Hanami Preview 2011
Sakura season is upon us — read up on four of Mie's best hanami spots
The cherry blossom season, one of the best times of the year, will be upon us soon. For a couple short weeks, Mie Prefecture will be covered in all sorts of beautiful blossoms, particularly the somei yoshino sakura.
According to the Japan Weather Association's annual sakura forecast, normal cherry blossoms in Mie will first open on Wednesday, March 30, and the best day for viewing will be Wednesday, April 6. Keep in mind though that major shifts in weather may cause changes to the above dates.
So where should you go to see the cherry blossoms this year? Whether you don't want to leave your area or are willing to travel across the entire prefecture, consider these four locations:
Miyagawa River Banks
The park along the Miyagawa in Ise is like a sakura wonderland. With more than 1000 cherry blossom trees, this famous site has the highest number of sakura trees in a concentrated area in the entire prefecture. It also has the distinction of being listed in the official "100 Best Sakura Spots in Japan". Both the north and south side of the park have sakura tunnels in which you can lose yourself in the beauty of the light pink blossoms filling your entire vision.
Due to its popularity, there will be many people here for hanami, especially on the weekends, so try to come on a weekday or weekend morning. The park it also open at night, with the trees lit up, for evening hanami.
See Miya River Banks on the Mie Guidebook for directions.
This historic park near Tsu Station is one of the prefecture's most well-known hanami locations. The park covers a natural hillside, and so there are a variety of flora. While Kairaku Park lacks the sheer sakura numbers of the Miya River, it makes up for it in having a variety of beautiful colors on display.
Given the park's convenient location and historic fame, it makes getting a good spot on the ground here rather challenging. That said, the patient will be rightly treated to a gorgeous view for their hanami party. Food, drink, and vendors abound.
See Kairaku Park on the Mie Guidebook for directions.
Ten minutes north of Kameyama station awaits one of the little-known hanami jewels of Mie Prefecture, Kameyama Castle. Though the "castle" is just a shack, it sits atop a rock wall that is flanked by countless sakura trees. From the ground, one gets an almost mystical view of the former castle, barely visible through all the cherry blossoms. Nearby there is also a shrine and lake surrounded by seasonal greenery and (more) sakura. This park is guaranteed to provide an unforgettable experience.
Kameyama is not a terribly well-known spot and so is consequently not as crowded as places like the Miya River and Kairaku Park. Even in the middle of the day, visitors should be able to find themselves a good spot to enjoy an afternoon of watching the blossoms.
See Kameyama Park on the Mie Guidebook for directions.
Downtown Ueno's park, which houses the castle, the Basho house, and the ninja museum also boasts an impressive sakura display. One of the most beautiful areas is the walk into the park, with a long walkway covered on both sides with cherry blossoms; it feels for a moment as if you've stepped into traditional Japan. More sakura can be found throughout the park.
Given the wide expanse of the park, finding a spot to enjoy hanami shouldn't be too much trouble. If you go during Ninja Fest, you may even be sharing the park with ninjas.
See Ueno Park on the Mie Guidebook for directions.