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Even when their brief time comes to a close, the cherry blossoms continue to be breathtakingly beautiful.

When the cherry blossoms are in bloom, most people who want to see the beautiful flowers head to a park, where they can lay down a tarp and stretch out while admiring the view. Alternatively, some outdoorsy individuals like to go off into the mountains in search of naturally growing sakura trees.

But if you have the chance, you also shouldn’t miss seeing cherry blossoms at a river, or, if you want to be old-school, a castle with a moat. Many of Japan’s waterways are lined with cherry trees, and don’t worry if you’re too late to see them in full bloom. If you time your riverside cherry blossom viewing just slightly after the peak of sakura season, there’s a whole different way to enjoy them, called hanaikada.

As we talked about last year, hanaikada means “flower raft” and refers to the clusters of cherry blossoms that float along the surface of a body of water after fluttering down from nearby trees. In the picture directly above, that’s not a broad pedestrian walkway with a carpet of freshly fallen sakura, but the moat of Hirosaki Castle in Aomori Prefecture.

Built in the early 17th century, Hirosaki Castle remains the most iconic symbol of the town of Hirosaki to this day. It’s also one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing destinations in the country, as both its perimeter and interior grounds are covered with cherry trees.

* 桜の花びらがお堀を埋め尽くす弘前城の花筏(青森県) * pink carpet of cherry blossoms in Hirosaki Castle(Aomori, Japan) * ©詩歩/Shiho,2015

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While most sakura are a delicate pale pink in color, some of them are also white, as can be seen in these two photos of hanaikada at Hirosaki Castle.

2016.03.18 📍青森県 弘前市 弘前公園 2015.04.29 撮影 「死ぬまでに行きたい!」と思う世界の絶景スポットを素敵な写真とともに紹介している、人気のfacebookページ「死ぬまでに行きたい!世界の絶景(The unparalleled view in the world)」でも、弘前公園の桜が選ばれています。 弘前城のある弘前公園には多くの濠があり、弘前公園内にある約2,600本の桜の多くの花びらも、その水面に散ります。お濠に散った桜の花びらが、まるでピンク色の絨毯(じゅうたん) が敷いてあるように見えます。 #青森#弘前#弘前公園#弘前城#桜まつり#桜#CHERRYBLOSSOM#さくら#はないかだ#花筏#絶景#春#spring#花びら#桜のじゅうたん#死ぬまでに行きたい世界の絶景 #photooftheday #tbt#カコソラ#instagood#instadiary#instalike #instamood#instalove#instafollow#instapic #instaphoto

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If you’re looking at these pictures and kicking yourself for not planning a trip to Aomori this weekend, don’t kick too hard, because these photos were taken last year. Due to its northern location, Aomori’s sakura bloom later than their Tokyo-area counterparts, and with the cherry blossoms still approaching their peak in the capital, you’ve got a few weeks yet until the petals start falling en masse into the Hirosaki moat.

On the other hand, it’s probably not a good idea to wait too long if you’d like to see the hanaikada at Tokyo’s Megurogawa River

or Yokohama’s Okagawa River. These pictures, also from a year ago, show they’re no slouches either.

#大岡川#お花見#桜#花いかだ#2015

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As always though, the sakura are fickle things as far as when they’ll bloom and how long they’ll stick around. But there are sure to be plenty of gorgeous photos online of hanaikada over the weeks to come, and even if you miss out on seeing the phenomenon in person, there’s always next year.

Source: Grape
Top image: Instagram/akirago