmost one at Aomori (going through Miyagi, Yamagata, Akita, and Iwate) at the end of April . Indeed, the full bloom time is subject to the elevation and locations as well. However, the famous Sakura spots would get their full bloom from mid of April to beginning of May. Therefore, this time of the year is the time where lots of tourists are pouring in for Sakura appreciation.
This trip (14-29 April 2017), I choose Koriyama as my base because it's easy to travel to other destination. The first place that I'd really want to introduce to you guys is Shiroishi. Here is where you can simply walk along the river while enjoying the breathtaking beauty of Sakura in Tohoku region.
Shiroishi, in addition of being the top Sakura appreciation spot in Tohoku region, Miyagi Prefecture, it is also ranked as one of the top 100 most beautiful Sakura spots in Japan.
It is also fairly easy to travel to enjoy the beautiful Sakura along Shiroishi River. If you stay at Sendai, you could take the JR Tohoku Line from JR Sendai and get off at JR Funaoka. This direct line takes only 30 minutes. It is very convenient and the train runs quite often so we don't have to wait long.I stay at Koriyama and it takes about 80 minutes to reach here from Koriyama Station to Funaoka Station (change the train once at Fukushima Station).
Once reaching Funaoka Station, you will see the sign leading you to the viewpoint read Hitome Senbon Sakura (一目千本桜 ). Literally, it means "one eye thousand trees". From Funaoka Station, we need to go across the station towards Shiroishi River. Here, looking from the bridge towards the river, you would see many Sakura trees standing along the Shiroishi River and this view is called Hitome Senbon Sakura (一目千本桜 ) or "one eye thousand trees".
Hitome Senbon Sakura view is so beautiful because we see the curve of a river is cutting with a line of Sakura trees. It's so beautiful that the Tourism Organization make advertising posters from this view.
What make Hitome Senbon Sakura so special is the fact that it has more than 1,000 Sakura trees in which all are beautifully blossoming along the bank of Shiroishi River. There's also a walkway for tourists to slowly enjoy Sakura. This road is
built from Funaoka Station to Ogawara Station, the total distance is 3.5 km.
一目千本桜 (Hitome Senbon Sakura) can be translated like this, 一目 (Hitome) means one eye, 千本 (Senbon) mean thousand trees. Hence, Hitome Senbon Sakura means "one eye thousand trees". This can be further translated as the Sakura is very dense in the sense that with only a glance, you could see a thousand trees of Sakura.
I got to enjoy this view of Sakura along Shiroishi River on 16 April 2017 which is the full bloom time of Sakura. The view of Hitome Senbon Sakura in front of me is just breathtakingly beautiful.
From the information on the full bloom time of Hitome Senbon Sakura from 2004-2013, the average time is on 15 April.
In 2017, here is the blooming time of Sakura at Hitomesenbon
Start to bloom on 9 April 2017
Full bloom on 15 April 2017
Start to fall on 18 April 2017
Sakura here fall very quickly due to it's located near the river and when it's windy, the petals also were blown down easily. Therefore, you guys should quickly come here as soon as you know it's in full bloom (they would consider Sakura full bloom when 80% of them are blossoming).
Now, it's time to enjoy Sakura near Shiroishi River of which the 3.5 km long walkway is provided from JR Funaoka to JR Ogawara. You could choose to either walk under the Sakura tunnel or the walkway along the river. Likewise, you could also choose to either walk from Funaoka - Ogawara or Ogawara - Funaoka.
Along this 3.5 distance from Funaoka Station to Ogawara Station, there'll be the distance sign telling us of how far we have walked. To think whether this 3.5 km distance is near or far is totally depending on each person of how much they enjoy the walk and the view.
The view is as beautiful as what people are praising. I think it's worth being ranked as one of the top 100 most beautiful Sakura spots in Japan. This nature is just so beautiful. It is so beautiful that I think walking quickly would be a great disrespect to this beautiful nature.
No matter where we turn, we will see this beautiful view for us to press our shutter. There's also a light up at night. If you guys are planning to see it, do not forget to wear sweaters too as it gets quite cold at night.
Along the walk, you would see Sen-ou-kyou Bridge (千桜橋). It is a road and train over crossing bridge. From here, you could see the running trains. It's a popular corner for tourists to come up and take photos of Sakura along with a train.
Half way through, you will see another popular viewpoint. It is where you would see a line of Sakura trees standing opposite to Shiroishi River with a snowy Zao mountain as a backdrop. This is a popular view for people shooting a travel promotional advertisement.
The cruising tour to appreciate Sakura is also available here.The ferry terminal is located at the Ogawara Sakura Festival at the waterfront of Ogawara Station.
The boat will cruise along Shiroishi River by going up to Funaoka Station of which we just walked by and then it will return to where it started. The fare is 500 JPY per person.
The family is here for hanami time near the river, what a nice atmosphere!
I didn't get to cruise because it's quite cold and I also fully enjoy my 3.5 km walk with Sakura. Cruising to enjoy Sakura is another great choice for those who don't like to walk. The water is still and steady, quite a good atmosphere too.
This 3.5 walkway from Funaoka Station to Ogawara Station is nicely constructed, indeed a very convenient and enjoyable walk.
Looking down to see a slowly flowing river and looking up to see Sakura, this is what you would see and feel along this 3.5 km walk.
When we get closer to Ogawara Station, it's a residential area where houses are quite fully packed. I feel a bit jealous of people living here.
This is the poster for Ogawara Sakura Matsuri Fair in 2017 which was held from 5-20 April 2017.
Here is the official website of Sakura near Shiroishi River: