After the cold end to April, the weather across Hokkaido is starting to warm up (finally!) I was in Sapporo, the largest city in Hokkaido, to check out the city's popular cherry blossom spots for our last japan-guide.com sakura report this year. The cherry blossom season in Sapporo opened on April 25, and reached full bloom (mankai) on May 1. Despite reaching mankai six days earlier than the average year, the flowers in the city still took slightly longer than normal to open completely due to the sudden drop in temperatures and light snowfall over the past couple of days. Warmer temperatures and no rain is forecast for Sapporo for the rest of the week and I expect the blossoms to continue to be at their peak through the Golden Week holidays.
Many of the cherry trees I saw today were the Ezoyama-zakura cherry trees, a variety that is more commonly seen in Hokkaido than the Somei Yoshino cherry tree. The Ezoyama-zakura blossoms are more pink and the copper-colored leaves can also be seen when the flowers bloom. On the other hand, Somei Yoshino blossoms are pink-ish white and the leaves typically appear towards the end of the blossoming period.
To all our readers, thank you for following the 2016 japan-guide.com cherry blossom reports. We hope that you have enjoyed the reports as much as we have writing them. This year, we covered about 30 cities from Kumamoto in Kyushu to Sapporo in Hokkaido, and had a week where the season peaked simultaneously in major cities across the country. Less than half a year before we begin our autumn color reporting and only ten months before the cherry blossom season starts again in 2017!
My first stop for the day was Makomanai Park, a large public park where there are about 700 Ezoyama-zakura and Yaezakura cherry trees. Most of the trees are located in the Taiyo no Hiroba, between the stadium and the ice arena in the park. The Ezoyama-zakura blossoms were about 10% open and the most advanced tree was only 50% open. The Yaezakura blossoms tend to flower after the Ezoyama-zakura and were still in buds today. Warmer weather is forecast for the rest of this week and I expect the higher temperatures to encourage the rest of the blossoms to open. Best viewing for the Makonanai Park is predicted to be later this week and possibly into mid May. The park is located about 20 minutes south of Sapporo station by taxi.
My next stop was Maruyama Park, and I found the flowers there were at full bloom. I expect them to remain at their best through the Golden Week holidays. Good weather is forecast for the next couple of days, perfect for cherry blossom viewing parties (hanami) in the park. I also visited the nearby Hokkaido Shrine, where the cherry trees along the main approach to the shrine were approaching full bloom, as were the plum blossoms in the plum grove beside the approach. It is not very often we get to see plum blossoms at the same time as cherry blossoms! Visitors can enjoy hanami in the park until May 6 from 8:00 to 20:00. Barbecues are only allowed in a specfic section of the park, so be sure to check before going, and the festival food stalls near Hokkaido Shrine are open from 10:00 to 20:00 until May 6.
My last stop for the day was the sprawling Moerenuma Park, and the most beautiful park I've ever been to. Interestingly, the park used to be a landfill before it got revamped into the beautiful park we know it to be. There are a few sections to the park, and the Sakura no Mori (Forest of Cherry Trees) was my focus today. The Forest of Cherry Trees has about 2300 cherry trees of various varieties, all of which were opening when I was there. Some of the more advanced trees were already at full bloom. This section of the park has over 100 play sculptures by renowned sculptor Isamu Noguchi, for everyone to enjoy. Warm temperatures is forecast for the next few days, and I expect the flowers here to continue to open and the best viewing period to start later this week. Moerenuma Park is absolutely gorgeous and I could have spent all day at the park even if the sakura blossoms were not in bloom.