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Kitakami Tenshochi Sakura Festival: Japan's Incredibly Dreamy 2km Cherry Blossom Road!

Kitakami Tenshochi Sakura Festival: Japan's Incredibly Dreamy 2km Cherry Blossom Road!

Date published: 2 March 2020
Last updated: 18 May 2020

Cherry blossoms are one of the main things many tourists look forward to when visiting Japan. Kitakami Tenshochi Park in Kitakami is one of the best places in Iwate Prefecture for cherry blossoms.

The Kitakami Tenshochi Sakura Festival is held annually from mid-April to early May. Sakura-viewers from near and far attend this thriving festival, which showcases the park’s 2km corridor of cherry trees, which can be appreciated from the comfort of a gorgeous boat or Japanese carriage.

Table of Contents
  1. Kitakami Tenshochi’s incredible cherry blossoms with 100 years behind them
  2. Ride through the Kitakami cherry blossom tunnel by carriage
  3. Overlooking 2 km of cherry blossoms from a tour boat
  4. Demons dancing against a sakura backdrop in the Onikenbai
  5. A fanstical sight: Cherry blossoms lit up in the night
  6. Tenshochi Mochi: Taste the sakura, literally!

Kitakami Tenshochi’s incredible cherry blossoms with 100 years behind them

Development of Kitakami Tenshochi began in 1920 with the planting of cherry trees under the direction of the mayor of Kurosawajiri-cho (Kurosawajiri-machi, now part of central Kitakami), Koji Sawafuji, and the park opened the following year.

In 1954, it became known as the “Kitakami Municipal Park Exhibition Area” when it became a part of Kitakami City. This historic park will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2021.

▲You can really feel the 100 years of history behind it (Photo courtesy of Kitakami Tourism Promotion Office)

Nearby, Jingaoka hill provides a wonderful view of Tenshochi’s scenic beauty, where you can enjoy the beauty of nature throughout the year. The seasons are highlighted by azaleas in spring, autumn leaves, and swans taking flight in winter.

Tenshochi’s row of cherry trees with beautiful pink blossoms as seen from Jingaoka. (Photo courtesy of Kitakami Tourism Promotion Office)

Above all, in the spring, about 10,000 cherry trees spanning 150 different species bloom in the 293-hectare site, which has been selected as one of the “100 Best Sakura Spots” in Japan, and is counted among “Michinoku’s Top Three Cherry Blossom Attractions.”

Blooming in sequence from Yoshino cherry trees in mid-April to Kasumizakura in early May, the different types mean that you can enjoy blossom viewing, "hanami", for about a month each year.

The Kitakami Tenshochi Sakura Festival here in Iwate Prefecture takes place from the middle of April to the beginning of May. Visitors can spend a satisfying day in the park, enjoying a leisurely picnic in the sun and watching as the cherry blossoms are lit up at night.

Ride through the Kitakami cherry blossom tunnel by carriage

Ride through the Kitakami cherry blossom tunnel by carriage
▲ The wide, relaxing road of sakura

To get to the park, take the Kumazawa/Esashi Line bus from JR Tohoku Line Kitakami Station for about 15 minutes. If you are traveling by car, it’s about a 12-minute drive from the Tohoku Expressway Kitakami Ezuriko Interchange.

Please note that if you’re arriving by car, traffic jams are common during the Sakura Festival. Parking near the station and getting to the park by ferry is a fun alternative. During the cherry blossom festival, boats cross the Kitakami River, which flows along the park, and get from the dock on the river’s western bank near Kitakami Station to the Tenshochi in about 5 minutes.

▲ Carriages pass through the cherry blossom tunnel formed by Yoshino cherry trees (Photo courtesy of Kitakami Tourism Promotion Office)

When you get off at the exhibition site, the row of cherry trees will be right in front of you! After a leisurely stroll through the blossoms, you’ll arrive at the rest house at the end of the path. From there, you can ride a red-roofed carriage that will return back to where you started. Carriage rides are only available during the Sakura Festival.

