This year’s sakura (cherry blossoms) took many people by surprise — especially in the Kanto region. Unusually warm weather in March hastened the peak of the blossoms by a couple of weeks, and by early April, when all the parties by and under the sakura trees were to take place, the beautiful pink petals were scarce, if not nowhere in sight.

For people who feel they didn’t quite get the revelry they deserved during the annual hanami (cherry blossom-viewing) ritual, there’s Hirosaki Park in Aomori Prefecture. There, 2,600 cherry trees are expected to be in full bloom this weekend. The park is located where Hirosaki Castle used to be; its ruins and the castle tower are now open to the public. The sakura at Hirosaki Castle are said to be so spectacular that the area has been named one of Japan’s top three hanami spots along with Takato Castle in Ina, Nagano Prefecture, and Yoshinoyama in southern Nara Prefecture.

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