During the spring, Japan gets shaded in white and pink, with the bloom of thousands of cherry trees. Of course, in Kitakami as well, a town located in the south of Iwate Prefecture, you can watch enjoy their beauty, and the period we recommend is around April 20th, 25th, so about 3 weeks later than Tokyo bloom!
Here you can find some useful information from our report dating to spring 2018.
Kitakami is located about 400 km north of Tokyo, easily reached via the Tohoku Shinkansen in about 2 hours 50 minutes (take the Shinkansen Yamabiko, of course available with the Japan Rail Pass).
This quiet town sees most of its annual visitor peak during the cherry festival that takes place in the Tenshochi Park (展勝地公園) along the bank of the Kitakami River. From this point a long row of centuries-old cherry trees unfolds, and they will accompany you for a few kilometers in an incredible tunnel of the most different shades of pink and white.
At the beginning of the park you will find services and several yatai (屋 台) stalls, selling the typical dishes and finger food of traditional Japanese festivals, such as takoyaki, yakisoba, korokke, chocolate glazed bananas, and much more. On the grass, at the shadow of the cherry trees, groups of friends, families and work colleagues sit, cackling happily on a day of rest.
The Oiran parade
Buy the way, the Kitakami cherry festival also offers many special events during its days. We happened to attend a particular parade, that of the Oiran (花魁), or the historical women of pleasure of the Edo period. This historical reconstruction, recreated by local people, marched along the tree-lined row, accompanied by traditional music and an interpretative chronicle.
The recorded voice, while the procession took place, gave interesting information about the characters that slowly proceeded, walking slowly through the trees … Curious and interesting the fact that the highest grade Oiran, probably the one you see in this photo below, had to sustain around 13 kg of accessories, wigs, decorations and footwear (the latter weighing 1.5 kg each, and 15 cm high!). Beautiful also the fabrics used for clothes, of which we have taken some details.
Horse-drawn carriage and Koinobori
In addition to the parade of the Oirans, at Kitakami Tenshochi Park you can take advantage of another couple of attractions: at regular intervals a small carriage drawn by one of the powerful tow horses, used in the region since ancient times: at a slow pace you can cross in romantic way the tunnel of cherry trees in full bloom of the Tenshochi park.
Going further, finally, after walking about half an hour, at a calm pace, along the east bank of the Kitakami River, you can see a double line of koinobori, the famous flying carp stretched out by the blowing of the wind, symbol of the child’s festival in Japan. Traditionally, each family member has one: two large ones for parents, and one for each kid, which are hoisted to a pole vertically and let sway in the wind. Here at Kitakami we have seen really huge ones, and even unusual ones, such as one resembling a catfish!
We recommend, once you have enjoyed your hanami, to cross the Sango Bridge (Coral Bridge), a historic steel bridge joining the east and west of the city. On the other side it will be possible to admire the cherry trees in bloom, whose perspective is cut by the koinobori tense on the course of the river. Try, like us, to look for the perfect angle and framing for a great photo!
We were about to forget, one last detail! If you want to enjoy the view from a particular perspective, near the parking lot, at the beginning of the Tenshochi park, you can take part in short excursions in traditional boats that will let you see the cherry blossoms by the water, passing directly under the koinobori.
Iwate is still little known and definitely an unspoiled prefecture, even within Japan, but that’s why it jealously preserves many hidden pearls!