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Release | Kentaro Kimura

Hanami in Hokkaido starts from the south! Cherry blossom viewing spots near Hokkaido Shinkansen stations and Hakodate Airport

After the long winter, cherry blossoms started to bloom in Hokkaido finally! Hokkaido is really big, and southern Hokkaido areas allow you to enjoy cherry blossoms in full bloom first in Hokkaido. They usually become in full bloom during the Golden Week holidays. 

Many people are planning to have 10 days of holidays this year! In this article, I will introduce cherry blossom viewing spots near Hokkaido Shinkansen’s stations and Hakodate Airport! 
 

▲The cherry blossom lane at Hekiri Jinya ruins in Hokuto City 
 
 

Table of Contents

Hokuto City 1: Beautiful cherry blossom at night! Cherry blossom lane along Ono River
Hokuto City 2: No.1 in Hokkaido! Hokiji Temple’s weeping cherry blossom tree
Hokuto City 3: You can also enjoy historical sites at Matsumae-Han Hekiri Jinya ruin’s cherry blossoms
Hakodate City 1: The most famous cherry blossom viewing spot! Goryokaku Park
Hakodate City 2: Sakuragaoka Street has become a famous cherry blossom lane
Matsumae-Cho: Don’t forget Matsumae Park with the most known histories and the biggest size in Hokkaido
Extra info: Wildflowers bloom with cherry blossoms! 


 

Hokuto City 1: Beautiful cherry blossom at night! Cherry blossom lane along Ono River

Hokuto City got the attention of people because of the opening of Hokkaido Shinkansen on March 26 in 2016. The city with a population of 45,000 people is located next to Hakodate City and born in 2006 by merging former Kamiiso-Cho and former Ono-Cho. Shin-Hakodate Hokuto Station where Hokkaido Shinkansen arrives and leaves is located in the inland of former Ono-Cho.
 
Hokuto City is one of the most important tourism city in Hokkaido. Goryokaku Park in Hakodate city is very famous for cherry blossoms, and Hokuto City is not as famous as Hakodate is, but the flower of the city in spring is cherry blossoms! I would like to introduce a few famous ones from many cherry blossom spots in Hokuto City.
 
The blooming forecast for this year is the same for Hokuto City and Hakodate City. Flowering from April 28 and full bloom on May 3. (Forecasted by Japan Meteorological Association on April 11) 
 
 
▲The cherry blossom lane along Ono River in Ono district. (©2015 Hokuto City Tourist Association)
 
 
The closest cherry blossom viewing spot from Shin-Hakodate Hokuto Station is cherry blossom lane along Ono River. You can get the view of approximately 100 cherry blossom trees, mainly Somei Yoshino, standing for 300 meters along the town road Hongo Kawaracho Street by Ono River. Families and elderlies can walk safely as there is pavement.
 
Former Ono-Cho planted the trees to celebrate the marriage of Emperor Akihiro (prince at that time) and Empress Michiko in 1959. There were approximately 150 trees at that time, but the number reduced as they had to cut down some of them because of road maintenance and damages by sheep. It turns to a beautiful cherry blossom tunnel when the flowers become full bloom! 
 
 
▲“Hokuto Sakura Festival” The beauty and fanciness become more prominent when lights are on. (©2015 Hokuto City Tourist Association)
 
 
Hokuto City’s cherry blossoms are beautiful at night. “Hokuto Sakura Festival” puts lights on to each cherry blossom viewing spots in Hokuto City and the whole city becomes pink. The festival starts from April 26 in 2019! 

 

Hokuto City 2: No.1 in Hokkaido! Hokiji Temple’s weeping cherry blossom tree

Cross Ono Bridge after walking about 5 mins from cherry blossom lane along Ono River and you will notice the pagoda by Hokkaido Road no. 96. This is Hokiji Temple which was established in 1849 by the fifteenth generation of Hakodate Jikkouji Temple Kaneko Nichinoushi from the request of Kinbei Nakamura, who was devoted to Buddhism, and permitted as Hokian in Ono Village. 
 
