As winter steps away, spring transforms Japan’s cherry blossoms into a blushing vision
There is a gurgling frenzy in Sendai at the arrival of spring. Shoes no long crunch at the ice-cold snow; it has melted, slowly giving way to the verdant green grass and the profoundly romantic colour of pink. During weekends, crowds make their way to Mikamine Park with feverish excitement. There are no drastic decors. No dragons dancing. Just family and friends with picnic baskets tucked in their arms, spreading blankets over the grass and just spending time doing, as it seems, admiring the cherry blossoms.
The locals call it hanami, an event translated to “flower viewing.” While Sakura trees are aglow with their fleeting blush blossoms, time seems to stop for everyone temporarily. Or at least, being wound up slowly. Walkways and lawns are filled with flower-viewing audiences, spending almost a day just revelling at the congenial atmosphere.
Central Sendai is home to many renowned Sakura parks, all with their own unique characteristics. Tsutsujigaoka Park is where Weeping Cherry Trees drape down the walkways along with the grand Somei Yoshino varieties. Nishi Park, completely embellished with paper lanterns, is best visited at dusk, where the blushing Sakura trees glow at the radiant glistening of the candles.
From afar, the Sakura trees look more whimsical than ever, especially when reflected at the 8-kilometre stretch of the Shiroishi River. That particular spot, locals would say, is Hitome Senbonzakura, “seeing a thousand flowers,” as a nod to the more than 1,000 cherry trees planted across the river.On some occasions, clouds dissipate to give a peek at the snow-capped Mount Zao. Matsushima Bay also shares in the same glory as the mountainside park becomes accentuated by the protruding branches of Sakura trees, all glowing with pink petals. The colours bring out a lovely contrast of blue, green and pink, creating a picturesque milieu from the waterfront area of Matsushima Kaigan.
But, perhaps nothing is more magical than experiencing hanami in Shiogama Shrine, a century-old Shinto temple draped with 300 Sakura trees planted in different varieties and heights. This visual and cultural feast is a 10-minute walk from the nearby Hon-Shiogama station.
Sendai is connected by subway lines, JR train lines, and Loople Sendai – a loop bus that connects most of the city’s highlights. The ideal way to reach Sendai is via Thai Airways which has direct flights to Sendai from Bangkok. sendai-travel.jp ◼
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© This article was first published online in Jan 2020 – World Travel Magazine.