Enjoying Matsumae Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom by Bicycle

Cycling the Matsumae Peninsula during the spring cherry blossom season, we explore a scenic road lined with cherry trees, Hokkaido Prefecture's southernmost Cape Shirakami and the magnificent Matsumae Castle.

Transcript

00:02

Spring has finally arrived in Hokkaido!

00:06

And all of the cherry blossoms
they all bloom at once,

00:09

and suddenly
there’s just colour everywhere.

00:11

It’s like I get purely excited for the season ahead.

00:15

The Matsumae Peninsula, the southernmost part of Hokkaido,

00:18

is first to welcome spring.

00:22

It’s the only place in Hokkaido
that has a castle so I’m looking forward to that

00:25

and the cherry blossoms.

00:28

Let’s go cycling to see spectacular spring scenery

00:31

on the Matsumae Peninsula!

00:33

- Nice view.
- Nice view.

00:36

Wild Hokkaido!

00:41

Today we explore the Matsumae Peninsula,

00:45

overlooking the Tsugaru Channel.

00:51

It’s very welcoming to cyclists, yeah.
Two cycle racks.

00:55

This is David Barnett from England.

00:58

He’s a veteran cycling guide

01:00

who knows Hokkaido’s roads like the back of his hand.

01:05

So today we’re going to head down to
the most southern town in Hokkaido.

01:10

It’s famous for its castle

01:12

and the cherry blossoms, so we’re going to go down there.

01:15

It’s spring and we’re going to go down
there to have a look at the cherry blossoms.

01:19

Joining him on this trip is his fellow
cycling guide Ishizuka Yuya.

01:25

The scenery around here is good, yeah,
so hopefully it’s going to be a good ride.

01:29

- Lets go!
- OK, let’s go.

01:33

The two will ride about 60 kilometers
to Matsumae,

01:36

Hokkaido’s southernmost town.

01:40

It’s home to one of Japan’s most famous cherry blossom sites,

01:45

with around 8000 trees surrounding a castle.

01:53

Oh, look at the sea.

01:54

It’s looking good today.

01:56

The sea is beautiful.

02:00

So from here there’s a place
that I want to go to.

02:03

Some really good scenery. It should be really good

02:06

at this time of year… in spring,

02:09

so we’re heading towards there now.

02:12

What kind of spring scenery awaits?

02:17

They first come to a straight road just inland from the coast.

02:23

An avenue of cherry trees stretches
nearly three kilometers.

02:29

It looks like the blossoms are starting to bloom.
The cherry blossoms.

02:35

Some of them are blooming.

02:39

This tree is almost in full bloom.

02:44

Admiring the blossoming trees,
David gets an idea.

02:49

Maybe I’ll go ahead
and then take a photograph.

02:52

You stay behind a little bit, I’ll go ahead.

02:56

OK. Thank you.

02:58

He’d like to photograph Yuya pedalling through
the promenade of cherry blossoms.

03:04

Oi!

03:08

Oh, yeah I think I’ve got it.

03:11

Ahh it’s good, yeah.

03:15

He seems happy with the shot.

03:20

Next they discover a shrine at the end of the cherry boulevard.

03:27

Behind the shrine is a special viewing point.

03:30

After climbing nearly 200 stairs,

03:33

visitors can enjoy a view of the cherry avenue from above.

03:37

But the two cyclists choose a different approach…

03:41

This is the road. You can actually go up by car,

03:44

- but we’re going to ride up.
- Really.

03:46

- It’s also like a stairway.
- It’s very very steep.

03:50

But at the top a really good view so she’s worth it.

03:53

- Let’s go.
- OK.

03:56

They ascend the steep 300-meter hill,

03:59

climbing over 40 meters in elevation
on their bikes.

04:06

It’s quite steep yeah.

04:11

Although steep, the slope is a fitting warm up

04:14

for the two cyclists as they power upwards.

04:29

There must be a breathtaking view at the top of this hill…

04:39

literally!

04:43

- Nice view.
- Nice view, yeah.

04:48

The straight road all the way to the sea

04:50

and that’s where all the cherry blossoms

04:55

on the straight road.

04:56

The cherry blossoms not fully bloomed,

04:59

but when they’re in full bloom,
there’s pink all the way down.

05:02

One pink line.

05:04

Very beautiful.

05:06

Worth it. Worth the climb.

05:12

This scenic spot ranks high among
those who know it.

05:15

It’s easy to stop by places like this by bicycle.

05:20

OK. Please smile.

05:23

OK.

05:28

The cyclists resume their journey towards
Hokkaido’s southernmost town.

05:33

Suddenly, another surprise!

05:37

Ah, it’s the shinkansen.

05:39

Oh, very fast. Just timing.

05:42

That’s the tunnel going towards Honshu.

05:46

The shinkansen travels nearly 800 kilometers
from Hokkaido to Tokyo

05:51

in about four hours.

05:55

After seeing the train speed off,
they approach a mountainous area.

06:02

It’s very typical spring Hokkaido scenery.

06:06

On the tops of the mountains
we’ve still got a little bit of snow left,

06:10

but down in the valley we’ve got the fresh green buds.

06:14

And occasionally a tree that’s in bloom.

06:19

Ahh the blossoms at the side of the road.

06:21

Pink and white.

06:24

Cycling is also a great way

06:26

to appreciate
the roadside flowers and seasonal scenery.

06:35

After passing through the mountains,
they’re back on the coastal road.

06:40

We’ve got the sea on the left hand side again,

06:44

and we can see Honshu from here.

06:47

It’s quite close.

06:50

Three hours into their journey,
they’re close to their next scenic spot.

06:56

- So let’s take a break here.
- OK.

07:08

Cape Shirakami.

07:10

You’ve got Honshu over there.

07:13

Very close.

