7 Amazing Cherry Blossom Spots for Dodging the Crowds in Spring

Cherry Blossom.

If you're reading this, you've either already done a trip around it, been planning on how to see it, or have been cheated out of seeing it in the very, very short window it gives us every spring!

Full disclaimer: each and every one of Japan's seasons shines in a unique and wonderful way (there's a reason Japan is so obsessed with them!), with winter being easily one of the vastly under-rated, so we would encourage everyone to think outside the box - you'll be richly rewarded!

That said, the blossoms in spring are an inevitable draw and a recent JNTO survey showed that a vast number of people are hoping to get back to Japan in spring 2021, if possible. Spring is usually a little pricier and a little more crowded because of its popularity, and this looks to potentially be even more the case in future, as we all eagerly wait for Japan travel to open back up again.

Where can you plan into your itinerary to make sure you're still getting your blossom fix whilst simultaneously swerving the well-known spots that are bound to be busy?


TAKIZAKURA TREE, FUKUSHIMA PREFECTURE

We're kicking things off with Fukushima's own 'takizakura', or otherwise known as the most curious of cherry blossom brands - the waterfall blossom (taki meaning waterfall and zakura coming from sakura, meaning cherry blossom). It's easy to see where they get their name! 

The cascades of blossom on this 1000+ year old tree are thought by many to secure its spot as the #1 most beautiful single cherry blossom tree in all of Japan making it a real gem and a must-see for all you completionists out there.

It's not just bragging rights, though - the tree's location in the town of Miharu make sure that the mountain scenery surrounding is just as epic as the tale of Japan's ancient beautiful wonder itself.

Take a special bus from Miharu station (on the JR Banestu line), or hire a car for best access.

 

MARUOKA CASTLE, FUKUI PREFECTURE

Perched atop a hill is Japan's 'Mist Castle' of Maruoka, known by that name due to the legend that spoke of thick protective mists descending around the keep every time it was under attack. Come in spring, and the mists you'll be experiencing are no ordinary fog, but a pinky haze of blossom. It also happens to be one of Japan's oldest remaning castle keeps and the site of its own cherry blossom festival. The park on the lead-up to the castle is home to 400+ cherry trees which are illuminated in a dazzling display every spring. The castle is also associated with a famous haunting so maybe take a friend when you're taking your snaps and remember, whatever you do - don't split up! 

The castle is accessible by bus from either Awara Onsen or Fukui train stations on the JR Hokuriku main line.

 

IWAKUNI BRIDGES, YAMAGUCHI PREFECTURE

Staring deep into the floral shades and arching structures of the Kintaikyo Bridges at Iwakuni, you would not be blamed for thinking immediately of the nostalgic woodblock prints by artists like Hiroshige and Hokusai. 

This peaceful town in the rural prefecture of Yamaguchi, nextdoor to Hiroshima, delivers on what most people going to Japan are hoping to see - a timeslip back to the times of wandering samurai and bowing geisha. If that wasn't enough, Yamaguchi is also home to a rare type of white snake (don't worry, they're not dangerous!) traditionally revered as gods. Take a gander at the dedicated museum, or hop on a traditional boat for a cruise along the river before sitting down for lunch on the blossom-covered riverbanks.

The local Sanyo Main Line trains from Hiroshima take you straight to Iwakuni station in 50minutes.

 

MITAKE VILLAGE, MIE PREFECTURE

We've had takizakura - now say hello to 'yamazakura'. Where 'taki' means waterfall, 'yama' means mountain and refers to the billowing clouds of blossom that adorn the mountain rice paddies of Mitake, a small farming community in the mountains of Mie Prefecture. 

Legend has it that the trees were first planted by priest a good 900 years ago and that they have been carefully cared for by the local residents ever since, so a journey to the scenic farmlands and traditional thatched farming cottages of the village is a lesson in a labour of love.

The nearest station is Ise-Okitsu, about a 15min taxi ride from the village, but rental car is most recommended for this off-the-beaten-track beauty.

 

IZU KOGEN, SHIZUOKA PREFECTURE

Izu Kogen, or the Izu Highland, is located on the east coast of Shizuoka prefecture's ruggedly beautiful Izu Pensinsula, often thought of as the Amalfi Coast of Japan. Just 1hr30min from Tokyo by train, it makes for a killer escape from the city in any season, along a coastal railway line that offers up all the delectable views over azure waters. 

Get off at Izu Kogen in spring and you'll be confronted with a mind-boggling tunnel of cherry blossoms - over 3000 of them, in fact - stretching out in front of you. Stick around and you'll be able to make the most of the museums and galleries in the area, as well as the paragliding, scuba diving and hiking options along the volcanic Jogasaki coast.

Take the bullet train from Tokyo to Atami and change to the JR Ito line for a direct train to Izu Kogen station.

 

MATSUYAMA CASTLE, EHIME PREFECTURE

We gave you Maruoka Castle's towering heights, now we bring you the settlement above the clouds - Matsuyama Castle. Matsuyama Castle is another of the few castles in Japan that have been able to survive the times and retain their original structures making it already unique but its greatest selling point is the commanding position of the entire castle grounds hovering above Matsuyama city on Shikoku island, with views of the Seto Inland Sea. 

Take a dip in the onsen bathouse that inspired Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away and then hop on a chairlift for a gentle airborne procession through the swarms of blossom on your way up to the castle grounds. Once up there, you'll find even more stunning cherry groves guarding the winding walls that lead to the castle's entrance. The interior of the castle is incredibly well preserved and definitely worth a gander, too.

Matsuyama station is most easily accessed via a connecting train from Takamatsu station, which is in turn accessed from mainland Japan via Okayama station on the bullet train line. Speedy services whizz you there in a jiffy, but more adventurous travellers might want to try the Shimanami Kaido cycling route across the bridges of the Seto Inland Sea, starting in mainland Onomichi, instead.

 

FUNAKUBO AZALEA PARK, TOKUSHIMA PREFECTURE

Okay, so this one isn't actually a cherry blossom spot but we promise you won't regret it!

Spring brings not only candyfloss pinks but an innumerable amount of blossom in diffrent forms, including the seductively red hues of the azalea in Tokushima's Funakubo Park.

The vibrancy of the reds clashing with the lush greens really can't be beat and make the perfect addition to a trip to West Japan. With both the incredibly scenic Iya Valley and the jaw-dropping Naruto whirlpools nearby, there is more than reason enough to justify working the Funakubo Azalea Park into a Japan spring itinerary (especially when then combined with a trip to Matsuyama castle above!). The azalea orchard is 1,200 trees strong and don't let the pictures fool you - they're ginormous! The barrelling reds are perfectly situated in a grove surrounded by towering cedar trees and views of the Shikoku mountain ridge.

The park is most easily reached by car, along gorgeous mountain roads, but non-drivers can take the train to Kawata station (on the Iya Valley train line) and take a taxi from there.

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