 
▲The weeping cherry blossom tree of Hokiji Temple. Cherry blossom trees in this size are pretty rare in Hokkaido. (©2015 Hokuto City Tourist Association)
 
 
There is a weeping cherry blossom tree in the property of the temple. It is said the tree is over 300 years old and is one of the most massive weeping cherry blossom trees in Hokkaido. The height is approximately 12 meters, and flowers on weeping branches are stunning and show its long history. Weeping cherry blossom trees with this size is pretty rare to see in Hokkaido, and it has become a famous cherry blossom viewing spot which also gets many visitors from far away. 
 
 
▲The trees get lights at night since 2011. (©2015 Hokuto City Tourist Association)
 
 
Cherry blossoms look different at night. It seems magical and powerful, and the lights make it stand out more. 
 
By the way, the cherry blossom tree is categorized in Rosaceae and also called Ito-zakura. 

 

Hokuto City 3: You can also enjoy historical sites at Matsumae-Han Hekiri Jinya ruin’s cherry blossoms

A cherry blossom tree lane continues for 1.8 kilometers along the Hokkaido Road no. 96 which connects to Hekirichi Jinya ruins and called “1,000 cherry blossom trees in Kiyokoawa.” 
 
 
▲“1,000 cherry blossom trees in Kiyokawa” stand on both sides of Hokkaido Road no. 96. (©2015 Hokuto City Tourist Association) 
 
 
This is a perfect place to visit by car such as rent a car from Shin-Hakodate Hokuto Station. It was used to be called “cosmos lane” as there were cosmos trees. They started the 1,000 cherry blossom tree project in 1985 and have continued it as the greening activities with locals. 
 
500 Ezo Yamazakura trees and 500 Somei Yoshino trees entertain drivers from late April to early May. The road is too beautiful that you can’t resist looking. Don’t look aside when you are driving! 
 
The endpoint of 1,000 cherry blossom trees is Matsumae-han Hekiri Jinya ruins. The Somei Yoshino cherry blossom lane for approximately 800 meters towards this site has become one of the most famous tourist destinations in southern Hokkaido. 
 
 
▲The cherry blossom lane continues to Matsumae Hekiri Jinya ruin. The cherry blossoms also look beautiful at night with lights.  
 

This tunnel of cherry blossom trees was planted to pray for the victory of the Russo-Japanese War. Approximately 580 cherry blossom trees make a beautiful tunnel, and you can enjoy it with lights at night like other places. Also, this place lets you get the view of Hakodate Bay and Hokkaido Shinkansen railways as it climbs a gentle hill. 
 
 
▲The cherry blossom tunnel continues to the gate of Jinya ruin. 
 
 
The endpoint of the cherry blossom lane is a designated cultural property, Hekiri Jinya ruin. It was built under the order from the shogunate to Matsumae-Han to strengthen the defense in Hokkaido due to the opening of Hakodate port under the Convention of Kanagawa in 1859. 
 
 
▲Fortresses are left in good condition, and cherry blossom blooms near fortresses, too.  
 
 
It’s in the shape of Shiryokaku and looks like a turtle with six gun seats. Approximately 120 soldiers were working to defend Jinya, but it was burned it down after they heard former Shogunate warriors landed Mori-Cho Washinoki in Battle of Hakodate to avoid them using the fortress. 
 
Therefore, the Jinya ruin did not become a battlefield, and the condition of preservation is fantastic. It became the designated historical site in 1965. 
 
 
▲The site is well maintained and spacious. People enjoy cherry blossom flowers like Somei Yoshino.
 
 
▲There is also ruins of gunpowder storage along the path through a forest near the back gate of Jinya ruin. 
 

When you get out from the back gate of Jinya ruin, there is a path through a forest, and it’s a perfect place to relax in the woods. There is also a cemetery of Orthodox Church believers who entered in 1876. 
 
This place lets you enjoy historical sites and cherry blossom at the same time. 
 
Hokuto City Chamber of Commerce Youth Group holds Jinya Cherry Blossom Festival every year, and there will be stalls and events. The festival is on April 28 in 2019. 

 

Hakodate City 1: The most famous cherry blossom viewing spot! Goryokaku Park 

You can’t skip Goryokaku Park in Hakodate if you are here to see cherry blossoms in southern Hokkaido. This is one of the most iconic cherry blossom viewing spot in Hokkaido with Matsumae Park. 
 