07:16

This is Cape Shirakami.

07:18

It’s Hokkaido’s closest point to mainland Honshu,

07:21

just 20 kilometers away.

07:25

The most southern cape of Hokkaido, yeah,

07:28

the place closest to Honshu.

07:32

Now for the Sensei’s Tip!

07:35

Energy-boosting foods are essential
for maintaining stamina on long bike rides.

07:40

David likes bananas.

07:43

Yuya’s favorite is chocolate,

07:46

but there’s another item popular
among cyclists in Japan.

07:51

These are quite popular in Japan.
These are called Yokan.

07:55

Yokan is a jelly-like confectionery made from sweet bean paste,

08:00

found easily even
in convenience stores.

08:05

Even in summer they don’t melt

08:07

and your hands don’t get dirty.

08:10

You can push it up like that
and it’s got quite a moisture taste.

08:14

It’s not too dry

08:16

so it doesn’t take away all the moisture
out of your mouth.

08:19

So when it gets warmer in summer,

08:21

and the weather gets a little bit hotter
and we sweat,

08:24

and it’s good to take in some salt.

08:27

Sweating in summer heat,
riders must also maintain sodium levels.

08:33

In Japan, these pickled ume plums
are popular among cyclists.

08:39

Can you eat this?

08:45

Very good. Very salty.

08:47

And quite sour tasting,

08:50

but that’s good in summer. Really refreshing.

08:54

Not only for cycling,

08:56

pickled plums are also good for mountain climbing and hiking.

09:02

After a break, they’re back on their bikes pedalling again.

09:07

So ahead you can see the Town of Matsumae.

09:13

Not far now.

09:17

Four hours since their start,

09:19

they arrive at Matsumae,
Hokkaido’s southernmost town.

09:24

And on the right we’ve got the castle.

09:26

It looks like the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

09:35

Good ride, yeah.

09:37

A bit of a headwind down the coast,
but some really good scenery.

09:41

The town has many cherry viewing sites
in addition to the Matsumae Castle,

09:47

so David makes a proposal.

09:50

We’ll go our separate ways
and we’ll each take photographs.

09:53

Oh really? Competition!

09:54

- See who can take the best photo.
- Yeah, OK.

09:58

David and Yuya agree to split up

10:00

in search of the best cherry blossom photo spots.

10:07

David is intrigued by the atmosphere of the town.

10:17

So the buildings are white and brown

10:21

with the tiled rooves and the white walls. Very, very traditional.

10:25

It looks more like Honshu than Hokkaido…

10:27

Because it’s a castle town.

10:32

David discovers a temple behind the castle.

10:38

So there’s…

10:39

apparently there’s thousands of cherry blossom trees in Matsumae,

10:44

but this one is said to be the oldest.

10:46

And there it is probably in full bloom right now.

10:52

Beautiful, amazing.

10:57

This 8-meter high tree is one of the oldest cherry trees in Matsumae,

11:02

thought to be over 300 years old.

11:06

Knowing its age,
David decides to take a photo with the tree.

11:11

What kind of shot will he get?

11:15

Meanwhile, Yuya ventures a little further from the castle.

11:24

Oh, so nice.

11:28

There are not many places in Matsumae

11:30

where we can ride under the cherry blossoms.

11:34

He finds a street lined with cherry trees

11:37

on both sides stretching for about 450 meters.

11:44

What kind of photo has Yuya managed to capture?

11:51

At their agreed meeting point,
the two compare photos.

11:59

Ohh!

12:01

Ah, that’s what you’ve got.
Your bike is more important than the…

12:04

You’re supposed to be taking the cherry blossoms not your bike.

12:08

Every picture with my bicycles.
I love bicycles.

12:13

Next is David’s photo…

12:17

This one’s the oldest tree.

12:19

The oldest tree and the oldest cyclist.

12:23

The oldest cherry blossom tree in Matsumae
and the oldest cyclist in Hokkaido.

12:31

So, good photographs.

12:33

These are good photographs
but you can’t chose who is better.

12:36

- Draw?
- Yeah, will call it a draw, OK?

12:40

Matsumae has a variety of cherry trees.

12:43

Be sure to find your favrourite
when you visit!

12:48

It’s finally time to see the cherry blossoms on the castle grounds!

12:55

The Japan.

12:59

Yeah, wow!

13:03

The blossoms at Matsumae Castle

13:06

welcome the two cyclists in full bloom.

13:13

At the end of the long winter.

13:16

In Hokkaido all the cherry blossoms bloom
all together at the same time,

13:22

and it like signals the start of spring

13:26

and I feel excited for the season ahead. Yeah.

13:29

Around 8000 trees surround the castle.

13:32

They can be viewed in peak bloom

13:34

from late April to early May each year.

13:38

Different types of trees,
so like a pink and the white and the deep pink,

13:43

and they all bloom at different times,

13:45

so the length of the… about a month…

13:48

Yeah, must be one month.

13:49

about a month from the first blossom to the last.

13:54

Cherry blossoms and the old man
and the old castle.

13:59

We can see the castle and the cherry blossoms.

14:03

I’ve always wanted to come at this time of year,

14:06

because it’s a rare sight in Hokkaido.

14:11

It’s David’s first visit to see cherry blossom
in Matsumae;

14:16

another unforgettable experience in Hokkaido.

14:23

really beautiful, yeah?

14:24

Worth riding all that way down.

14:26

But it was worth it, well worth it.

14:28

I’m really glad we came this time of year.

14:32

Matsumae Town is the starting point
for spring in Hokkaido each year.

14:38

Cycling here is the perfect way to experience

14:42

all kinds of beautiful springtime scenery.

14:46

Wild Hokkaido takes you on great activities

14:49

in the great outdoors of northern Japan.

14:53

Join us next time for another adventure!