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Shonai Sakura

Yamagata Prefecture

Our top 9 recommendations for Shonai sakura cherry blossom spots.

To those of you coming to Japan with the goal of seeing some of its legendary sakura blooms, there is one thing that we wish to convey.

Stunningly beautiful sakura spots can be found throughout Japan, not just in Tokyo and Kyoto.

It is a simple fact that the people here absolutely love sakura and treasure the sight of the iconic bright pink trees.  As such, sakura have been cultivated and planted in each and every region of Japan.

Tokyo and Kyoto truly have spectacular displays of cherry blossoms, but in recent years it has become all but impossible to enjoy them due to the choking crowds and thundering noise of the collective voices of the thousands of people around you.

Branch off from the big city and tourist hotspots and be rewarded with being able to enjoy sakura as they have always been meant to be.

Out here in Yamagata prefecture in the countryside region of Shonai it is perfectly normal to be able to see sakura with nothing but blue skies and the soft sound of rustling branches in the wind.  These areas are far off the radar from tourist locations and are generally completely empty on weekdays when locals are at work.

See our guide below for 9 of our top recommendations for sakura spots in the Shonai region!

About Hanami

Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is a popular  Japanese tradition that is a very common sight in parks and other locations with beautiful sakura. 

This is a social event where family and friends gather and share a meal under the sakura trees when they are in full blossom.  It is in a sense a picnic, but one with far more cultural and social importance.  

When viewing the sakura here in Shonai, we also encourage you to take some time to sit under the sakura trees and take your time as you enjoy the stunning beauty of their beautiful displays. 

Beautiful pink blossom have become an international symbol of Japan!

Tsuruoka Park

Tsuruoka Park - Trees along the river lit up at night.

Tsuruoka Park is one of the first places in Shonai to bloom and the only place that has large displays of illumination at night.

The sakura here can be found all over this park and even along the old moat of what once was Tsuruoka Castle.  This location also has many vendors that are open throughout the day and night.

This location is also excellent for hanami viewing!

You may also visit Shonai Shrine here and various cultural museums that neighbor this large park.

The Ken Domon Museum of Photography

Iimoyi Yama Park in Sakata City surrounds the Ken Domon Museum of Photography and features bright pink prunus sakura that blooms about a month after the Yoshino sakura found in the other parks of Shonai.

These sakura are an entirely different type of beauty as they have vibrant pink pedals as opposed to the white petals of the Yoshino sakura. There is also a variant of sakura here that has green flowers!

Visiting the museum here is also highly recommended as the wide-open windows give a great view of the sakura around the lake here.

Nakayama Kasen Park in Yuza

Nakayama Kasen Park is located in the rural area of Yuza next to a small village surrounded by rice fields.

This location features a long line of sakura with a great view of Mt. Chokai off in the distance.  Depending on the season, you may even be able to see Mt. Chokai covered in snow as well!

The river here is lined with flying carp as the bloom of the cherry blossoms often coincides with the Kids Festival.  This location is typically crowded during the weekends, but is usually quite empty on weekdays.

Note that you will need to take a taxi or rental car here. See available rental car options here.

Hiyoriyama Park in Sakata

Located right in the heart of Sakata City is another excellent location for hanami viewing.

Hiyoriyama Park features hundreds of sakura trees that bloom around a large open field and the lighthouse here. The grass here is perfect for sitting down and enjoying the joyous atmosphere as the people of Sakata welcome in the warm weather of the spring after a long winter.

There are also food vendors here, and lamps that light up the path around the park at night.

Tamasudare Falls in Sakata

Tamasudare Falls has a park and nature path between the parking lot and the waterfall, itself.

This location is situated in a valley that protects the delicate sakura petals from the wind. This, combined with the colder temperature of Yuza makes it one of the last places you can enjoy sakura in all of Shonai.

This makes it a perfect spot for those who may have missed the sakura in other parts of Shonai.

Note that you will need to take a taxi or rental car here. See available rental car options here.

Tateyama Park in Shonai Town

Tateyama Park is located on a small hill that was once the grounds of a castle in the 1600s.  This park overlooks the plains of Shonai and has hundreds of cherry blossom trees that form a beautiful white forest at the peak of the blossoming season.

This park also has many vendors that gather for visitors taking part in hanami and is largely empty during the weekdays.

Koidenuma Noson Park in Shonai Town

For those seeking a park that rarely has other visitors, the Koidenuma Noson Park is a perfect place to enjoy the sakura in private.

​This park has many sakura that line its waters and has an expansive view of Mt. Chokai and the rice fields of Shonai as well.

​In all the years that our members have visited here, it has been very uncommon to see large groups of people due to the draw of other parks in the area.

Note that you will need to take a taxi or rental car here. See available rental car options here.

Gyokusenji Temple in Tsuruoka

The garden of Gyokusenji Temple features multiple different types of sakura that bloom throughout the sakura season. This includes a beautiful weeping sakura right by the main pond and sakura up in the mountains at the back of the garden.

Guests may order traditional matcha tea and wagashi sweets to enjoy as they sit and take in this beautiful display.

Somaro Maiko Teahouse

The gardens of Somaro Maiko Teahouse are another excellent place to see beautiful sakura while also enjoying the practiced perfection of the famous maiko of Sakata City.

You can see a beautiful weeping sakura tree right in front of the home and many white Yoshino sakura in the inner gardens. These sakura look especially wonderful as you walk down the hallways of this beautifully restored home that dates back to the Edo Period. See more information on Somaro here.