Best Places To Experience Japan’s Cherry Blossoms

Japan's sakura blossom in spring | Yarachan
Japan's sakura blossom in spring | Yarachan

Spring is special in Japan. Very special. It’s cherry blossom season.

Indeed, cherry blossom (aka sakura) season is so special in Japan that the Japanese plan events around the blooming and can be seen out eating, drinking, and celebrating under the spectacular blooms.

The nation’s meteorological department has a special service dedicated to predicting the first blooms, and there are daily reports on the news as to where blooms are occurring. Television news in Japan follows the bloom as it moves north up the archipelago.

The push for information is for good reason. Cherry blossoms have a great variance in when they pop.

Japan’s more than 6,500 islands stretch for more than 3,000 kilometres along the east coast of Asia in a northeast to southwest sweep. Because of the wide latitudes, cherry trees blossom in the south in January while trees on Hokkaido, the northernmost island, don’t bloom until May.

Added to that is the simple fact that there are hundreds of species of ornamental cherry trees, each with its own blooming schedule. Typically, late March and early April are the periods that most travellers visit Japan for hanami (aka cherry blossom watching) in Japan.

Here are some recommended spots for hanami.

Cherry Blossom in Kyoto

Kyoto is a beautiful and distinctively Japanese city that has the feel of an open-air museum. With its traditional Japanese temples, teahouses, shrines, geisha, streets, and parks dotted with cherry trees, Kyoto is a must-visit if you want to include the sakura in your holiday.

Places we can recommend to experience hanami are: Maruyama Park with its giant weeping cherry tree; Philospher’s Path, Heian Shrine (in case you arrive after the peak blossoming period), Arashiyama district, and Nara Park with its “natural treasure” of sika deer. 

Mount Yoshino & Cherry Trees

When you join one of our spring departures for the Backroads of Japan trip, a highlight will be the hike out of Yoshino. You’ll follow a trail that weaves through mountains thick with cherry trees, then in full bloom, and take in the beauty of the area from wayside shrines and panoramic mountain passes. 

Mt Fuij in Spring

The Fuji Five Lakes (Fujigoko) area makes for a great backdrop to enjoy two of Japan’s most famous icons: Mount Fuji and the cherry blossom season. Some of our most popular adventure holidays in Japan take in this experience—and during day hikes in the area, you are likely to have plenty of photo opportunities. 

Osaka & Sakura

Just outside of Osaka you find Himeji Castle. As is the case with almost all ancient castles in Japan, Himeji Castle is surrounded by cherry trees. Visiting Himeji Castle requires only a short trip from the city centre (less than 1 hour) and it’s possible to visit the castle during your free time on our Backroads of Japan trip.

Best Places to See the Cherry Blossom in Tokyo

Shinjuku Gyoen is an urban oasis in Tokyo and generally regarded as one of the most important gardens from the Meiji era. Built as an imperial garden (only 40 years later it opened to the public), it boasts a certain special grandeur. With the traditional Japanese architecture, bridges and lakes this may well be the picture perfect sakura setting. 

With a hanami tradition of over 400 years, Ueno Park is one of Japan’s oldest public parks. Join Tokyo residents in celebrating the cherry blossom season before or after your visit to one of the many museums that are housed inside the park. 

Nachi Waterfalls in Spring

If you walk the Kumano Kodo, Japan's famous pilgrimage trail, you’ll enjoy sakura in the forests. You’ll experience the spectacular Nachi-no Otaki falls, the tallest waterfall in Japan (133 metres high and 13 metres wide), and as you reach the ancient wooden Buddhist Seiganto-ji (temple) you’ll go through a small gate and come upon flowering cherry trees and the brightly colored Kumaon Nachi Taisha, one of the three grand shrines of Kumano. 

Hirosaki Castle

Hirosaki Castle is one of the seven rare Japanese castles from the Edo period, and it’s surrounded by cherry trees. It sits in Hirosaki’s spacious Castle Park, where you’ll get to see some well-preserved Samurai houses and Zenringai. 

The area boasts 33 Zen temples, reminders of Hirosaki’s historic significance as castle town. It’s a fantastic place to take in the cherry blossoms, and we have set aside for a free day to do just this on our Japan Northern Explorer trip. 

The cherry blossom season brings with it a wealth of colour and an atmosphere that is very uplifting. Both day and at night, the streets of Japan are filled with hanami parties where the Japanese enjoy refreshments and conversation under the cherry trees. 

Sakura season is one of the best times of the year to visit Japan.

Want to plan a visit during cherry blossom season? Talk to our team to find out about this year’s blossoming period and to help you choose the right trip in Japan for you

Cherry Blossom Season, Sakura Japan, Adventure Holiday Japan, Best Time Japan

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