"Tengu Sakura" - The latest cherry blossom to bloom in Otaru.
On May 26th, 2013, I took a trip to Mt. Tengu (Tenguyama) in Otaru.
Near this mountain is a large tree loved by locals called the "Tengu Sakura."
It is said that this Ezo Mountain Cherry tree was planted more than 100 years ago during the Meiji Era.
Because of its location atop a mountain the flowering season comes late, making this the last cherry tree to bloom in Otaru every year.
During my visit the tree was just preparing to bloom, but the leaves still provided a lovely color.
The blossoms were so close to opening...
So that's what the tree looks like just before it blooms.
Here is a picture of the flowers fully open, from late-May in a previous year.
This year the blooming season has come a bit late, so many are saying that early-June may be the best time to view the tree.
If you have bad timing, like I did, don't fret! There are many beautiful places on Tenguyama which you can still enjoy.
The view of Otaru from the mountain is spectacular!
Not only can you view the entire city in one sweep, if weather permits you can see as far as Ishikari Bay, or even spot Mt. Shokanbetsu
There is also a nature boardwalk which provides about 20 minutes of leisurely sight seeing.
There is a path which leads to the mountain's summit, but when I visited there was still a fair amount of snow, so I wasn't able to journey to the top.
Located nearby is "Chipmunk Park." Sadly that was still closed for the winter season during my visit.
Due to the cold weather the squirrels and chipmunks were all still hibernating.
Last year the park opened about mid-June, around the time when the animals began to wake up. Once they're out and about they get so close to visitors you can touch them!
Next to Chipmunk Park is a sight you can enjoy no matter what the weather, the mountain's namesake, a Tengu!
Tengu are a Japanese mythical figure, and it is said that stroking this one's nose is good luck!
Because of the many visitors, this Tengu's nose was pretty worn down. Judging from his expression, he knows it too!
Opposite the park and the Tengu is the ropeway boarding station.
Many visitors make their way to the top of Tenguyama in a car, but the easiest way is on the ropeway.
Guests enjoy a five minute ride suspended in the air with a full view of the city.
Inside the boarding station is a restaurant and ski rental shop for winter visitors. There is also a Tengu museum! This indoor area is great for visits on rainy or particularly cold days.
Because of these many indoor and outdoor features visitors can enjoy Tenguyama all year round. In summers, even after the cherry tree has bloomed there is still mountain climbing and sightseeing to enjoy, and in winter skiers crowd the mountain slopes.
That the latest blooming cherry tree in Otaru is so close to flowering is another sign that spring has finally come. It also signals the Tenguyama's transition from winter to its summer season.
Now is the perfect time to get outside and breath in the fresh Hokkaido air. Why not make your next excursion a trip to Tenguyama?
Article written in cooperation with:
中央バス観光商事㈱ (Central Bus tourism Shoji Co.)
Tenguyama Office, Otaru Tenguyama Ropeway
http://www.cks.chuo-bus.co.jp/tenguyama/ (English Available)
(Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer - Nobu Kawashima)
Some photographs provided by 小樽天狗山ロープウェイ.