It takes about 20 minutes to ride through the row of cherry blossom trees to the rustic sound of hooves.

▲ Riding the carriage offers a higher vantage point for a closer look at the flowers’ beauty

As they roll by, passengers from passing carriages wave and smile at each other. If you stand a little apart from the cherry blossoms and the hustle and bustle of the carriages, you'll get to see a truly memorable scene of the Japanese cherry blossoms.

Overlooking 2 km of cherry blossoms from a tour boat

Overlooking 2 km of cherry blossoms from a tour boat
▲ Cheers rise when passing under the carp streamers

The sightseeing boats that cross the Kitakami River also offer a superb view of the sakura. Boats operate throughout the Sakura Festival, but, as to be expected, service may be interrupted or cancelled during times strong wind, rain, or rising water.

▲ Carp streamers fluttering in the wind

On less windy days, the pink cherry blossoms reflect on the surface of the water and the beauty brings cheer to the boat passengers. Looking upwards, 300 carp streamers swim in the blue sky. These scenes are can only be seen during the Sakura Festival, so take plenty of photos!

Demons dancing against a sakura backdrop in the Onikenbai

During the Sakura Festival, a special stage is set up in the park for local performing arts exhibitions. One of the most popular performances is called “Onikenbai.”

▲ Onikenbai has a huge fan-base (photo courtesy of Kitakami Tourism Promotion Office)

In the “Demon’s Sword Dance,” costumed performers wear masks representing figures such as Asuka Period mystic and founder of the Shugendo religion, En no Ozunu. The impressive and dynamic dance, which has its roots in Buddhist ceremony will thrill you as the story unfolds in front the cherry blossoms.

A fanstical sight: Cherry blossoms lit up in the night

A fanstical sight: Cherry blossoms lit up in the night
▲ The trees and a rest houses bathed in light (Photo courtesy of the Tenshochi Rest House)

At night, the blossom tunnel takes on an entirely different character. Be sure to experience the romance both day and night, but take note: springtime temperatures in Kitakami are often in the single-digits in the morning and evening.

Also, the illumination period depends on the yearly flowering status.

Tenshochi Mochi: Taste the sakura, literally!

Another great thing about cherry blossom viewing is the delicious food. Designed to look like traditional storehouses, the rest houses and the nearby shop sell local crafts and souvenirs during the Sakura Festival and throughout the year, and you can enjoy meals inside the building.

▲ Rest house exterior
▲ Kitakami’s local crafts and souvenirs

Even before reaching the rest house, there’s a special atmosphere about the area during the Sakura Festival and you’ll smell the delicious scents emanating from the food stalls lined up outside. Among these, you’ll find “Tenshochi Mochi.”

▲ Three types: anko (red bean paste), sesame, and mushroom, 450 yen (including tax) (Photo courtesy of Kitakami Tourism Promotion Office)

The mochi is made fresh every morning by pounding rice into this soft sweet. A bit of salt serves to enhance the sweetness, and make these rice cakes irresistible!

  • Tenshochi Rest House
    展勝地レストハウス
    • Address 14 Chiwari-21-1 Tachibana, Kitakami, Iwate 024-0043
    • Phone Number 0197-64-2110
    • Hours: 10:00 - 17:00, closed Mondays (except during Sakura Festival)

At Kitakami Tenshochi Park, not only can you enjoy the natural beauty of cherry blossoms, but also experience traditions like Onikenbai and Tenshochi Mochi.
Why not plan a trip to Kitakami’s Tenshochi Sakura Festival!

* The information in this article is accurate as of 2019. Please check official websites for the latest information.

  • Kitakami Municipal Park Exhibition Area
    北上市立公園 展勝地
    • Address 10 Chiwari Tachibana, Kitakami, Iwate 024-0043
*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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