 
▲The cherry blossom flowers of Goryokaku Park, seen from a fortress in the inner moat. 
 
 
This is a Western-style fort which was the base of former Shogunate soldiers in the Battle of Hakodate and the significant place where Takeaki Enomoto established the Republic of Ezo. It was used for Meiji Government’s army training camp after Meiji Period and has become a cherry blossom viewing spot after the park became a free loan to Hakodate in 1913 and turned into a park in 1914. 
 
Today, 1,600 cherry blossom trees, mainly Somei Yoshino, bloom in the park. When you see cherry blossoms blooming in the shape of star from Goryokaku Tower, you would feel the stylistic beauty is the word to describe this park! 
 
You will never get bored to see cherry blossoms here. It seems different when you see from various directions such as the outer moat, inner moat, top of a fort, etc. Taking pictures with cameras and smartphones would be irresistible. 
 
 
▲You can also enjoy Ohanami Genghis-Khan here, the standard spring things to do for locals in Hokkaido, at the outer moat! 
 
This is the standard cherry blossom viewing spot in southern Hokkaido, but I can say this is a place worth visiting many times.

 

Hakodate City 2: Sakuragaoka Street has become a famous cherry blossom lane

“Sakuragaoka Street” has become a popular cherry blossom viewing spot for citizens and people in Hokkaido. The street is located right by “Kashiwagicho” station of Hakodate tram. 
 
 
▲Approximately 100 Somei Yoshino trees bloom along the street of a quiet residential area. 
 
 
The straight street connects Kashiwagi-Cho near Goryokaku Park and Shoin-Cho. As the name suggests, you can enjoy the tunnel of cherry blossom trees for approximately 800 meters. Both sides of the street is usually a quiet residential district, but cars and people visit here during the cherry blossom season. 
 
Residents in the neighborhood planted the trees in the early Showa Period. Sometimes the trees were in danger of death because of the traffic increase, but residents volunteered to buy young plants and kept it previously to create the current landscape. 
 
 
▲There are not so many trees, but the cherry blossom tunnel is astonishing because residents take care very well and the street is narrow. 
 
 
There are sushi restaurants offering Hakodate’s local seafood and popular bakeries along the street so it would be nice to stop by. 
 
Many cars visit no matter day or night during the cherry blossom season. Please be careful and respect the manners when you see the trees as the street is narrow and there are no sidewalks. I recommend walking here rather than visiting by car. 
 
 

Don’t forget Matsumae Park with the most known histories and the biggest size in Hokkaido

It might be a little far to include Matsumae Park in Matsumae-Cho in the list of places near Hokkaido Shinkansen stations, but it is a must-visit place if you are in southern Hokkaido. Matsumae-Cho is the southernmost city in Hokkaido, and cherry blossoms bloom the earliest. This year is forecasted to bloom on April 27 and become full bloom on May 1 (According to Japan Meteorological Association’s announcement on April 11). I guess those early blooming kinds have bloomed already. 
 
If you are visiting by Shinkansen, get off at JR Kikonai Station, take Hakodate Bus to Matsumae and ride for 1.5 hours and get off at Matsushiro bus stop. 
 
 
▲Matsumae Park has 10,000 cherry blossom trees with approximately 250 kinds. One of the biggest sized cherry blossom viewing spots in Hokkaido.  
 
 
The park is enormous with Matsumae Castle (Fukuyama Castle), Teramachi, and Matsumae Clan Mansion. It was designated as Hokkaido Heritage in 2004 and selected as one of “Japan’s 100 Beautiful Historical Landscapes.” The landscape of castle town and cherry blossoms which are unlike Hokkaido make me feel like I am back in the Edo Period. 
 
The characteristic of the park is that you can enjoy cherry blossom flowers for a long time from mid-April to late May because there are many kinds of cherry blossoms.  
 
 
The most important kind of cherry blossoms in Matsumae Park is “Nanden.”  
 
 
▲The petals of Nanden. This kind is most planted in Matsumae Park. 
 
 
This is a kind of double cherry blossoms with 12 to 15 petals with stronger pink color than Somei Yoshino. It blooms slightly after Somei Yoshino. There is a different kind with the same name in the Honshu Region, so it is also called “Matsumae Hayazaki.” 
 
