By Brandon Virgo
If you are in the Tohoku region during the cherry blossom viewing season then I would strongly recommend a day trip to Hanamiyama in Fukushima and Ogawara in Miyagi. Both destinations are connected by the JR Tohoku line and are within 20-30 minutes from each other. Both places offer a unique experience that is sure to cater to your cherry blossom viewing needs.
Hanamiyama is a mountain that is dotted with different varieties of cherry blossoms. If you miss the cherry blossoms, you can still enjoy a rainbow of colors with flowers through most of the year outside winter. There is a farming village at the base of the mountain where fields of flowers are strewn out along the village giving the place an almost magical and picturesque feel. The snowcapped Azuma Mountains can also be seen in the backdrop of the landscape, which is sure to delight photography enthusiasts.
To access Hanamiyama, you need to head to Fukushima Station. It is serviced by the bullet train system and local trains. If coming from the north in Miyagi's Sendai by local JR train, the ticket cost is ￥1,320 and the trip takes about 70 minutes. When you get to Fukushima Station wait at bus stop number 6 for the shuttle bus to take you to the mountain, which is on the outskirts of the city. The bus passes will cost roughly ￥500 and be sure to hold on to the pass as you will need it on your return journey. Hanamiyama offers three different viewing trails, a 30 minute, 45 minute and a 60 minute trail.
After completing the trails at Hanamiyama you can then head back to Fukushima Station and take the train to Ogawara. Again, use the Tohoku line. The 40 minute trip by direct local train to Ogawara Station costs ￥840. Cherry blossoms are found right outside the station. There is a festival and picnic atmosphere, meaning that you will see a lot of food booths and families and friends picnicking. Take the time to relax under the cherry blossom with your friends or walk along the river bank in the shade of the famous Japanese cherry blossoms.
Either of these great places are a wonderful cherry blossom viewing area. They both offer a unique experience. Being close to each other means you can have a full day of cherry blossom fun with minimal travel time. Happy flower viewing.