As the third biggest prefecture in Japan, the cherry blossom season in Fukushima lasts longer than many other prefectures. The blossom begins from the south-east, and spreads across Fukushima in an M shape, finishing in the south-west.
Hanamiyama is a beautiful flower-filled park on a hill in Fukushima City. Since the Abe family opened the park to the public in 1959, Hanamiyama has become one of Fukushima Prefecture’s most celebrated cherry blossom viewing spots.
During a recent trip to Hanamiyama, I spoke to the current owner, Mr Abe, about the park’s history, and why people should visit it.
Why should you visit Hanamiyama?
The first – and most important – reason you should visit Hanamiyama is the flowers!
In the peak of the cherry blossom season, visitors can see the flowers of over ten types of blossom, including cherry, plum and forsythia blossoms. The view of the gentle pink blossom against the snow-topped Azuma mountains is especially spectacular from the top of the hill.
Hanamiyama contains a huge variety of flowers, plants and trees, so even without seeing its famous blossom, the park’s seasonal flowers, such as hydrangeas, golden-rayed lilies and azaleas, or the unusual plants rarely found in Japan, like the smoke tree, make visiting the park truly captivating.
Hanamiyama’s magnificent flowers have led to it being likened to paradise, but the park had humble beginnings. The Abe family began growing flowers in the 1920s as a way of making a living. Abe’s grandmother would walk from place to place selling flowers, from government offices to izakaya (Japanese pubs). Although the family originally chose to grow flowers suitable for ikebana (flower arranging), Abe’s mother falling ill led to the decision to grow flowers that needed less meticulous tending to.
Abe’s father Ichiro served in WW2, and, upon his return, the Abe family looked forward to seeing flowers blooming on their land together. Over the coming years, the family’s garden became filled with flowers and trees – from the bright and beautiful to the rare and exotic.
The current owner (left), Kazuo Abe, and his late father, Ichiro Abe (right).
In 1959 they named the park ‘Hanamiyama’, and opened it publicly so that others could enjoy their flowers freely. It gained national fame in 1979 after being featured in a Shotaro Akiyama photography exhibition. In fact, the park became so popular following the exhibition that the family initially struggled to cope with the amount of visitors. Akiyama joked that perhaps he advertised it too much!
The experience of being “healed by flowers” that the family felt following WW2 was also true following March 11 2011. Closed after 3.11 to allow the flowers a chance to ‘rest and recuperate’, Hanamiyama was reopened in 2012. The family felt it was important to share the message that no matter what natural disasters occur, when spring comes, the flowers will bloom.
The family felt it was important to share the message that no matter what natural disasters occur, when spring comes, the flowers will bloom.
Sadly, Ichiro passed away in 2013. The park is now managed by his son, who has children and grandchildren of his own. Abe told me that if you count the plants and trees he has planted and raised, the number of his children is actually in the hundreds! Like with children, sometimes he has to be strict with the plants, but he loves them all the same.
Ways to explore the park
Taking in views of the mountains, traditional Japanese gardens, and flowers juxtaposed against the sky, visitors can reach the top of the hill at a leisurely pace in one hour. A number of routes of different lengths around Hanamiyama have become popular over the years, including a ‘barrier free’ route for wheelchair users. Visitors can choose a route, depending on how far they want to walk, and if they would like to avoid steep slopes.
With so many viewpoints and routes around the park, I asked Abe if he has a favourite spot in Hanamiyama. He said that he had too many to count.
“The view of the cherry and plum blossom mixed together in spring is beautiful. The wind blowing through the trees, creating a carpet of petals on the ground…the view of the distant mountains behind the trees… I love certain places in the early morning light, and others when the sun sets. So, rather than preferred spots, you could say I have favourite moments.”
“Everybody enjoys flowers in different ways, so I don’t think people need to know anything about the park before they come. If they come and appreciate the flowers, then that’s all I can ask for.”
Hanamiyama is a wonderful place, with beautiful flowers and a touching history. It is also extremely easy to get to by seasonal buses from Fukushima Station’s east exit, so there is no excuse not to go!
How to get there
Fukushima’s Top Cherry Blossom Spots
If you have some more time during your trip, how about checking out some other cherry blossom spots in Fukushima? Take a look below for more information on Hanamiyama and six other beautiful spots! Or, check out my blog for even more recommendations!