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Fukushima: Approaching Full Bloom

Hanamiyama
Fukushima:

The cherry blossom season around many of Japan's major cities has been at the peak now for a few days, however wind and rain threatens to do some damage to the petals and may hasten the end of the season a little sooner than we would like to see. Meanwhile, the cherry blossom front continues to move northward as cities around the Tohoku Region start reaching their peak.

Today's report takes me to Fukushima City, where the cherries typically begin opening about two weeks after Tokyo. However, this year has been anything but typical and the flowers around central Fukushima first opened on March 30th and then sped to full bloom on April 3rd, an astonishing 10 days earlier than average. It was almost hard to believe that these weren't just some errant, rogue trees, but it did seem to be the case as all the trees around the station were definitely at the peak this morning.

The main target of the day, however, was Hanamiyama a rural neighborhood tucked into the mountains on the southeastern outskirts of the city that is absolutely covered in cherry trees and other flowering trees and shrubs. The area is one of Fukushima's most popular hanami spots, and attracts thousands of people during its long blooming season that lasts through much of April and into May. Visitors can walk around enjoying the flowers along the mountain slopes and look out over Fukushima City and on to Mount Azuma in the distance.

The approach to the main mountain is lined by cherry trees and rapeseed blossoms
Running through the yellow flowers
Cherry trees overhang the stream
Looking up through the blossoms

Several dozen of the ubiquitous Somei Yoshino cherry trees are planted around the mountains and valleys, however they seem to lag the trees around the central city by quite a bit. Most of those that are found around the main Hanamiyama mountain were around 30-50% open today, yet the closed blossoms looked extremely swollen and like they could barely hold themselves together. In light of this, I think they could burst into full bloom as early as tomorrow. And indeed, the Somei Yoshino trees along the newer northern slope were even more advanced with many at or close to full bloom already.

Looking out over the slopes of Hanamiyama
Still below 50% but looks like the remaining buds will explode open at any moment
Pink and yellow flowers on the way up the mountain
The upper rest area
A camera crew captures the cherry blossoms around the upper rest area
All these closed blossoms looked like they could barely contain themselves

The Somei Yoshino trees really only make up a minority percentage of the flowering plants on the mountain slopes, and they are joined by a whole host of other beautiful flowering trees and shrubs including pink Camellias, yellow Forsythia and Mizuki, and white Magnolias to name a few. Not to mention more than half a dozen different types of cherry trees as well. As a result of all these flowers plants, the mountain slopes of Hanamiyama were just covered in beautiful colors as most of the earlier blooming plants were just about at their peak today.

Yellow Forsythia in front of pink peach blossoms
A mix of pink peach, and lighter pink Jugatsuzakura and Okamezakura

The weather was absolutely amazing during my visit, but dark clouds are on the horizon for Thursday and are forecast to bring strong enough wind and rain to do some damage to the flowers. The early blooming trees will be fairly vunerable at that point and will likely be damaged or have their seasons ended. The Somei Yoshino, however, may be strong enough to weather the storm as will the later blooming varieties which were still in their very early stages this morning.

Hanamiyama seen while en route to the newer northern slope
Flowering trees on the northern slope
Climbing up the slope

While it wasn't too crowded this morning, I would expect it to get pretty busy from here on out. Visitors can access the park via shuttle buses from Fukushima Station (500 yen round trip, frequent departures through April 29). Also consider taking a taxi, which cost a flat 1550 yen to the station.

From the top
Cherry trees and rapeseed blossoms
Descending the slope