In Japan, spring is a very special time, especially with the sakura (cherry blossom) season. It’s the time when the sakura bloom, which makes the country’s streets and parks turn pink. It is said there is no cherry blossom like in Japan, and the cherry blossom season is considered the best time for tourists to visit Japan.
History of cherry blossom and ‘hanami’.
Cherry blossom, or sakura in Japanese, is very important in Japan, and has been the subject of nationwide adoration since the Heian period, more than 1,000 years ago (794-1185). In Japanese, watching the cherry blossom is called hanami, literally means ‘flower viewing’ or ‘cherry blossom viewing party’ in English. It’s a strong tradition in Japanese culture to do with families, friends, and colleagues, equipped with picnic boxes and blankets, gathering together under cherry blossom trees to eat, drink and have a cheerful and lively time. In the night, the act of viewing cherry blossom is called Yozakura, when lights and lanterns are put on branches so the flowers appear to glow in the dark.
When is the best time to see cherry blossom in japan
The peak bloom usually comes in between March and early April. But if you cannot make it on your schedule, don’t worry. Some places have the peak bloom in late February and some in early May.
The earliest cherry blossom appears in tropical Okinawa in January, the last on the northernmost island of Hokkaido in early May. For peak bloom in Tokyo, visit between the end of March and early April. They last about a week before falling quickly.
The best places to see cherry blossom in Japan
There are so many popular places to see cherry blossoms across Japan. But here are 20 recommended places you should visit. The first 10 are the best place to see cherry blossom within the Tokyo area, and the next 10 are the best places across the country.
The best places to see cherry blossom in Tokyo
If you happen to visit Tokyo in late March or early April, you should visit these places to see the beauty of cherry blossom pink bloom. Usually these places also have a festival during the season.
Ueno Park is the most crowded place to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo as many visitors come for Hanami. Ueno park features over 1,000 cherry blossom trees surrounded by beautiful nature. It’s also very popular to see cherry blossoms in the night. “Ueno Sakura Matsuri” or Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival usually held during the season with so many food and drink vendors.
Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the largest national gardens in town, which is located in the very popular area of Shinjuku. The garden features around 1,000 cherry trees spread in a wide area. Since it’s located in central Tokyo, it usually very crowded during the season. Shinjuku Gyoen has many various kinds of cherry trees, including early and late blooming ones. If you miss the main season of cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Shinjuku Gyoen is the best place to catch up in a week or two.
Sumida Park is one of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo which is located along the Sumida River. It’s very accessible from some of the popular tourist sites such as Asakusa and Tokyo Skytree. Around 1,000 cherry trees are lined on both sides of the river and stretch for about 1 km. It’s a popular cherry blossom viewing spot as the view of Tokyo Skytree can be enjoyed as well. You can rent a boat and enjoy the special view of the city and cherry blossoms from the water.
Meguro River is one of the most popular places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo. It’s located in the Nakameguro area which is near Shibuya, central Tokyo. Meguro River Cherry Blossoms is over 800 cherry trees lined for about 4 km along the river which displays the spectacular view.
During the season for cherry blossoms, a festival is held near the river and there will be a lot of vendors selling food and drinks. There are also many cafes and restaurants along the river and some of them have terrace seats where you can enjoy delicious food with the cherry blossoms views. Cherry blossoms at Meguro River can be enjoyed at day and night as the illumination of the cherry blossoms is available till 9 pm during the season.
Chidorigafuchi is another popular place to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo. It is the moats and waterways of the former Edo Castle, and it’s located in the northwest of the Imperial Palace. The place features around 200 cherry trees stretches for 700m along the moats. The cherry blossoms are illuminated up at night until 22:00.
The best way to enjoy the cherry blossom view at Chidorigafuchi is by a boat. Visitors can rent boats and paddle on the moats surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms at day and night. After the bloom season ended, the surface of the moat is almost completely covered in petals, creating the illusion of an ethereal pink river.
