Iwate Park is the old site of Morioka Castle during Edo period. Most of the year, it's an oasis of tranquility in Morioka. However when the cherry trees bloom it's the busiest place in the city. As with all cherry blossoms their life is very short. For the rest of the year there is still plenty to see at Iwate Park.
It was the home of the Nambu clan from the mid 1600s until the beginning of the Meiji restoration in 1868. Its location was strategically important to control the area, on a hill at the confluence of 3 rivers, Kitakami, Shizukuishi and the Nakatsu. The castle soon fell into disrepair after the start of the Meiji period and was dismantled not long after that. Fortunately for the people of Morioka and Iwate in 1906 a renowned landscape architech Yasuhei Nagaoka decided to turn it into a public park. Thanks to his foresight the park is now enjoyed by thousands of people year round but especially in spring for cherry blossom viewing.
Even without a castle the site is still very impressive, the foundation walls were built of local granite still stand about 20 meters tall, the view from up there is very panoramic. The foundations are one of the best preserved foundations in the North East area, known in Japan as Tohoku. The landscaping work included planting many trees, build some small ponds and there is also a museum on the site. The museum was fully renovated in the last 5 years. All these features made the site much more attractive to visitors, after all the site was off limit to the average resident for a long time.
During cherry viewing period every available space is used for picnics and plenty of drinking goes on too. There are also some local food and gift vendors that set up shop for a few weeks during that time. I also noticed that lately some of them even do the rounds to make it more convenient for people who don't want to lose their place in the park. There is also a temple on the north side of the park.
The usual time for cherry viewing is late April to early early May, which coincide with Golden week. This year it's about 2 weeks early, so if you plan on coming this year during Golden week it will probably be over. The park is located in the center of the city a short distance for shopping, eat at restaurants or exploring other great sites.