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April 30, 2015 - Hanami 2015 Day 4 - The Lonely Sakura of Koiwai Farm
It is Day 4 of our hanami trip and we are now in Morioka, the capital city of Iwate prefecture.
As mentioned before in previous posts, the strange warm weather this year caused cities in the Tohoku region to have their sakura go into full bloom up to twelve days in advance from the historical yearly average and our ideal itinerary of moving toward Aomori in a steady northerly direction had to be scrapped and replanned. Two days ago, Alan and I raced all the way from Sendai to Hirosaki to catch the somei yoshino before they all fall off and the yaebeni shidarezakura that have been reported to have reached full bloom. Although Hirosaki is located far up north, it is not last place to see the sakura in the Tohoku Region. Researching on all the famous sakura spots of the Tohoku region through hanami.walkerplus.com, I learned that are areas in the region where the sakura usually bloom during Golden Week. Just like how we managed to see the full bloom of the Shiogamazakura at the Shiogama Shrine near Sendai, there could be a chance for us to see the sakura at these late-blooming places thanks to the warm weather.
I checked the walkerplus website in the morning and was pleased to find out that the sakura in Koiwai Farm, not far from Morioka, had already reached full bloom. This fit perfectly with our travel plans as we needed to keep the remaining two days of the JR East Pass for the trip to Aomori and back to Tokyo. It could also be interesting to see sakura blending in with some Western farm scenery that Alan had never seen before.
From Morioka station, we took the bus that goes all the way to Makiba-en, a family park run by the Koiwai company on the farm premises. Once we arrive at Makiba-en, we could immediately see a row of sakura at the entrance to the cattle ranch ahead. Although almost half of the flowers had fell, we managed to get some pretty shots of the sakura with the farm landscape, as well as some Frisian dairy cows.
Our next stop after the cattle ranch was Koiwai Farm's most famous sakura tree, known as the Koiwai Ipponzakura or Koiwai's Lonely Sakura according to my own English translation. It took us about twenty minutes to get there on foot to get there and we didn't expect to find lots of tour buses and people there. Nevertheless, there was a good reason why this sakura was popular among the locals as we were instantly mesmerized by the view of the single sakura tree on the pastures with Mt Iwate in the backdrop.
I have to say that this is probably one of the most beautiful and picturesque sceneries I've seen in my life. Not even a photograph could do justice to the postcard perfect scene seen with my own eyes.
After spending quite a while soaking in the view of the lonely sakura, we turned back to check out the pasteurization plant that we've just passed by along the way. At the plant, we had the chance to see the inner workings of an actual milk processing factory and sampled their milk, ice cream and cheese. The cheese with beef-tongue flavor was my favorite.
Since there was still some time before the evening bus back to Morioka arrived, we checked out Makiba-en to see what this place was like. For only about JPY600 it was a great place to hang out with family and kids as there were sprawling lawns for picnics, plenty of eateries and shops, free shows and sporting activities such as zorbing and cycling.
It was time to catch the next bus back to Morioka and take a break at the hotel from the strenuous travelling since the past 4 days. For dinner, I've decided to attempt the Wanko Soba challenge at the Azumaya chain near the JR station. Unfortunately, because of the pizza for lunch, I wasn't prepared enough for the challenge and only managed 75 bowls, 25 bowls short of the 100-bowl mark that I was aiming for.
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