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Spring Is Here! Go Where The Cherry Blossoms Are


Follow the fascinating sakura zensen


Viewing cherry blossoms (also known as ‘hanami)’ is on everyone’s Japan travel bucket list – and if it isn’t, then it should be. Walking amidst a sea of sakura in full bloom is simply one of the dreamiest experiences you can have. However, with hundreds of cherry blossom spots across the country, the difficulty lies in narrowing down your options. 


Due to slightly variable weather conditions each year, pinning down travel dates to coincide with the blooming of cherry blossoms can be a little tricky. However, here’s where the Japan Meteorological Agency’s “cherry blossom front” comes in. 


Known as sakura zensen, it’s like a wave of cherry trees blooming across Japan as time passes. This begins around late March from the south of Japan and sweeps northwards to Hokkaido all the way to as late as mid-May. 


Armed with a JR RAIL Pass, you can ‘chase’ the blossoms from south to north by bullet train for several weeks; it’s one of the most economical and sustainable ways to travel across long distances. So even if you don’t make it at the beginning of April, there’ll still be many opportunities for you to get your cherry blossom fix. 


Here are four truly special, off-the-beaten-path cherry blossom viewing spots for you to consider on your next trip to Japan. 

1. Mifuneyama Rakuen, Saga Prefecture



cherry blossoms japan mifuneyama rakuen saga
©Mifuneyama Rakuen



Located in Takeo City in Saga Prefecture — itself a deeply underrated tourist destination — Mifuneyama Rakuen is one of the most spectacular gardens by far in the whole of Japan, and that’s no mean feat in a country overflowing with amazing gardens. Sprawling across 150,000 square meters at the base of Mt. Mifune, it’s definitely a great way to start your sakura zensen experience. 


Established over a three-year period at the bequest of formal feudal lord Nabeshima Shigeyoshi in 1845, the site is home to 5,000 cherry blossoms of several varieties such as Somei Yoshino, Oshima cherries, Yaezakura ‘double-flowered’ cherries, and mountain cherries. They bloom in succession, resulting in an extended viewing season in this garden. 


Even more incredible: Mifuneyama Rakuen is also home to 50,000 azaleas. The sight of cherry blossoms and azaleas blooming together in vivid harmony against the backdrop of the rugged Mt. Mifune makes springtime here a true floral paradise. Very fitting, since ‘rakuen’ means ‘paradise.’ 

Complete your visit here by going to the teahouse in the park for a cup of matcha. Tea and flowers in a samurai garden — what could be a more Japanese experience than that? 


It will be good to be there from around the 20th of March to the beginning of April.


Location Information

  • Name: Mifuneyama Rakuen
  • Address: 4100 Takeocho Takeo, 843-0022, Saga Prefecture
  • Access: From JR Hakata station, take the Midori-Huis Ten Bosch line to JR Takeo-Onsen Station. It's only a short five-minute taxi ride or a 25-minute walk to Mifuneyama Rakuen. From Fukuoka International Airport, it takes about 2 hours in total.
  • Website: Mifuneyama Rakuen official website


2. Gongendo Park, Saitama Prefecture



cherry blossoms gongendo park
©Saitama Prefecture Products & Tourism Association



Gongendo Park (Kenei Gongendo Kouen) in Saitama prefecture is one of the most popular flower-viewing spots in the Kanto region. With a kilometer-long stretch of 1,000 Somei Yoshino cherry blossom trees flanking a vast field of golden-yellow canola blossoms — 19,000 square meters of nanohana! — this candy-coloured landscape is another must-not-miss destination on your sakura zensen itinerary.


If you can’t make it there in spring, you can enjoy glorious hydrangeas in June and vivid red spider lilies in September. 


Bonus point: It’s easily accessible from Tokyo by public transport. It takes under two hours to reach by either train or bus, making this an excellent day trip and escape from the big city. 

You can catch it from late March to early April.


Location Information

  • Name: Gongendo Park (Gongendo Park)
  • Address: Gongendo Park, Satte City, 340-0112, Saitama Prefecture
  • Access:  From Tokyo, take the Tobu-Isezaki line at Ueno station and move to the Tobu Doubutsuen station to reach Satte Station on the Tobu-Nikko line. Then take the Asahi Bus bound for "Goka Town Hall" and get off at "Gongendo". It's a 1 hour and a half trip from Tokyo.
  • Website:  Kenei Gongendo Kouen official website


3.Kakunodate, Akita Prefecture



cherry blossoms kakunodate akita
© Akita Prefectural Tourism Federation



The next stop on your ideal sakura zensen experience is Kakunodate, also known as “Little Kyoto” in northeast Japan. The charm of this elegant castle town has remained virtually unchanged since the Edo period (1603–1868). One of its most stunning features is Bukeyashiki Street in the old samurai district, lined with beautifully preserved manors and hundreds of deep-pink weeping cherry trees. 


Rather fittingly, the first weeping cherry saplings were brought to this town by a woman from Kyoto who married into a local samurai family. With the gracefully curving, pink flower-laden branches contrasting with the deep black fences of the samurai manors, riding a rickshaw through town is a truly romantic, transformative experience. 
If you miss the weeping cherry blossoms, fear not. Just three minutes away by foot from the samurai district is the Hinokinai River, whose banks are lined with a kilometer-long stretch of 400 Somei Yoshino cherry trees. This makes for a wonderfully extended cherry blossom-viewing season in Kakunodate. Strolling through a tunnel of cherry blossoms is even more magical when the wind blows, scattering flurries of pale white-pink petals across the ground. 


Due to its northern location, late April to early May is an excellent time to visit Kakunodate. 


Location Information

  • Name: Kakunodate/Tazawako Kakunodate Tourist Association
  • Address: 394-2 Kami-sugazawa, Kakunodate-machi, Semboku-City, 014-0369 Akita Prefecture
  • Access: From Tokyo, it's a three-hour trip on the JR Akita Shinkansen, which stops at Kakunodate Station, or a one-hour flight from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Akita Airport.
  • Website: tazawako-kakunodate.com


4. Matsumae Park, Hokkaido 



cherry blossoms matsumae park
@Hakodate Official Travel Guide -TRAVEL Hakodate



Located in Hokkaido’s only historic castle town, with Japan’s northernmost castle — known as Matsumae Castle, after the Matsumae clan — this hilltop park is home to a whopping 10,000 cherry trees across 250-plus species. That means that spring up here is an absolute sakura bonanza, with a month-long flower-viewing window beginning around late April and ending around late May. 


Thanks to its elevation, visitors to the park will not only enjoy walking under cherry blossoms but will also have a fantastic view of the surrounding Matsumae area, and on a clear day even see all the way to Aomori across the Tsugaru Strait. 


Location Information

  • Name: Matsumae Park
  • Address: Matsushiro, Matsumae-cho, Matsumae District, 049-1511, Hokkaido
  • Access:  Arrive at JR Kikonai station through the Hokkaido Shinkansen or the South Hokkaido Railway from JR Shin-Hakodate station. You can reach Shin-Hakodate in 4 hours by taking Shinkansen Hayabusa from Tokyo. From JR Kikonai Station, take a Hakodate bus bound to Matsumae Shutchojo and alight at Matsushiro. Then walk for 3 minutes to the gate of Matsumae Park.
  • Website: https://www.hakodate.travel/en/


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