Japan's far northern areas are now firmly taking center stage as this year's cherry blossom season has all but ended in most parts of the country. Following an early start to the season, lower than average temperatures up north put a buffer on the blossoms' progress over the past couple of weeks, but nonetheless the season is now beginning to really take shape here.
Following on from yesterday's report from Kitakami in which the cherry blossoms were opening (and by now have progressed to their best viewing period), my journey continued north and today I was in Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture. Investigating with a particular focus on the famous Hirosaki Park, I found on my visit early this morning the blossoms were generally just about to open, and in the hours that have passed since then I expect many petals in certain parts of the park to now be vibrantly visible.
With the continuation of the relatively warm weather that is forecast, I fully expect the blossoms in most areas of the park to open in puffs of pink throughout the course of today and tomorrow after which, should the predicted weather come to pass, the park will reach its spectacular optimum viewing stage early next week.
Hirosaki Park contains the town's old castle, which is one of only twelve in the country whose keep has survived since the Edo Period. Largely considered to be the most spectacular cherry blossom viewing spot in the entire Tohoku Region, the park typically attracts thousands of visitors come spring, during which its famous cherry blossom festival takes place. This year, the festival runs until May 5, with many parts of the park lit up come the evening from sunset until 23:00.
During this period, the park has a lot on offer to further add to the enjoyment of taking in the blossoms. In addition to dozens of food stalls dotted around the park selling all kinds of street food, there is also rowing boat rental in the West Moat, and extended hours of access to the castle keep, which from April 23 will be open from 7:00 to 21:00.
Today I found the cherry blossoms in most parts of the park to be on the cusp of opening, and I suspect that a few hours of warm sunshine since my visit first thing this morning will have caused this to have indeed happened in certain areas. Having said this, the Sakura Tunnel in the west of the park looked to still have a little way to go, and in line with the park's official predictions (listed on their Japanese website), I expect the blossoms here not to open until tomorrow.
Another area that may leave blossom fanatics underwhelmed if visiting today is the Honmaru area around the main keep. The blossoms of the Yaebenishidare cherry trees which are prominent here typically progress later than the ubiquitous Somei Yoshino, and in step with this, these blossoms still have seemingly a few days to go before bringing the area to life with color.