Stunning Sakura and Beautiful Scenery Just 80 Minutes from Tokyo [PR]

1000 Riverside Sakura and One of Japan’s Three Great Cherry Blossom Trees

Map of Central Fukushima Prefecture
(1)Miharu Takizakura, (2)Natsui Senbonzakura, (3)Kaiseizan Park, (4)Sakura in Kannonji River, (5)Koshidaino Yamazakura, (6) Jupa Land Hirata, (7) Sukagawa Botan-en, (8) Kagamiishi tanbo art, (9)Abukuma Cave, (10) fireworks in Asakawamachi, (11) Furudono Hachiman Shrine, (12) Taimatsu Akashi, (13) Bandai-Atami hot spring, (14)Futamata hot spring, (15) Bobata Hot Spring

Cherry blossom viewing, known as “hanami”, began sometime in the 7th century as a celebration of the coming of spring. Today, the tradition continues with families and friends gathering to eat and drink under the flowers. In central Fukushima Prefecture, there are a number of famous hanami spots. And if you happen to miss sakura season in Tokyo, you can head up to the Tohoku region in mid-April to early May to enjoy hanami.

Sakura That Peak in mid April

In the town of Miharu-machi, Fukushima, you will find one of the three great cherry blossom trees of Japan. Known as (1)“Miharu Takizakura”, this massive shidarezakura (“weeping cherry”) is over 1,000 years old. Its arching branches spread out in all directions, giving its pale pink petals the stunning appearance of a floral waterfall (the “taki” of the name). Peak season is from mid to late April. Catch a local bus from Miharu station and enjoy the pastoral scenery outside the window.

From JR Koriyama station take the Ban’etsu East line approximately 13 minutes to Miharu station.

Southeast of Miharu-machi in Onomachi, marvel at the 5km (approx. 3 mi) stretch of over 1,000 sakura that line the Natsui River. Known as (2) “Natsui Senbonzakura” (literally “the 1,000 sakura of Natsui”), peak season brings out families wishing for the healthy growth of their children, with koinobori (carp streamers) hoisted high. It’s a fantastic photo opportunity.

From JR Koriyama station take the Ban’etsu East Line approximately one hour to Natsui station and walk five minutes.

In the city of Koriyama itself, (3)Kaiseizan Park is another of the prefecture’s famed sakura spots. There are some 1,300 Somei Yoshino sakura trees here, which boast a beautiful bloom each spring. After hanami, peruse the quaint stalls lining the precinct of the adjacent Kaiseizan Daijingu Shrine.

From JR Koriyama station, take the bus 15 minutes and get off at either Shiyakusho (city office) or Kaiseizan bus stop and walk two minutes.

Sakura That Peak in Late April

Further inland, in the town of Inawashiro-machi, there are (4)”sakura in Kannonji River”. Rverside sakura that adorn a stretch of 1km (0.6 mi) along the Kannonji River. During the bloom from mid-April to early May, the sakura are illuminated after sunset (6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.). Seeing the petals rendered in seven different colors is a magical sight.

From JR Koriyama station take the Ban’etsu East line approximately 40 minutes to Kawageta station.

Sakura That Peak in Early May

At an altitude of 550m (1,800 ft) in the mountain town of Furudono-machi stands a towering 20m (65 ft) , (5) “Koshidaino Yamazakura “(Yamazakura cherry blossom tree)”. Blooming late due to its location, visitors can enjoy the pageantry of both sakura and other flowers of spring.

From JR Koriyama station take the Suigun line approximately 45 minutes to Iwaki-Ishikawa station. Approximately one hour by bus to Furudono-machi.

Aside from cherry blossoms, flower lovers can enjoy shibazakura (moss pink), peony, lilies, hydrangea, sunflowers and other varieties blooming from April to early September. At (6) Jupa Land Hirata in the village of Hirata-mura there are an incredible 250,000 shibazakura flowers covering the landscape like a beautifully patterned carpet. At (7) Sukagawa Botan-en (Sukagawa Peony Garden) you’ll find some 7,000 peony in 290 varieties.