And the crude wood of Nanden is “Kechimyaku Zakura,” one of the most famous trees in Matsumae Park.   
 
 
▲Above is the picture of Kechimyaku Zakura in the property of Kozenji Temple. The cherry blossom has many myths. 
 

It’s an over 300-years-old old tree with 8 meters height and 17 meters width from east to west. Kensuke Kamakura, the man of merit for cherry blossoms in Matsumae, created “Nanden” by grafting Kechimyaku Zakura into another. This is really an ancient breed of Matsumae. 
 
Other than Kechimyaku Zakura, there are “Menoto Zakura” and “Ezo Kasumizakura” as well, and three trees are called the three most significant trees in Matsumae Park. It is difficult to see everything in one day as there are many interesting sites here.  
 
 
▲You can get the view of cherry blossoms and Tsugaru Trait from the castle tower of Matsumae Castle.  
 
 
I think you can call the park itself is the museum of cherry blossoms. There will be “Matsumae-Cho Sakura Festival” from April 27 to May 15. And May 1 will be the memorial day because they will celebrate both “Matsumae-Cho Cherry Blossom Day” and the starting of the new era “Reiwa.”

Why don’t you travel a little from Hakodate or Hokuto City? 

 

Extra info: Wildflowers bloom with cherry blossoms!

In Hokkaido, you should not only look for cherry blossoms but also wildflowers. After the long winter with heavy snow, many wildflowers bloom from mid-April all at once. I will introduce two places to enjoy seeing wildflowers. 
 
 
▲A group of dogtooth violet flowers in Takumi No Mori of Kijihiki Highland.  
 
 
Kijihiki Highland in Hokuto City is a place located in former Ono-Cho to enjoy 360 degrees panoramic views of Mt. Hakodate, Komagatake, Onuma Park, etc. “Takumi No Mori” is a forest zone in the middle of the highland and is a natural park where promenades and wild bird observation cottage are maintained. 
 
Dogtooth violet flowers bloom all at once along the promenade from mid-April to late April. The ground filled with purple flowers is extremely beautiful that you would lose words. I think there is no place like this with a huge group of dogtooth violet flowers. 
 
 
▲Japanese wood poppies start to bloom after the season of dogtooth violet flowers.
 
 
Dogtooth violet flowers and Japanese wood poppies are alpine plants in Honshu Region. In Hokkaido, you can encounter these even in lowlands. 
 
The next place is Mt. Hakodate, which is famous for night views. Mt. Hakodate, a low mountain with an elevation of 334 meters, does not only let you enjoy night views but also light hiking, therapeutic walk in the forest, wild bird watching and wildflowers watching.

Since Mt. Hakodate was a fort of former Japanese army from the mid-Meiji Period until the end of World War two, civilians were not allowed to enter the mountain. 
 
Because of that, even the mountain is located by the downtown, it leaves unspoiled nature, and you can encounter with over 600 kinds of plants still today. 
 
 
▲Ezoengosaku flowers bloom in Mt. Hakodate. These cute flowers make us enjoy various colors such as light blue, purple, pink, etc. 
 
 
There are many trails in Mt. Hakodate, and among them, I recommend the Miyanomori Course with promenades. You can encounter with many groups of Ezosangosaku, flowers to bring spring in Hokkaido, along the promenades from mid-April to late April.
 
 
Moreover, you can encounter  Kojima Enreisou, which is very rare. 
 
 
▲This is one of the endangered species that can only be found in southern Hokkaido, particularly Mt. Hakodate and Chikyu Cape in Muroran City. 
 
 
It was named Kojima Enreisou because it was found in Oshima Kojima in the coast of Matsumae-Cho. Mt. Hakodate is one of the rare places to see a group of flowers. It looks like normal Enreisou but has three red-purple petals. 
 
 
▲Miyanomori Course in Mt. Hakodate is a casual hiking trail. I recommend walking here to enjoy seeing wildflowers. 
 
 
Cherry Blossoms and wildflowers bloom only for a while, and we enjoy seeing them. Please enjoy the Golden Week in Hokkaido surrounded by flowers! 
  • Hanami in Hokkaido starts from the south! Cherry blossom viewing spots near Hokkaido Shinkansen stations and Hakodate Airport
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