Located on the southeast of Toya-ko, Hokkaido’s Date (伊達) was founded by Tohoku-born samurai chief Date Kunishige in 1869. The bayside climate is mild, but the inland valley is cold and snowiest in winter.
There are cherry-blossom viewing spots around the train stations. The cherry blossoms come out in early May.
Highlights Date City Museum of History and Culture (Date Rekishi-no-mori), Usu Zenko-ji, Kita-Kogane Shell Mound Park
Tourist Information Date Tourism Association (だて観光協会): On the 2nd floor of Date keizai center (伊達経済センター), 4 Ajiro-cho / 9am-6pm / www.date-kanko.jp
01 GENERAL PARK & LOCAL HISTORY
だて歴史の杜 / 34-1 Matsugae-cho
About 2km northeast of JR Date-Monbetsu Station, this general park has several attractions, including the Date City Museum of History and Culture (だて歴史文化ミュージアム: 9am-5pm / Closed Mon, 31 Dec-5 Jan/ ¥300) exhibits old armors, the 1892 wooden guest house (迎賓館), old Mitobe Family House (旧三戸部家住宅) and the Sword Workshop.
The Date Souvenir Market (9am-6pm) inside the roadside station sells a wide range of fresh vegetables and snacks.
From the train station, take a Muroran-bound (室蘭港) bus and get off at the Culture Center Akebono-mae (カルチャーセンターあけぼの前).
02 TEMPLE & CHERRY-BLOSSOM VIEWING
有珠善光寺 / Tel 0142-38-2007 / 124 Usu / Dawn-dusk / FREE / www13.plala.or.jp/zenkouji
This quaint temple was established in 826 by Ennin and rebuilt in the Edo period by the Matsumae clan. The temple is planned with thousand of trees and flowers, especially the Rock-Splitting Cherry Tree (石割桜: ishiwari-zakura) is sprouted from the crack in a huge cinder of the 1822 Usu-zan eruption. The Treasure Hall (宝物館: homotsu-kan / ¥200 / book in advance) houses buddha statues and scriptures.
It is a 20-minute walk west of Usu Station, or get off a Muroran-Date-Toyako bus at the Zenko-ji-iriguchi (善光寺入口).
03 JOMON CULTURE
Kita-Kogane Shell Mound Park
北黄金貝塚公園 / 75 Kita-Kogane-cho / 9am-5pm Apr-Nov / FREE
The wide ruin on the old hillside village in the Jomon period (7000-4500 years ago), with reconstructed pit-dwelling houses and kaizuka (shell mounds). The shell mound information center showcases a number of earthenware.
This park is about 2.5km north of JR Kogane Station. Get off a Muroran-Date-Toyako bus at the Kita-Kogane Kaizuka-Koen-mae.
04 CHERRY-BLOSSOM VIEWING
気門別川桜並木 / Yamashita-cho / Late Apr-early May
It is a couple of a minutes by foot from JR Date-Monbetsu Station, you will find the cherry trees on the Kimonbetsu-gawa embankment, and is possible to view at night. The northern end of the cherry trees, turn left and go up the stairs in fron of the Eneos gas station.
05 CHERRY-BLOSSOM VIEWING
館山公園 / Tateyama-cho / 24hrs
This park is situated on the hill (former Ainu fortress) overlooking the city and ocean. Locals enjoy the cherry-blossom viewing with picnic boxes here.
06 CHERRY-BLOSSOM VIEWING
Date Cycle Path Kaze-no-Memory
About 1km west of Tateyama Park, Route 37 crosses over Date Cycle Path Kaze-no-memory (5.4km) lined with lovely cherry trees along the former Iburi rail line. After that you can return to the station or take the bus to Toyako Onsen.
All limited express trains from Sapporo (1hr 45min) and Hakodate (2hrs) on the JR Muroran Line stopping at Date-Monbetsu Station (伊達紋別: tickets 7am-7.30pm). There are also local trains from Muroran and Oshamanbe.