Aoyama Cemetery is known as one of the nation’s oldest public cemeteries. It’s also one of the most popular places for cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo. Aoyama Cemetery is located in the Aoyama area, which is accessible from many popular touristy areas in Tokyo such as Shibuya, Harajuku, and Roppongi. It’s a perfect place to enjoy beautiful cherry blossoms quietly and peacefully.
Yoyogi Park is one of the largest national parks in Tokyo located near Shibuya, Harajuku, and Shinjuku area. It has numbers of events throughout the year, and it’s one of the most popular spots for cherry blossoms in spring and autumn leaves viewing in autumn.
There are around 700 cherry trees at Yoyogi Park, and visitors enjoy cherry blossom viewing with picnic during the season. It’s one of the most popular places for Hanami and many people visit the park in the early morning to make sure to reserve their picnic spot near/under the cherry trees.
The hilltop Asukayama Park is one of the oldest spots in Tokyo to enjoy cherry blossoms. Featuring approx 600 cherry plated around the hill. Since it’s quite far from central Tokyo, the park is much less crowded. Asukayama Park became the first cherry blossom viewing spot in Tokyo where visitors were allowed to picnic and drink alcohol. The night light-up using traditional lantern is also available during the season.
Otanashi Water Park
Otonashi Water Park in northern Tokyo’s Oji district is a small beautiful park with a very traditional Japanese atmosphere. Its location far from central Tokyo makes it a less popular cherry blossom spot. Enjoy the beautiful cherry blossom trees from the cute wooden bridge or dip your feet into the tiny canal which flows through this district. The illumination of cherry three and the wooden bridge also available during the season, make it a very fantastic view at night. It located near to Asukayama Park, so you can visit it and enjoy cherry blossoms in two different vibes.
Showa Memorial Park
Showa Memorial Park is a national park located in Tachikawa City, the suburb of Tokyo. It’s the largest park in Tokyo and consists of lawns, flower fields, Japanese garden with pond, Western-style garden, and many other facilities. Visitors enjoy leisure activities, picnic, and watching seasonal flowers at the park throughout the year.
Showa Memorial Park is Tokyo’s popular spot for cherry blossoms and autumn leaves viewing. There are about 1,500 trees of cherry blossoms at the park. Most famous cherry blossoms spots in the central area of Tokyo are extremely crowded during the season, but as the park has a vast space, you can freely take a walk and have a picnic while watching the cherry blossom.
Now, when you have a plan to visit other areas, here are our recommendations.
Top 10 of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Japan outside Tokyo
Yoshinoyama – Nara
Yoshinoyama or Mount Yoshino, is located in Nara prefecture, next to Kyoto and Osaka. It’s known as one of the best cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan for many years. The mountain is located within Yoshino-Kumano National Park. There are approx 30,000 cherry trees with various kinds. The amazing scenery of cherry blossoms in various pink colors can be seen on the slope. The cherry blossoms usually start opening from late March to early April, the full bloom is from early to mid-April and lasts till the end of April. Visitors can enjoy cherry blossom viewing and walking or picnic under the trees on the mountain. Also illumination of the trees will be held during April for night viewing.
Best time to visit is around Mid April
Matsumae Park – Hokkaido
This park has 10.000 trees with around 250 various kinds. There are early-blooming, middle-blooming, and late-blooming cherry blossoms, which allows everyone to enjoy the flowers for a month. The Matsumae Sakura Festival held from late April to mid-May hosts various events such as product fares featuring seafood and sweets and live performances. Among these events, the highlight is the Samurai Procession featuring warriors wearing armors
Best time to visit: Early May.
Himeji Castle – Osaka
Himeji Castle is known as one of only twelve original castles left in Japan and considered to be the country’s most beautiful castle. The castle grounds are very popular during the cherry blossom season, since it has around 1000 of cherry trees. The peak bloom usually comes in early April. Since it’s a very popular spot through Japan, it usually very crowded during the season. Visit the Himeji castle before lunchtime to avoid the crowd.
