Need a break from the big city? View 42-hour itineraries from 13 cities.More
The little samurai town of Kakunodate, sometimes called "Little Kyoto," was founded in 1620 by Yoshikatsu Ashina, the local lord, who chose it for its defensible position and reliable water sources. An outpost of traditional Japan, Kakunodate is consistently regarded as one of the very best places for seeing cherry blossoms in spring. The whole town is full of shidare-zakura (weeping
cherry trees), descended from the same trees that adorn Kyoto, and their pink flowers grace the dark-wood gates, walls, and roofs of ancient samurai houses. The trees were brought by the daughter of the noble Sanjonishi family, who fell in love with Yoshiaki Jr. and brought some saplings with her from Kyoto. Along the banks of Hinokinai-gawa (Hinokinai River), these living jewel factories dangle a mile-long pink curtain. From September 7 to 9, a loud Kakunodate festival takes place here.