Where to Find Cherry Blossoms in Japan in the Fall
I love Japan in the fall. It’s my favorite season by far, and not just because I have seriously bad hay fever the rest of the year. As I’ve stated before, Japan’s autumn — especially in November — is filled with clear blue skies, a crispness in the air, and a flourish of color on the trees. And sometimes, that color is not the one you’d expect.
Although in 2018 there have been reports of cherry blossom trees uncharacteristically blooming in fall when they shouldn’t be, there is one place in Japan where it’s completely normal. Here you’ll be met with the delicate soft pink buds of sakura intermingled with vibrant reds of maple trees. Yes, that’s right — this place has the best of both worlds in one place. So, where is this spring-autumn hybrid paradise, you ask? Read on to find out…
First of All, What is this Magical Autumn Cherry Blossom?
There are about 600 types of cherry blossom trees in Japan — yes, 600! However, what you’ve probably seen in promotional ads or across Instagram will most likely be one of the four most common types. Somei yoshino is almost pure white and has fairly large, open petals. Out of the most famous cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan, you’ll find these at about 80% of them! These bloom in late March to early April.
Out of the hundreds of cherry blossom types, most bloom around spring. There are many famous exceptions though, including the Izu Peninsula’s kawazuzakura that turns the riverside into a canvas of deep pink as early as February. (This one is my personal favorite!) Some, or at the very least one, blooms twice a year — once in spring and again in autumn. And this, my friends, is the shikizakura of Obara.
Where Did Shikizakura Come From?
Now located in the Obara region, it’s said that in the early 1800s a physician named Genseki Fujimoto brought a cherry tree sapling to Obara that was given to him by a temple. The trees bloom small baby pink flowers with 5 petals and so they’re not quite as impactful as other types, but combined with the contrast of the crimson maple trees surrounding them, it’s an impressive sight. The shikizakura finally became an official tree of the Obara District in 1978 and now the area boasts about 10,000 of them!
What Does the Name Shikizakura Mean?
Shikizakura, when written in Japanese, literally means “four seasons cherry blossom”(四季桜). Because it blooms twice (once in spring and once in autumn) it shows a different face in each of the four seasons, thus the name.
When is the Best Time to See Shikizakura?
The flowers bloom from the end of October to early December, with most of them blooming sometime in November. The local Toyota Obara Shikizakura Festival runs from November 1 until November 30, featuring food stalls, events, and other festivities. For the absolute best time to catch the cherry blossoms in bloom, though, it honestly depends from year to year. To make sure you time it right, check the official website for updates as the season nears. They’ll let you know when the blossoms are at their peak.
More info about Toyota Obara Shikizakura Festival
Where Can I See Shikizakura?
The main location, where you’ll find the most trees, is at Obara Fureai Park, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Obara Branch of the Toyota City Hall. (Fun fact: Toyota isn’t just a car brand, it’s a whole city, too!)
Another great place is Kawami Shikizakura-no-Sato, where you can see about 1,200 shikizakura trees mixed with 600 maple trees
The Washi-no-Furusato Japanese Paper Art Museum is a great spot close to Obara Fureai Park. Handmade washi is another of Obara’s claims to fame (along with Obara Kabuki), so it’s definitely worth a visit. While you’re there, try one of their paper making experiences! It’s a ton of fun, and you have a personal, handmade souvenir to take home with you by the end of it. If you don’t have time or don’t trust your own skills, you can also just buy some. Other areas with shikizakura include Hokubu Seikatsu Kaizen Center and some other smaller spots around the Obara District.
For a preview of how amazing the shikizakura/fall foliage combo truly is, check this out:
All images courtesy of Tourism Toyota