Best time to visit: Early April
Philosopher path – Kyoto
The Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku no Michi) is a stoned paved walking trail and a popular touristic sight in Kyoto. The Philosopher’s Path is located near Ginkakuji Temple, towards Nanzenji Temple and it’s about 2km long. The path follows a canal which is lined by 500 of cherry trees. There cherry trees lined on the path which bloom beautifully in springtime and create the magnificent pink. At the end of the cherry blossom season, the view of petals falling and floating on the canal is also spectacular.
Best time to visit: Early April
Hirosaki-castle – Aomori
Hirosaki Castle located in Hirosaki city, Aomori, Northern Japan. There are approximately 2600 cherry trees planted around the castle. Usually reach the peak bloom around late April to early May. During this period, a cherry blossom festival is held at Hirosaki Park which is nearby the castle, and illumination of trees can be enjoyed at night till 10 pm. It is also known as the best place to see cherry blossoms after petals falling. When the flowers start falling, the inner and outer moats of the castle get filled with pink petals, just like a pink carpet, make a spectacular view.
Best time to visit: late April – early May
Maruyama Park – Kyoto
Maruyama Park is Kyoto’s most popular park for cherry blossom viewing. In such a vast space, there are over 680 various kinds of cherry trees. It very famous for the iconic weeping cherry tree (Shidarezakura) which is 12m high and 88 years old, attracting millions of visitors as the symbol of cherry blossom in Kyoto.
Maruyama Park is known for the Yozakura of Gion, as it is a popular spot for night viewing of cherry blossoms (Yozakura). the illumination at the park is available until 1 am.
Best time to visit: late March to early April
Kawaguchiko – Yamashina
Kawaguchiko (Lake Kawaguchi) is one of Fujigoko (The Fuji Five Lakes around Mount Fuji). The Fuji Five Lakes are popular sightseeing spots near Mt Fuji through the year, and each lake offers an astonishing view of Mt Fuji. Kawaghchiko is one of the most accessible lakes compared to the other four.
Kawaguchiko also very popular during the cherry blossom season. There are about 300 cherry trees planted about 1 km along the north shore of the lake. They also illuminate the cherry tree at night so visitors can enjoy Yozokura until 9pm.
Best time to visit, and enjoy the Sakura Matsuri, Fuji Kawaguchiko Cherry Blossom Festival is around Mid April.
Osaka Castle Park – Osaka
Osaka Castle is one of the greatest castles in Japan and a popular tourist sight in Osaka area. You can enjoy the magnificent view of the castle with 3000 cherry tree around it. The cherry blossom festival is held during the season and light-up can be enjoyed at night.
Best time to visit: late March to early April
Mt Agaki – Gunma
Located not too far from Tokyo, it considered as one of the best spot for seeing cherry blossom in Japan. There are over 1000 cherry trees forming pink a tunnel along 1.3km street. Illumination of the tree at night available in the best season and during the Akagi Cherry Blossom Festival, usually held in early April.
Best time to visit: Early April
Miyajima – Hiroshima
Miyajima is a small island outside of Hiroshima that is famous for its shrine and “floating” Torii gate. There are various kinds of cherry three. About 1300 cherry trees planted around the shrine and along the island’s walking trails. Overlooking from higher places, you can enjoy the splendid view of the Treasure Pagoda which is surrounded by pink petals and the Great Torii gate which looks as if it were floating in the sea.
Best time to visit: late march
Cherry blossom season considered the peak season of Japan tourism. Plan early, Book flight and hotel as early as possible to give you the best rate and experience.
In the peak bloom season, usually there is a very big crowd in most cherry blossoms viewing spot. If you want to do some picnic, come early to make sure you get the best spot.
If you don’t like crowds, you should consider choosing a lesser popular place to visit or choose to visit a week before or after peak season.
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