One of the main reasons our houseguests chose to visit us in the spring was the sakura o-hanami, or flower-viewing, is a big deal in Japan. The Japan Meteorological Association publishes "sakura forecasts" throughout the spring so that people can plan their o-hanami trips accordingly. Additionally, some organizations have ranked the "best sakura-viewing locations" throughout Japan; JR features Tenshochi on its posters as one of the three best places in northern Tohoku.

O-hanami is about more than just looking at the flowers. Restaurants, civic groups, or just groups of friends plan picnics with lots of food and drink in prime blossom-viewing locations. This year, the blossoms came about two weeks early, so by the time our houseguests arrived, the sakura were mostly gone from Kitakami. Nevertheless, we joined the local Okinawan joint's o-hanami party in one of the last parks to have blossoms. The day itself was not optimal for picnicking under the remaining sakura, being all cold and gray. So we made plans to go to Fukusenji, a temple in nearby Tono, with some friends the following day.

At Fukusenji, we found the trees in full bloom. So did busloads of tourists from other parts of Japan.

Many other trees were coming to life at the same time. On a small overlook, sakura and leafing yamamomiji (mountain maple) trees shared the view.

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Sakura on the Temple Grounds 

Sakura trees blooming amidst a grove of evergreen trees on the Chusonji temple grounds in Hiraizumi.

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Blossoms in the City 

Sakura blossoms at the entrance to the Kitakami Poem Park, located in the middle of Kitakami City.

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Tunnel Vision 

Looking down the sakura road in Tenshochi.

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Pink on Pink 

Contrasting colors on neighboring sakura trees in Tenshochi.

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Cherry Blossom Time 

The sakura trees are blooming everywhere in Kitakami. These trees are in Tenshochi, the park that runs alongside the Kitakami River.

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Morning Glory 

Along with everything else (we even saw azaleas in bloom today), the morning glories are blooming.
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Autumn Insects 

Of course there are plenty of bugs to go along with all the autumn flowers, and it's hard to photograph flowers without getting a few insects as well.

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September Showers Bring October Flowers 

It's fall, and all of Kitakami seems to be in bloom! We don't know if it's from all the rain last month, or the warm weather that continued later than usual, or the combination of the two, but bright colors are everywhere.

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