4 Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots in Japan
Bookmark the best locations to discover the most iconic and quintessentially Japanese postcard-perfect settings…
via Aomori Sightseeing Guide
As nowhere does cherry blossom season quite like Japan, it’s natural for nature lovers to gravitate there when the country starts to come colourfully alive. When sticking to Tokyo and Kyoto, however, it may be tricky timing a trip to see how everything turns pink due to the blossoms’ short life (the usual window being just a couple of weeks). But, if you’re willing to explore further than the modern and ancient capitals, there’s an array of spots where you can take in the quintessential scenes of Japanese beauty. Because of Japan’s geography, this means that sakura, as they’re known in Japan, can be enjoyed throughout a period of two months, starting from mid-March in Kyushu in the south, right up to mid-May in the north. What’s more, you can even travel through the country chasing the cherry blossoms during this time.
The Japan National Tourism Organization takes us on a journey of some of the very best places to enjoy seeing the small and dainty flowers that are symbolic of spring during peak bloom.
Mount Yoshino, Nara Prefecture
Found in the Nara Prefecture, Mount Yoshino is one of the most famous cherry blossom viewing spots throughout the Kansai region. With the first trees reportedly planted along its slopes over 1,300 years ago, a staggering 30,000-odd cherry trees of many different varieties cover the mountain these days. Yamazakura (mountain cherry) is the pervasive type though, and it is characterised by the fact that its leaves come out at the same time as the flowers.
Visitors to Mount Yoshino can revel in the pink spectacle from the beginning of April right through to the month’s end. And the best way to enjoy the mountains of flowering cherry trees is to take the transfer bus from the foot of the mountain to Naka Sembon (a stop located midway on the mountain), home of the best cherry blossom viewing spot. The view is so famous it is called “ichimoku-senbon”, quite literally “1,000 cherry trees in one glance”. Descending back down by foot is a fabulous way to relish the view.
Image via Japan Web Magazine
Takada Park, Niigata Prefecture
Home to Takada Castle and its surrounding moats, along with 4,000 cherry trees, Takada Park is a 50-hectare wooded area in the heart of Joetsu City. While visitors can bask in an iconic scene of traditional Japanese cherry blossom beauty, they are offered an extra gift when the moats around the castle are calm. This is when it’s possible to see a stunning reflection of the triple turret castle on the surrounding waters.
Already spectacular by day, the scene is magically elevated even further at night with its yearly illuminations. Although the entire park gets well lit, the “Sakura Road” or “Cherry Blossom Road” is the real highlight as the cherry tree -lined walkway forms an enclosed canopy of blossom, which is lit up with lanterns.
The best time to visit is from early to mid-April, and the finest way to enjoy the blossoms is to copy the locals. This entails having picnic parties under the blooms, a special celebration known in Japanese as ‘hanami’.
Kakunodate, Akita Prefecture
This former castle town and samurai stronghold remains remarkably unchanged since its founding in 1620. The samurai district once housed around 80 families and is one of the best examples of samurai architecture and housing in Japan. And in addition to its samurai history and merchant district, Kakunodate is renowned throughout the country for its gorgeous weeping cherry blossoms found amongst historic samurai estates. The name may seem sorrowful, but it actually depicts the trees’ long, flowing branches, which are similar to a willow. They provide blooms that are strikingly beautiful and elegant as they sway in a breeze like curtains of pink.
The weeping cherry blossoms flower later than other cherry varieties, and are best enjoyed in mid-April to early May. Additionally, visitors can delight in the 400-odd cherry blossoms that line the banks of the Hinokinai River. The river flows through the centre of town and through the districts, with the trees forming a blossom tunnel for two kilometres!
Hirosaki Park, Aomori Prefecture
As one of Japan’s most iconic cherry blossom sites, Hirosaki Park offers visitors one of the most ideal Japanese cherry blossom experiences. The park is home to over 2,600 cherry trees, beautifully arranged around the park’s centerpiece, Hirosaki Castle. Surrounded by a moat, the castle was originally built in 1603 by the reigning lord, and the cherry trees originate back to 1715, when the Tsugaru clan requisitioned 25 Kasumizakura cherry trees from Kyoto and planted them in the castle grounds.
In addition to the castle setting, the moat is also famous for its ‘hanaikada’, which refers to the blossom petals floating on the water surface. The west moat features a sakura tunnel, best experienced by small paddle boat. During the day, the reflections of the sakura on the moat waters enchant visitors and make for the perfect photo opportunity, especially with the castle in the background.
As Aomori Prefecture is situated high in the country’s north, the cherry blossoms here bloom later than in central regions, making the end of April the perfect time to visit.
Image via Aomori Sightseeing Guide