For the rest of Japan, hanami or cherry blossom viewing, happens from late March to April. But in the northernmost island of Hokkaido, spring comes later in April and stretches up to May. In fact, sakura can be seen until 2nd week of May for most years just when the seasonal flowers in Hokkaido starts to blossom. Knowing this, I went to Hakodate, whose cherry blossoms in Goryokaku and Matsumae Park topped some of the best cherry blossom parts in the country.
Matsumae’s cherry blossoms are known for its long blooming season because of the many cherry tree varieties planted mainly in Matsumae Park and Matsumae castle. Planted in the park are about ten thousand cherry trees in 250 varieties. The most popular variety, someiyoshino abound in the park, also yamazakura and yaezakura, together with some new breeds. Someiyoshino with its almost pure white petals are lovely in full bloom. I went there on May 12, 2017 and a few trees are still in bloom.
The Kanzan of the yaezakura variety blooms a lovely pink color. One Kanzan blossom consists of many pink petals. Many kanzan cherry trees are in full bloom in the park.
Walking along Matsumae park, you’ll quickly noticed the new breeds of different cherry tree varieties labelled extensively. Some names of the cherry trees are of people who contributed to the history of Matsumae.
Different stalls of food line up at a tent for the hanami festival. You can enjoy popular spring foods made available by locals. I had pink cherry blossom flavored soft ice cream, hanami dango, and some soft pink milk pudding as snack. I also had the usual takoyaki and inari sushi [sushi rice stuffed with deep fried tofu skin] because I was feeling quite hungry.
How to Get There
There is no direct train from Hakodate to Matsumae. Originally, I planned to drive from Hakodate to Matsumae but I changed my mind last minute. Instead I took a train from Hakodate station to Kikonai station where I waited for the Hako Bus to take me to Matsumae. I got off at a bus stop near Matsumae Castle. Although in Japanese, here’s the bus timetable. Going back, I took the same way going back to Kikonai Station by bus, taking note of the bus timings. Travel time from Hakodate Station to Matsumae Park is about one hour and 30 minutes, while between Kikokani Station & Hakodate is one hour.
Kikonai Station [Kikonai ekimae] to Matsumae
6:20, 7:38, 9:05, 11:10, 12:10, 14:52, 15:20, 16:50, 17:55, 19:00
Matsumae to Kikonai Station [Kikonai ekimae]
5:27, 6:28, 7:27, 8:34, 9:57, 10:44, 12:41, 14:29, 16:03, 18:10