by Raina, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2014/04/23 - Morioka Cherry Blossom Report
Today I continue the cherry blossom report from Morioka, the capital of Iwate prefecture, in the Tohoku region. Full bloom in Morioka was announced officially on April 21 and the views didn't disappoint when I was there.
April 23, 2014 - opening (10-50%)
My first stop for today was Takamatsu Park, easily one of the more beautiful places I've been to. It is also one of Japan's top 100 cherry blossom viewing spots. Takamatsu Park is about a 15 minute bus ride (220 yen) from Morioka Station. Being a little further away from the city center, the cherry blossom season is a little slower. There are about 800 cherry trees planted in the park with most of them around the pond.
Takamatsu Park is built around Takamatsu Pond. The pond has a circumference of 1.4 kilometers and there is a walking course around it, which is easily completed in about 20 minutes. It seemed to be a popular exercise course amongst the locals as I saw many retirees on their morning walk. In addition to the walking course around the pond, there are also short walking trails up a small hill where you can enjoy more great views and see more cherry trees as well as other flowers. On clear days, Mount. Iwate can be easily seen from the park, making for a beautiful backdrop. I also found out later that Takamatsu pond is also a pit stop for migrating swans from Siberia. But unfortunately, I didn't see any when I was there.
I saw a few early blooming cherry trees that were at full bloom in the park. However, most of the cherry trees were only 10-50% opened while most of the cherry blossoms towards the back of the park were still in buds. With good weather forecast till this Saturday, the cherry trees should reach full bloom in the next few days and the blossoms still in buds a few days later. The park is having a cherry blossom festival all the way through till end of golden week, May 6. During this time, it will also be lit up in the evenings from 18:00 till 21:00.
Morioka Castle Ruins Park
April 23, 2014 - full bloom
After Takamatsu Park, I headed to Morioka Castle Ruins Park. The castle ruins park is about a 20 minute walk from Morioka Station, or if you take the local community bus, it takes about 10 minutes and costs 100 yen. There were significantly more people here and the cherry trees were at full bloom. With good weather forecast till Saturday, the cherry blossoms should stay at their peak till at least this weekend.
I saw blue sheets laid out in preparation for cherry blossom viewing parties, a couple of street performers, and festival food stalls in the wide event space. There was also a big shidare cherry tree by the side of the castle ruins in full bloom at most people missed. Like Takamatsu Park, the castle ruins park is having a cherry blossom festival all the way through till end of golden week, May 6. During this time, it will also be lit up in the evenings from 18:00 till 21:30.
April 23, 2014 - full bloom
Not far from Morioka Castle Ruins Park is the Ishiwarizakura tree. It is a Edo-higan cherry tree that split a rock as it grew. The tree is estimated to be about 360 years old and has a height of about 10 meters. According to the local news, the split is 5 centimeters wider compared to last year. The tree is located in the driveway of the city courthouse and the private road was closed off to cars when I was there. Visitors can still have an unobstructed view of the tree from behind the gate even if the courthouse is closed. The tree is also illuminated in the evenings from sunset till 21:00.
The condition of the tree this year is not very good. There aren't as many blossoms as previous years and resulting in a sparse looking full bloom. I was surprised when I saw the tree as the split was a lot smaller than I expected, considering the size of the tree.