STORY 9 spectacular places to see cherry blossoms
Sakura (cherry blossom) season in Japan is an unmissable event
As it nears springtime in Japan, it’s time to grab your camera and get ready for an utterly amazing sakura season in Japan!
Sakura are one of Japan’s national symbols and have been celebrated in the country for centuries. Symbolising renewal and hope, they are commonly used as a central motif in art and literature, such as haiku, a form of traditional Japanese poetry which evokes seasonal imagery.
Each year, as the pastel pink blossoms bloom across Japan, people gather around to appreciate the beauty of the iconic flowers and welcome the warmer spring weather. Parks and gardens are popular hanami (flower viewing) locations where people get together with family and friends for picnics under the beautiful blossoms. Many riversides, canals and moats are also adorned with sakura, making them a picturesque location for a stroll or boat cruise.
The peak time to see the blooms is typically from around late March to early April but this varies depending on the location and the year’s weather conditions. The blossoms typically start blooming in the southern part of Japan and make their way north, finishing as late as May in Hokkaido. Read on to learn about 9 stunning places to experience Japan’s beloved sakura season.
1. Kawazu cherry blossoms
Kawazu-zakura along the Kawazu River, Shizuoka Prefecture. Image: Princess_Anmitsu/Shutterstock.com
On the east coast of the Izu Peninsula, you will find the small town of Kawazu, which is renowned for being home to some of the earliest blooming sakura trees in eastern Japan. Kawazu-zakura (Kawazu cherry blossoms) usually bloom in February, almost a month earlier than other sakura around the Tokyo area, and are known for their large, bright pink petals.
Don’t miss the famous Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival which is held for around a month during the blooming season. The festival is located along the banks of the Kawazu River between Kawazu and Mine Onsen, and you can expect to find an abundance of food and drink stalls along the streets. You can even buy traditional Japanese crafts and souvenirs. The walk along the river is peaceful and some sections are beautifully illuminated in the evening.
Peak viewing season: Typically from around early February to early March.
2. Mt Shiude
For sweeping views of the scenic Seto Inland Sea framed by sakura, head to Mt Shiude. Located in Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, this 352-metre-high mountain boasts an incredible display of around 1,000 sakura trees. The sight of the islands dotting the blue water contrasted with the soft pink blossoms is sure to leave you in awe.
The Shikoku region also boasts an abundance of beautiful sakura spots in its other three prefectures. In Ehime Prefecture, Matsuyama Castle is a popular spot where you can see an impressive display of sakura alongside the majestic castle tower built during the Edo Period (1603-1867). In Kochi Prefecture, enjoy over 600 varieties of sakura blooms and walk through the 200m-long sakura tunnel at Kagamino Park. In Tokushima Prefecture, Seibu Park on the slopes of Mt Bizan is home to over 500 sakura trees that make for a spectacular site both during the day and when they are illuminated at night. Take your pick!
Peak viewing season: Typically from around late March to mid-April.
3. Kema Sakuranomiya Park
Two people sitting on a bench at Kema Sakuranomiya Park alongside the Ogawa River, Osaka. Image: Navapon jiraphoto/Shutterstock.com
Another beautiful spot to add to your list is the exquisite Kema Sakuranomiya Park. Situated alongside the peaceful Ogawa River, this park stretches over four kilometres with about 4,500 large, stunning sakura trees lining its banks.
A wonderful way to experience the park is to exit Sakuranomiya Station and enjoy a 40-minute walk to Osaka Castle. The temperature weather in April makes it a great time for a stroll amidst the stunning display of sakura trees in bloom.
At the end of your walk, you will also bear witness to how the landscape surrounding Osaka Castle Park is transformed into a brilliant sea of pink during spring. The expansive 106-hectare parkland is home to some 3,000 sakura trees (some of which are illuminated during sakura season) complementing the white, turquoise and gold Osaka Castle beautifully. The perfect backdrop for some photos or a hanami picnic!
Peak viewing season: Typically from around late March to mid-April.
4. Maruyama Park
People enjoying sakura under the gorgeous trees at Maruyama Park in Kyoto Prefecture. Image: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com
Maruyama Park is one of the go-to places to see sakura in Kyoto Prefecture. The park is one of the oldest in Kyoto and is popular amongst both locals and visitors. As the gorgeous blossoms begin to bloom, groups of people begin to picnic underneath the park's magical trees taking in incredible, picture-perfect views.
A highlight of the park is its splendid old weeping sakura tree. Make sure to stop by at night as it is lit up when the sun sets, creating an incredible sight. At the park, you’ll also find stroll gardens, rest houses, small orchards and Japanese restaurants. Maruyama Park makes for a wonderful day or night out and is a beautiful place to enjoy the beloved practice of hanami!
