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Bloom hunters

Five excursions to inebriate yourself with plum, peach and cherry blossoms like a real Japanese.

by Nanban

The flowering of the plum trees has already begun and that of the cherry trees is almost upon us: an event that millions of Japanese cannot miss every year and which means walks, festivals, contemplation, fun and oblivion.
There are myriads of pilgrimage sites for those who love to immerse themselves in endless expanses of flowering trees, but many of these are not easily found in the guides: here is a first selection of excursions for real Japanese.

Hanamiyama park is a striking example of the Japanese passion for cherry blossoms and attracts thousands of enthusiasts every year: it has only existed since 1959, when the Abe family decided to transform their agricultural land, up to that moment dedicated to cultivation of flowers, in a public park, planting hundreds of cherry trees of different species, in addition to the more widespread Somei Yoshino, which guarantee prolonged flowering throughout the spring.
From the park, in addition to being able to admire the entire city of Fukushima from above - capital of the homonymous prefecture, still unjustly associated with the 2011 disaster which occurred about 70 kilometers away - it is possible to observe the splendid snowy profile of Mount Adatara and of the chain of the Azuma Mountains, while the singing of birds flying among the trees resounds in the air mixed with the tolling of the bell of gratitude and happiness installed on the top.

Not far from Tokyo, on the legendary Mount Tsukuba, in Ibaraki Prefecture, known in Japan as "the purple mountain", it is possible to take a spectacular excursion starting from February, to admire the amazing sequential flowering of thousands of plums. peach and cherry trees.
Depending on the route, you can climb along the slopes of the mountain through expanses of azaleas, very scenic rock formations, beech woods.
Surrounded by the blooms, from one of the two peaks of the mountain, Nyotai-san, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Kanto plain with Mount Fuji on the horizon, after which you can go to the other peak of Nantai: there, you can find tea rooms, ideal to relax before taking the way back and reaching the Shinto temple of Tsukubasan - the starting and ending point of the excursion - devoted to the cult of the Mount and a destination for passionate tourism, especially inland, due to the fact that the two peaks, revered as a pair of Shinto deities, have always been considered tutelary deities of marriage harmony and conjugal happiness.

Mount Tsukuba

Otakatoriyama is also located a few hours away from the capital, in Saitama Prefecture, and is famous for its plum blossoms, which from February last until late March.
Starting from the Entsuji temple, you gradually reach the top of the mountain, from which you can enjoy the view towards Tokyo, and then head towards the village of Ogose, for centuries dedicated to the cultivation of plums, with a total of over 20,000 trees, making it one of the four main plum groves in the Kanto region.
Needless to say, after getting lost among the plum trees, in pure Japanese style, the country offers every kind of plum-related product, especially during the Ume Festival, starting from an exceptional umeboshi made in the classic way, bitter and salty, without compromises.

Another special experience is undoubtedly the ascent to Mount Sakurayama, part of the Miura Alps, a very indented hilly formation in the Miura peninsula, which is one of the two arms of land that enclose Tokyo Bay.
Going up and down between valleys and ridges, you can reach the Taura Plum Grove, considered one of the most suggestive places to enjoy the flowering in Kanazawa Prefecture, dotted with more than two thousand plum trees, surrounded by expanses of daffodils.
Observing Tokyo Bay in the distance under the flowering trees is a sight that is hard to forget.

Mount Sakurayama

The hills of Okkosan and Mesuokayama dominate the plains that stretch behind the city of Kobe from above and being quite easy to climb, they are very popular with hikers in Hyogo Prefecture. Coming from the outskirts of Kobe in the spring, it is a very pleasant excursion and passing from Okkosan to Mesuokayama you will pass through a lush forest of plum trees.
At the top of both hills are two shrines, which celebrate the legends of the monk Bankei, a much loved figure in popular culture, and other deities of Japanese mythology.