As of early April, it’s sakura (cherry blossom) season here in Oshu. These beautiful, light pink flowers only bloom for about two weeks, but their short stay is a big part of why people find them so moving. Furthermore, even if you’re not actively trying to view sakura, the trees tend to be planted around well-trodden places, such as town halls, parks, the sides of roads, schools, and similar. The header image, as an example, is a sakura tree blossoming outside of Oshu City Hall.

But aside from sakura one might come across in one’s daily life, certain locations across Japan are known as famous sakura viewing spots, and draw visitors from all around the country. On a smaller scale, almost every municipality has locally well-known, special places to enjoy the beauty of sakura. Of course, such spots are plentiful in Oshu, and I’ll introduce a few that I recommend.

Mizusawa Park
   As mentioned above, Mizusawa Park is one area that is locally known as a great spot to view all kinds of sakura in bloom. This year, the sakura first opened up on March 29th, which is a record early start for Oshu. The park also offers walkways with plenty of greenery, playground equipment for children, and beautiful scenery for everybody.

A placard at the entrance of the park indicates that this year’s sakura fest will be April 8th-29th

                                                                                              Weeping sakura, with Mizusawa Gym in the background.

Two classic sakura trees, with the afternoon sun illuminating them from the back.

Even though I don’t think I’m much of a photographer, pictures of sakura almost always come out looking beautiful, somehow.

Keitoku Park
  Keitoku Park is a small park near Z Hall – an auditorium and cultural center – and Mizusawa Library. A creek runs through it, lined with sakura trees whose branches reach towards the water. If you gaze out from the bridge, on a clear day with the sakura at their peak flourishment, you might get a view that looks like a painting come to life.

Sakura at Keitoku Park, with Mizusawa Library in the background.

Sakura trees lining the creek in the afternoon light.

By the way, the most popular type of sakura in Japan is a cloned cultivar, so as a result, all of them in a given region open up, reach full bloom, and fade at the same time. As someone who was more used to seeing seasonal foliage develop gradually and recede slowly, the effect of seeing every sakura tree in full, simultaneous bloom is breathtaking.

Former Iwayado Kyoritsu Hospital (Meiji Memorial Building)This former hospital stands out among the traditional, smaller homes around it. First operational in 1875, it was the first hospital to practice Western medicine in what is now Iwate prefecture. While it closed down as a hospital three years later, the building continued to be used for a range of public functions – and since it now operates as a historical memorial, this practice continues to the present day.

The former hospital, framed by sakura and lanterns, on a cloudy day.

Lastly, I’d like to talk a little bit about the context of sakura season in Japan as a whole. The Japanese school year, and the fiscal year, begin in sync on April 1st. Thus, for many people, sakura signify the start of new lifestyles – whether you’re a student beginning a new school year, or a company employee settling into a new department after a routine transfer of staff. Because of this, the sight of sakura can remind people of fresh starts and saying goodbye, which is a major aspect of why they move people so much.

Sakura have long been a subject of poems and art, both due to their inherent beauty and from the nostalgia and memories they carry for many who’ve grown up with them. I don’t have the kind of space needed to introduce every spot in Oshu, so please come visit and see for yourself!