Peak viewing season: Typically around early April.
5. Mt Yoshino
Thousands of sakura trees blooming across the hills of Mt Yoshino, Nara Prefecture. Image: ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com
Within the Omine Renzan mountain range, you will discover the sacred Mt Yoshino, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site and place of unspoiled natural beauty. The mountain is renowned for the beauty of its sakura in the springtime, with over 30,000 trees blooming across its lower, middle, upper and inner sections. These four groves are said to have been planted intentionally so that sakura would flower at different times, lengthening the duration of the viewing season.
Mt Yoshino is also considered a place of great spiritual importance for practitioners of the Shugendo religion and is home to numerous temples and shrines including Yoshino Mikumari Shrine, Kinpu Shrine, Kinpusenji Temple and Yoshimizu Shrine. Admire the ephemeral beauty of the blossoms while getting in touch with your spiritual side, or simply soak in the awe-inspiring views.
Peak viewing season: Typically around early to mid-April.
6. Asahi Funakawa
Asahi Funakawa Spring Quartet in Toyama Prefecture. Image: © Asahi Town Tourism Association
Sakura season takes a vibrant and colourful turn in Asahi in Toyama Prefecture. Each year, the town welcomes spring with soft pink sakura blooms, colourful tulips and vibrant yellow nanohana flowers that bloom simultaneously at the foot of the Northern Alps, creating a magnificent ‘Spring Quartet’. With the snowy peaks of Mt Shirouma and Mt Asahi as the backdrop, this is a unique viewing spot not to be missed!
If you want to see the sakura up close, go for a stroll through the ‘cherry blossom tunnel’, where over 280 sakura trees line the banks of the Funakawa River. Whether you see them reflected in the clear river or contrasted with other colourful blooms, the sakura in Asahi are a sight to behold and unlike any other.
Peak viewing season: Typically from around early to mid-April.
7. Chidorigafuchi Moat
Sakura viewing along the Chidorigafuchi Moat in Tokyo. Image: Guitar photographer/Shutterstock.com
The beloved blooms also put on an extravagant and captivating show at the popular Chidorigafuchi Moat, northwest of the Imperial Palace. Each spring, the 700m-long green walkway along the moat is transformed into one of Tokyo’s top spots for sakura viewing.
Covered by hundreds of sakura trees of different varieties, the moat becomes a sea of delicate pink blossoms set to impress visitors. You can explore the beauty of the blooms by foot as you stroll along the moat or by boat and rent a rowboat to enjoy them from a different perspective.
If you visit at night, you’re in for another treat! You will find the sakura trees illuminated, creating an intimate and romantic experience for visitors as they stroll or row along.
Peak viewing season: Typically from around late March to early April.
8. Hirosaki Castle Park
Sakura at Hirosaki Castle Park. Image: Taromon/Shutterstock.com
Hirosaki Castle Park is often referred to as one of Tohoku’s best sakura spots and is home to one of the region’s most iconic castles, Hirosaki Castle. From a ‘Cherry Blossom Tunnel’ to pink-petal-filled moats, and an abundance of picnic areas to rental rowing boats – the park is perfect for a springtime adventure.
The park’s popular Cherry Blossom Festival is an unmissable event. Around 2,600 sakura trees of 50 different varieties are planted along both sides of the park’s western moat. You can walk along the banks or paddle down the castle’s moat while taking in the pastel pink blooms and enjoying the warmer spring air. Stay for the night-time illumination to admire the lit-up blossoms reflected off the waters and enjoy an evening hanami experience.
Don’t forget to visit other sites of interest inside the park grounds, such as the Hirosaki Castle Botanical Garden and Gokoku Shrine. Many of the city's popular tourist attractions are also located within walking distance of the park.
Peak viewing season: Typically from around late April through early May.
9. Goryokaku Park
Goryokaku Park in Hakodate, Hokkaido, during sakura season. Image: ShutterOK/Shutterstock.com
Goryokaku Park is one of the most famous spots to see sakura in Hakodate, Hokkaido Prefecture. Home to over 1,500 sakura trees, the park is a favourite amongst locals and visitors who gather to see its stunning display of beautiful blossoms each spring.
The stunning blooms can be enjoyed from the ground or even from above! For a unique view, head up to the observation deck of the Goryokaku Tower to see the pink blossoms adorning the star-shaped Goryokaku Fort.
Lanterns will light your way if you visit at night, and the trees are illuminated once darkness falls, creating a magical atmosphere perfect for friends and families to enjoy a picnic or evening stroll amongst the sakura.
Peak viewing season: Typically from around late April to early May.