Spring in May: Hanami at Matsumae Park, Hakodate

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.

A rest area with some cherry trees - Matsumae Park
A rest area with some cherry trees

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 pink blossoms at Matsumae Park
The pink blossoms at Matsumae Park

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.

Kanzan, Yaezakura at Matsumae Park
Kanzan, Yaezakura
Sakura white blossoms
Sakura white blossoms

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.

Sakura flavored soft-served ice cream
Sakura flavored soft-served ice cream
Food Stalls at Matsumae Park
Food Stalls at Matsumae Park

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.

Bus Timetable:
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

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