Hanami is a Japanese spring tradition of going to see the blooming sakura (cherry blossoms), and every part of Japan has its own hanami spots. Hanami in Hokkaido comes later than hanami on Honshu (the main island), around May! Here are 5 spots to enjoy hanami in the northernmost part of Japan.
Goryokaku is a star-shaped fortress surrounded by a moat, and it was the setting for a vicious battle between the Meiji government and the former shogunate government about 150 years ago. It was turned into a park in 1914, and at the time they planted 5,000 sakura trees. It's now famous as a hanami spot since it gets completely covered in sakura in the spring. Inside the park you can barbecue, so you can enjoy hanami while eating Hokkaido's famous Genghis Khan (mutton barbecue). They light up the trees when they're in bloom, so you can also enjoy night sakura.
2. Shizunai Nijukken Road
"Ken" is an ancient measurement equal to 1.818 meters, and this road is precisely 20 ken wide (36m), which is why it was given the name "Nijukken," or "20 ken." Originally it was built as a road for the imperial family when they would come to inspect their farms. Afterwards, the 7km road was lined on both sides with 3,000 sakura trees. The trees continue for what seems like forever, and because of that, some call it Japan's best sakura-lined road. People still come from all over the country to see it. It might be fun to go hiking in Hokkaido's vast nature during your visit to see the sakura.
3. Matsumae Park
Matsumae was a town that flourished as a castle town under the government of the Matsumae clan. The area that includes Matsumae Castle and the Matsumae clan's yashiki (samurai home) is now a park where locals can take a rest. Matsumae Park is famous nationwide for the 10,000 sakura of 250 different types. This includes trees said to be over 300 years old, so you can almost call this park a museum of sakura. They're lit up at night, so you can enjoy the magical atmosphere of the castle seemingly floating in the darkness above the trees. It's a sight you should definitely see at least once.
4. Moerenuma Park
This is a park designed by world-famous sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, with the concept of making the park into one big sculpture. There are geometrical facilities placed all around the park so it's a sight where nature and art truly come together that's worth a look. Depending on the season you can see different scenery, but in the spring, sakura is the main event. There are about 2,300 sakura trees in the park, and throughout the forest there is playground equipment designed by Isamu Noguchi. This park is especially recommended for families with children.
5. Shibazakura Takinoue Park
Shibazakura, the Japanese word for "moss phlox," makes it sound like it's related to cherry blossoms, but it actually isn't. However, since the flowers look similar to sakura, the name "shibazakura" ("lawn cherry blossoms") stuck. Shibazakura is the main attraction in this park in the spring. They started from just a single cardboard box of seeds, but now it's grown to be the size of a baseball field! The shibazakura have a wonderfully sweet fragrance, so the entire park smells lovely. You can also take an aerial tour on a helicopter (5,000 JPY per person), so this is definitely recommended for people who want to see a large area completely covered with flowers.
Entrance fee during blooming season: 500 JPY per person
The sight of the sakura in the vast nature that you can only find in Hokkaido is like another world. Please check it out if you get the chance.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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