Known as the “Little Kyoto of Tohoku”, Kakunodate in Akita Prefecture is an historic former castle town which played a key role in Japan’s Edo period. Now known especially for its well preserved samurai and merchant districts, it’s also hugely popular during the cherry blossom season.

Kakunodate’s samurai district covers an extensive area of former samurai residences and other traditional buildings which are popular with both domestic and international tourists alike. While some of these buildings are still functioning homes, many of the residences are open to the public so visitors can get a sense of the traditional samurai life. The former home of 80 samurai families, the district has some of the best examples of samurai architecture in all of Japan.

While Kakunodate is pleasant to visit throughout the year, the springtime is particularly popular for cherry blossom viewing from late April to early May. The traditional district features avenues of weeping cherry blossom trees whose pink flowers bloom in beautiful contrast with the black walls of the samurai residences and a large number of the 400 weeping cherry trees there are even designated as natural treasures.

A must see location for any visitor to northern Tohoku, for anyone wanting to really get into the historic vibe, kimonos can be rented for strolling the area and a rickshaw ride along the cherry lined streets completes the experience.