| John Asano
Cherry Blossoms Along the Shinsakai River
Kakamigahara City in Gifu Prefecture is home to one of Gifu’s best cherry blossom spots, a 4 km long cherry blossom tree lined river road, which is pretty in pink in spring. This stunning embankment which runs alongside the Shinsakai River is lined on both sides with around 1,200 cherry blossom trees. Its beauty has earned it the honor of being selected as one of the “100 Famous Cherry Blossom Spots of Japan'' by the Japan Cherry Blossom Association.
The Shinsakai River
The Shinsakai River (新境川堤), which flows through Kakamigahara City is an artificial river that was built in 1930 as a secondary branch of the Kiso River to act as a drainage channel. To commemorate the completion of the river in 1931, locally born and bred kabuki actor Ichikawa Hyakujuro (1882-1969) presented the city with 1,000 cherry blossom trees. Unfortunately, most of the trees were cut down for firewood and charcoal during the Second World War, but a handful of the original cherry blossom trees still remain near the Yamazaki Bridge at the northern end of the river.
Every year, volunteers plant new trees in conjunction with the original trees and the area now has around 2,500 trees over a stretch of 13 kilometers. In dedication to Ichikawa Hyakujuro, the cherry blossom trees here are stilled called “Hyakujuro-zakura” (百十郎桜) after the famous kabuki actor.
The Kakamigahara Cherry Blossom Festival
The riverbank comes alive in late March and early April with the annual Kakamigahara Cherry Blossom Festival. During the festival, visitors can enjoy the large number of food stalls alongside the raised river road and various events at the nearby Kakamigahara Shimin Park.
This year is the 47th edition of the festival, which is held for nine days from Saturday, March 25th to Sunday, April 2nd.
The festival includes a cherry blossom market in Kakamigahara Shimin Park and a talent contest with performers from Kakamigahara City competing to become a future superstar.
The beautiful banks of the river with its cherry blossoms and festival atmosphere attracts visitors from all over Japan. The stunning cherry blossoms and food vendors make this a fantastic hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spot.
The Beautiful Blossoms
The beautiful somei yoshino cherry blossom trees that run along both banks of the river form a stunning cherry blossom tunnel over the river when at peak bloom in early April.
The cherry blossoms are also illuminated at night with paper lanterns, so visitors can enjoy cherry blossom viewing in the evening to further soak up the amazing atmosphere.
In my opinion, the best place to enjoy the cherry blossoms is down by the riverbank. After taking a stroll around the famous sakura spot, simply put your picnic blanket or blue tarp down and sit and relax under the blooming cherry blossoms. Don’t forget to bring some food and drinks to enjoy along with the view. You can also pick up some tasty festival food such as yakisoba, okonomiyaki or taiyaki from one of the nearby food vendors.
The best time to visit is late-March to early April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
Kakamigahara Shimin Park
This wide-open grassed park is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic under the cherry blossoms and soak up the warm spring sunshine.
This fantastic urban park has a lush natural environment and plenty of places for children to play. The facilities include an adventure square with playground equipment, a relaxation square where you can simply sit and rest while listening to the birds singing and the burble of the stream, and a spacious natural grass lawn, which is a rarity in Japan.
During the cherry blossom festival, visitors can purchase a bento lunch box, sweets, beverages, and other essential cherry blossom viewing items from the Cherry Blossom Festival Market in the park.
The Meitetsu and JR train lines pass along the river making this spot a popular place for railway enthusiasts to try and capture that perfect shot of a train passing by the cherry blossoms under a blue sky. The best place for trainspotting is the bridge near Shiminkoen Station.
Gifu Kakamigahara Air and Space Museum
While you are in town, make sure that you also check out the Gifu Kakamigahara Air and Space Museum (岐阜かかみがはら航空宇宙博物館), which is not too far away from Kakamigahara Shimin Park. This aviation museum has an extensive collection of aircraft and aircraft related materials as well as materials related to the development of space technology. The museum was recently renovated in 2018 and aims to tell the story of Japan’s air and space history via interactive and educational displays and exhibits.
The Shinsakai River in Kakamigahara is a fantastic spot to enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms without all the crowds that descend on popular destinations in the larger cities of Japan. Its convenient location close to Gifu City makes it an ideal place for hanami in spring.
How to Get There?
From Nagoya, take the Meitetsu Inuyama Line to Inuyama Station and transfer to the Meitetsu Kakamigahara Line. Get off at Shiminkoen-mae (市民公園前), which is right next to the river.
From Gifu City, take a local train on the Meitetsu Kakamigahara Line to Shiminkoen-mae.
If you are coming by car, there are plenty of parking lots around Kakamigahara Shimin Park that are free for up to 3 hours.