Australians might be disinclined to call a city with a population nearing 100,000 a small place, but if Kitakami, a city located in Iwate Prefecture was a more significant location the faster Shinkansen services would stop there, wouldn’t they?

Kitakami, at the junction of the Kitakami and Waga Rivers, is on the Tōhoku Shinkansen and the Tōhoku Main Line, both of which connect Tokyo and Aomori Prefecture.

But even small places have their attractions and claims to fame. Kitakami is famous for the sakura that bloom in the riverside Tenshochi Park, one of the best hundred places in Japan to view cherry blossoms. 

There are more than 10,000 cherry trees planted alongside the Kitakami River, and they come into flower for one to two weeks towards the end of April. The result is a tunnel of cherry blossoms that earns the park a rating among the Tohoku region's best three cherry blossom locations alongside Hirosaki Castle and Kakunodate.

During the sakura season, visitors can stroll along a two-kilometre riverside path, enjoy the vista from one of the sightseeing boats that operate from a jetty at the south end of the park, sample the wares of food vendors at both ends of the path and enjoy sakura-related festival events.

Other attractions include the Michinoku Folklore Village, an open air museum next door to Tenshochi Park where thirty preserved farmhouses and other buildings are set up to display aspects of traditional life in the Tohoku region,

The nearby Kitakami City Folklore Museum, with displays of Buddhist art, and the area’s natural and the cultural history, and Kitakami Michinoku Traditional Dance Festival held in the summer.

Kitakami also boasts a site reputed to be the grave of the Heian Period waka poet Izumi Shikibu.

© Ian Hughes 2017