Rounding up this week with a Friday vist to Kakunodate, a popular cherry blossom spot in the Tohoku Region. The former castle town in Akita Prefecture has weeping cherry trees in the samurai district and a river lined with hundreds of cherry trees. The flowers are usually at their best during Golden Week in late April and early May, but this year, the flowers have blossomed earlier due to warmer temperatures.

Today, I found that the weeping cherry trees were at full bloom, and the commonly seen mainstream Somei Yoshino cherry trees along the Hinokinai River almost at full bloom, thanks to the warm weather over the past few days. I expect the blossoms to remain at the best through this weekend and at least for the next couple of days after that. The Kakunodate Cherry Blossom Festival will continue until May 5 and the cherry trees in the samurai district will be illuminated from sunset to 22:30, while the riverside will be lit until 24:00. Festival food stores can be found between the samurai district and the riverside.

The samurai district is about one kilometer from the station and can be reached in an easy walk through the sleepy town in about 15 minutes. The weeping cherry trees were planted in the gardens of the various samurai homes and made for a beautiful scene as they draped over the fences. Some of the weeping cherry trees had some petals falling, but the blossoms were at their peak and should remain at their best for the next couple of days.

From the samurai district, I made my way up to the hill where the castle keep used to be. The uphill walk took about 20 minutes and visitors who make the trek can choose to take the faster route up the stairs or go with the more gentle slopes as I saw many elderly visitors doing. There are no remains of Kakunodate castle left on the hill but one can get a bird's eye view of the cherry trees along the Hinokinai River.

I wasn't expecting the cherry trees along the Hinokinai River to be at full bloom today as the flowers just started opening about three days ago. The warm weather over the last few days must have sped up the process and I am pleased to report that the trees that go on for about two kilometers along the river should reach full bloom status by the end of today.