Matsumae Castle is Hokkaidō’s top cherry blossom viewing spot. (It’s also Hokkaidō’s only castle and Japan’s northernmost one). There are over 10,000 cherry trees here, representing some 250 varieties that bloom in succession over the course of a month — from the Somei Yoshino in late April to the many-petaled Kenrokuen kikuzakura in late May.
For 2023, the cherry blossoms will be illuminated as part of a fundraising project. On April 29 from around 10:30 a.m., kagura (a kind of traditional folk art) will be performed on a stage set up on the castle grounds.
The park around the castle grounds is free to enter; admission to the castle keep (a reconstruction) costs adult/child ¥360/free.
Getting to the Matsumae Cherry Blossom Festival
Matsumae is located at the very southern end of Hokkaidō. Unfortunately, it is kind of pain to get to. The nearest train station is Kikonai, which is the first stop on the Hokkaidō Shinkansen after the train emerges from the Seikan Tunnel that connects Honshū and Hokkaidō. At Kikonai Station you need to then pick up a 521, 522, or 523 bus for Matsumae, which takes 90 minutes, costs ¥1,300, and runs about once an hour, and get off at Matsujo. From the Matsujo bus stop, it’s a further 10 minute walk to the castle grounds.
If you’re coming by car, note that there will be road closures around the castle park.Organizers may cancel events, alter schedules, or change admission requirements without notice. Always check official sites before heading to an event.