After cutting through the forest valley of Kiso, circling lake Suwa and passing through the towns of Nagawa and Wada, the Nakasendo continues into Eastern Nagano. The land here is open and the skies are always clear. In the distance beyond miles of farmland and rice paddies, travelers can look upon snow-capped Mt. Asama, one of Nagano’s two active volcanoes.
This time of year, many of our guests stay here at our inn as they drive around Nagano enjoying the flowering trees. First the apricot blossoms in nearby Mori’s “Apricot Village”, and lately, the cherry blossoms. Most come to see the cherry trees at Ueda Castle, or our local spots such as the Tengu Park above Togura Station, or even Chuo Park behind our inn here in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen. However, lately, a few guest mentioned they are on crusades to see “Ippon sakura”, or singular cherry trees.
When I did the translating work for Nagano Prefecture’s official foreign language tourism site, there was a passage on these singular cherry trees in southern Nagano.
To be honest, while writing the description in English, I was wondering what the attraction would be in seeing just one, individual tree blooming.
One of our guests, Komoriya-san, gave me a list of “Ippon sakura” in northern and eastern Nagano. I had a bit of extra time on Sunday, so I took our kids to check out one of them in Matsushiro, the weeping willow type sakura tree at Myotoku-ji temple. Seeing the hundreds-of-years old tree made me understand the majesty of the blossoms on such an ancient tree.
Komoriyama-san explained the 3 main reasons for “Ippon Sakura”. One is that many are located at a temple. More specifically, by the graveyard of a temple. People plant them so their ancestors can enjoy the annual cherry blossom show. Another is that the trees are located in the middle of a rice field area. The blossoms come on around the same time as the fields need to be prepared for planting. So farmers judge the rice planting timing around when the tree’s flowers bloom. Finally (and this one is a bit harder to believe), some famous samurai plant trees when they cross over a mountain pass. Then whenever they go over the pass again, they can tie their horses up to the tree. Hmmm.
Anyways, here is Komoriyama-san’s list of suggested “Ippon Sakura” in Northern and Eastern Nagano:
Nagano City / Suzaka
(trees bloom 6-7 days later than Togura Kamiyamada. 2010’s peak should be 18-April)
*Myotoku-ji’s shidare (Matsushiro, Pref. Rt. 35)
*Enmei-ji’s shidare (Pref. Rt. 34 before Hoshina Elem. School)
*Endai-ji’s shidare (Omuro)
*Benten-sama’s shidare (Suzaka, below Yonago Fudo Shrine)
Takayama Village (10 days later than Togura Kamiyamada)
*Mizunaka’s shidare (Pref. Rt. 54 in town)
*Kurobe’s edohigan (near the Issa Hall in town)
*Tsuboi’s shidare (Pref. Rt. 54 on the way to Nakano)
Ueda/Tateshina/Saku (6-7 days later than Togura Kamiyamada)
*Daien-ji’s shidare (Ueda’s Shioda Plain, Pref. Rt. 65)
*Nagahisaho’s shidare (Nagawa Town, Matsuo Shrine)
*Muryou-ji’s shidare (Saku City, Motoima Post Town, Rt. 142)
*Fukuo-ji’s shidare (Saku City, south of above)
*Gohongi’s sakiwake (Saku City, Hot Park Asashina Rest Area, Rt. 142)
NOTE ON SAKURA TYPES
Shidare: Prunus pendula f. pendula (weeping willow type)
Edo Higan: Prunus pendula (similar to above but an older variety?)
Sakiwake: ??? (pinkish and white blossoms on the same tree?)