Jupa Land Hirata: From JR Koriyama station take a bus approximately one hour to Shimoshinden bus stop and walk approximately 20 minutes
Sukagawa Peony Garden: From JR Koriyama station take the JR Tohoku Main line approximately 10 minutes to Sukagawa station. Catch a bus approximately 15 minutes.

Enjoy Japanese Scenery and Events Year-Round

Even if sakura season passes you by, don’t despair. Central Fukushima Prefecture is filled with natural beauty throughout the four seasons. Let’s look at some places to go outside of spring.

Summer

In the town of Kagamiishi, you’ll encounter (8) “Kagamiishi tanbo art”, the amazing sight of rice paddies transformed into giant art canvases. Created with the help of students from the local agricultural high school, the finished works draw on Japanese fairytales and children’s songs. July and August is the best time to visit.

From JR Koriyama station take the JR Tohoku Main line approximately 10 minutes to Kagamiishi station and walk one minute.

Escape the heat of summer and explore the cool underground world of (9)Abukuma Cave. Against a backdrop of stalactites formed over the past 80 million years, special lighting creates moonscapes and other subterranean worlds.

From JR Koriyama station take the Ban’etsu East Line approximately 45 minutes to Kanmata station and a five-minute taxi ride.

(10) fireworks in Asakawamachi. Summer is a time for fireworks, and the town of Asakawa has lit up the night sky since the 17th century. Every August 16th, visitors can witness the “Jiraika” fireworks, a spectacular display that conjures lava exploding out of a volcano’s peak. Asakawa launches fireworks during the other seasons, too: the “Yozakura” show in mid April, “Hoshu” in the early November, and a special New Year’s Eve event.

From JR Koriyama station take the Suigun line approximately one hour to Iwaki-Asakawa station and walk 10 minutes.

Autumn

For those interested in archery marksmanship and other traditional feats of skill, head to Furudono-machi on the second weekend of October to witness (11) the Furudono Hachiman Shrine Annual Festival. See costumed riders shoot arrows while on horseback (“yabusame”) and other displays of dexterity honed over 800 years.

One of the country’s three biggest fire festivals is (12) “Taimatsu Akashi”, which takes place annually in Sugawa City on the second Saturday of November. Festival participants raise a 10m (33 ft) 3 ton (6,613 pound) torch in a display of fiery courage. Don’t forget to click your shutter!

Furudono Hachiman Shrine Annual Festival: From JR Koriyama station take the JR Suigun line approximately 45 minutes to Iwaki-Ishikawa station. Take the bus 40 minutes to Furudono-machi and walk five minutes.
Taimatsu Akashi: From JR Koriyama station take the JR Tohoku Main line approximately 10 minutes to Sukagawa station. 10 minutes by a shuttle bus (paid service) from Sugawa station to the venue

Winter

Slipping into the steaming waters of an “onsen” (hot spring) while looking out over winter scenery is one of Japan’s great pleasures. (13) The Bandai-Atami hot spring is a popular destination for the excellent quality of its spring waters and easy access, only 15 minutes by train from Koriyama station. The secluded (14)Futamata hot spring in the village of Ten’ei is nestled away in the mountains and surrounded by a primeval forest. (15) Bobata Hot Spring is located in the town of Ishikawa. Legend has it that a famous 11th century samurai general would heal his beloved horse’s wounds with the spring’s waters. The rural landscape is particularly beautiful in the winter.

Bandai-Atami Hot Spring: From JR Koriyama station take the Ban’etsu East Line 15 minutes to Bandai-Atami station.
Futamata Hot Spring: Take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Shirakawa station. A one-hour drive (pickup bus service available.).
Bobata Hot Spring: From JR Koriyama station take the JR Suigun line approximately 45 minutes to Iwaki-Ishikawa station. Take the bus 15 minutes.

For active types, skiing is your best bet. Inawashiro Ski Resort area is only 40 to 50 minutes away from JR Koriyama station. There are six different ski resorts in the area, offering a variety of courses. Beginners, families, and advanced skiers can all have a great time on the slopes.

Everyone loves the cherry blossoms of spring, but the central region of Fukushima Prefecture features incredible natural scenery throughout the year. Pick your season and set out on a northern Japan adventure!