Joe's Japan Travel Journal
by Joe, staff writer of

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2015/04/08 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Matsumoto Report

The Matsumoto Castle moat surrounded by blooming cherry blossoms

This morning, many people across the Chubu and northern Kanto regions were greeted with a surprise of spring snow, to the distress of some cherry blossom watchers here in Japan. Much of Nagano Prefecture was hit by this late wintry blast today, but despite the cold, the blossoms in the city of Matsumoto seemed to be in full bloom and hanging on just fine. While Raina was in reporting from Fukushima today, I headed to Matsumoto to see how far its sakura (cherry blossoms) had progressed since opening four days ago.

So far, this year's hanami season has progressed quickly with the "cherry blossom front" sweeping across most of western Japan in a matter of two weeks, though the recent cold might slow the pace a bit as it progresses into eastern and northern Japan.

Matsumoto Castle
April 8, 2015 - full bloom

The train ride through Nagano to Matsumoto this morning was through a snowscape in much of the mountainous parts of the prefecture, and even in the relatively warmer, urban Matsumoto, light snow was falling all morning. My first stop today was to Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan's premier castles, and also a very popular cherry blossom-viewing spot in Matsumoto. On a normal spring day, this park is filled with people enjoying hanami (cherry blossom watching), but the wintry weather kept the park relatively empty in the morning.

The castle park's cherry trees, despite today's cold, had already reached full bloom this morning. Most years, Matsumoto sees its blossoms' kaika (intial opening) in early April, with full bloom around mid April (cherry trees often peak about a week after opening), meaning this year is slightly ahead of the average timing. As the trees seem to have only just reached full bloom, they will likely still be enjoyable in the park through the weekend.

The sakura (cherry blossoms) around the castle were in full bloom today, despite the cold weather
Cherry blossoms and gently falling snow: pretty but chilly
Despite the full bloom, the surprise morning and snow drove away most flower watchers
Matsumoto Castle's main keep
A handful of intrepid tourists out to enjoy the castle grounds despite the snow
Most trees' blossoms were fully open today
Mankai (full bloom) above the recently-refurbished bridge
The view from the top of the castle keep

Koboyama Park
April 8, 2015 - full bloom

My second destination for today was the Koboyama kofun located a couple kilometers south of the city center. Kofun, ancient hill-sized burial mounds, are scattered across Japan and in many cases have become used as parks. Matsumoto's Koboyama kofun is covered in nearly 2000 cherry trees, making it a stunning sight from a distance during full bloom, which in fact it was today.

The short walk up the hill along a lantern-lined path to its top is a very pleasant one, and with the addition of snow and a lack of visitors today, the atmosphere was mysterious and quiet, almost magical. The hilltop itself affords some amazing mountain views on a clear day of the Japanese Northern Alps, but today offered equally rewarding, though much rarer views of cherry blossoms in near-full bloom against freshly snow-covered nearby mountains.

The Koboyama kofun (burial mound) park, like a giant fluffy animal from a distance
The trees towards the bottom of the hill were at their peak today
An eery mix of snow, sakura, and festival lanterns left a haunting feeling on the mostly-empty hilltop
Freshly snow-covered mountains and blooming cherry trees. You don't see that every day.

Though the blossoms around the bottom of the hill were more clearly fully open, around the top of the hill many of the trees still have many unopened blossoms. If you're willing to make the out-of-the-way journey to this spot, it may still be quite lovely this season possibly even into next week. To reach the hill from central Matsumoto a taxi ride might be the most convenient option, taking about 10 minutes with a fare around 2000 yen, otherwise it's about a 20-minute walk from Minami-Matsumoto Station, one stop south of Matsumoto Station.

The colorful hilltop, surrounded by blooming sakura
Many blossoms towards the top of the hill were not opened yet, possibly slowed by the cold temperatures and snow today
Koboyama kofun features nearly 2000 cherry trees, many of which turn out brilliant pink blossoms
White on white
Almost fully-open blossoms on Koboyama kofun

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List of Posts:
2019/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2019
2018/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2018
2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017
2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/03/24 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Mitake
2015/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Takao
2015/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Fukuroda Falls
2015/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2015/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Northern Alps
2015/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2015/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2015/10/13 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkoda
2015/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2015/10/06 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/04/14 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Yoshino
2015/04/13 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Miharu
2015/04/08 - Cherry Blossoms 2015: Matsumoto Report
2015/01/29 - Crabs, Peonies and Castle Cruises in Shimane

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/16 - Seasonal Illumination: Osaka
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Kobe Luminarie 2014
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Ashikaga Flower Park
2014/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2014/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2014/10/29 - Autumn Color Report: Shima Onsen
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2014/10/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2014/08/20 - Kusatsu Onsen Beautification